Cricket is considered one of the most popular dartboard games. Not only does it require dart-throwing skills, but it also involves considerable strategy. There are many variations to cricket as well, so players can always keep the game fresh.

The premise behind all versions is that only certain numbers are considered in play. In traditional cricket games, these are the numbers 15 through 20, plus the bullseye. The object is for each player to close all numbers, plus the bullseye, while outscoring the opponent.

## Number of players

Cricket is typically played between two people, but there are also team variations. When playing with teams, the order would go like this:

Team 1, Player 1

Team 2, Player 1

Team 1, Player 2

Team 2, Player 2

While there are informal variations that add third players or teams, two players or teams is the most common setup.

## Basic rules of play

The game starts with a diddle, which means each player throwing one dart at the board. The closest to the bullseye wins. If both players are equally close, or hit in the same section of the bullseye, they throw another dart in the same manner.

The winning player then throws three darts. He or she will then tally up the score and record it on the scoreboard. The second player then throws three darts. This continues until one player wins the game. Players can throw fewer than three darts if they prefer, but cannot throw more than three darts.

Darts that miss the board completely, or bounce off the board, count as throws.

## Winning the game

Player 1 wins a game of cricket when he or she closes every number 15 through 20, plus the bullseye, and has as many or more points than Player 2. If Player 1 closes all of his or her numbers, but is still behind in points, the game continues.

In this case, Player 1 has to continue scoring on all numbers Player 2 hasn’t yet closed, until he or she has points equal to or greater than Player 2. Player 2 can continue trying to close numbers. If Player closes all numbers before Player 1 catches up in points, Player 2 wins.

There are other variations, such as cut-throat, in which the lowest score wins. But in traditional cricket, closing all numbers while having the highest number of points is the way to win.

## Closing numbers

The key to cricket is closing the numbers 15 through 20, plus the bullseye, before your opponent.

Each time a player hits a number 15 through 20, or the bullseye, he or she puts a slash next to that number. That counts as one hit. At the next hit, the player will place another slash through the first one, creating an X. After the third hit, the X gets circled. That number is now closed for that player.

If the player hits the outer ring it counts as two hits, and a hit in the inner ring counts as three. Typically, only one mark is made for each dart. That is, if the player hits the inner ring on 20, instead of drawing an X with a circle around it, the player would draw just a circle next to 20. Similarly, if the player hit a single, and then hit the outer ring, the player would simply draw a circle around the single slash.

For the bullseye, the outside ring counts as one hit, while the inside counts as two. Players still need three hits in order to close the bullseye.

Once a player closes a number, he or she can score points on it until the opponent also closes that number.

## Scoring points

If Player 1 has closed a number, but Player 2 has not, Player 1 can start scoring points on that number. While the main object of the game isn’t to score points, but rather close all numbers and the bullseye, points can be a deciding factor.

Points are equal to the number hit, plus the multiplier. If Player 1 has 20 closed and hits in the 20 slice, he or she gets 20 points. If the hit is in the outer ring it is 40 points, and for the inner ring it is 60 points. On the bullseye, the outer ring is worth 25 points while the inner is worth 50.

Again, if Player 1 closes out all of his or her numbers but doesn’t have as many points as Player 2, the game goes on. But if Player 1 closes out all of his or her numbers and has as many or more points than Player 2, the game is over and Player 1 wins.

Point scoring is a big part of cricket strategy, since it can create imbalances in favor of the player with more points. As with all strategies, there are upsides and drawbacks to point accumulation.

## Strategy

The most basic strategy in cricket is to work your way down the scoreboard. It starts with 20 and goes down through 15 and then to bullseye. Despite its 25- and 50-point upsides, the bullseye isn’t considered most valuable, because it has the smallest physical area in which to score points.

At the start of the game you’ll have to think about accumulating points so that you can gain further advantage over your opponent. For instance, if you close 20 quickly, you might want to use it for racking up points so that your opponent will have a harder time coming back. If you hit even a single 20-point dart, your opponent will need two 19-points to top you. That’s why it’s important to work on the highest values first. The in-game advantage is much greater than the single point between each number.

As the game progresses you have many strategic decisions to make. Is it better to close out a number your opponent has, to prevent him or her from scoring points? Do you rack up points on your own closed numbers? What about trying to run down the board and close every number as quickly as possible?

These questions have no set answers. The picture will become clearer as the board unfolds. In general, you want to keep a decent lead on your opponent if you can, but that might only be possible if you’ve closed higher numbers. If your opponent has closed 20 and is racking up points, the best tactic might be to close 20 yourself and cut off that scoring lane. It will be a long way back, but in some instances you have to prevent your opponent from creating an insurmountable lead. That is, a lead so large that they will surely close all their numbers before you can catch up in points.

While some players consider it poor etiquette to create huge point gaps, it is simply part of the game. If you’re playing with a much better player and happen to close out 20 first, your best bet will be to exploit that advantage while you can. If somehow you accumulate a 200-point advantage before he or she closes out 20, you’ll have created a handicap in your favor. This will come in handy when playing against a better overall thrower. Additionally, depending on the state of the board an opponent can cover a deficit quickly if you’re stuck throwing at a bullseye and aren’t having any luck. Creating a points advantage is always wise.

When behind in cricket, the two basic strategies are to attack and to stalk. Attacking means finding numbers your opponent hasn’t closed and hitting points on them to create an advantage. Stalking means to match your opponents closed numbers to try and limit his or her ability to accumulate points.

Again, the decision to play a strategy depends on both board position and strength of opponent. What works against a weak opponent while you have an advantage will not work against a stronger opponent when you’re behind.

## Variations

Like most darts games, cricket has many variations that help keep the game fresh. While tournament play has a specific set of rules, at the pub you can play one of many variations if you’re tired of the same old same old.

**Cut Throat**. This version of cricket works best when there are more than two players or teams. Once you close a number, you can still score points on it as long as your opponents do not have it closed. But instead of awarding yourself points, you award points to them. Typically you can distribute them as you wish, so if you’ve closed 20 and hit two doubles, you can give 40 to Player 2 and 40 to Player 3. You win the game when you close all of your numbers and have the fewest number of points. If you have more points, you have to keep throwing and awarding more points to your opponents.

**Gentleman’s Cricket**. This involves the same rules as normal cricket, except that each player has to call a number before throwing. If you call 20 and hit 19, the hit doesn’t count.

**Scram**. This variation can involve the standard numbers 15 through 20, or can use any or all numbers on the board. One player is the Scorer while the other is the Blocker. The Blocker tries to close numbers in the standard manner, by scoring three hits — although when playing with the whole board, it is common that a single hit closes a number. Once the Blocker takes three shots, the Scorer tries to score points on any numbers the Blocker hasn’t already closed. Once the Blocker closes all numbers, the score is tallied and the two players switch roles. The winner has the most points at the end.

**Wild Mouse or Tactics**. This variation runs similarly to standard cricket, but requires players hit three doubles, three triples, and three bullseyes in order to win. There are two variations to this as well: one in which all numbers, even non-cricket numbers, are available. In the other, only numbers 15 through 20 count.

**English Cricket**. This is also called bowlers and batters, since there is a bowler and a batter role. The bowler tries to hit 10 bullseyes, with the outer ring counting as one and the inner ring counting as two. At the same time, the batter tries to score as many “runs” as possible, using any number on the board. Only runs totalling over 40 in a round count. So if a player scores 46 points in the round, it counts for only 6 runs. Once the bowler hits 10 bullseyes, the inning is over and the players switch sides. The player with the most runs wins.