It's a game that requires very little skill and a lot of luck. But the oblong, shallow wooden box with the pins inside can really get under your skin.
The game is called Skittles, and it is a time-honored tradition at Berea College, one of two places in the United States where the centuries-old game is made."Everybody associates Skittles with Berea," says Garry Barker, Berea College crafts marketing manager. "It's mostly a fun game. It's not a serious sport."
Before Thanksgiving, people in the area got a chance to try their luck at the not-so-serious sport when the college staged a Skittles Festival as part of its homecoming activities.
Each contestant was given three spins, and the person with the highest score at the end of the day was declared the winner.
What is the highest score one can get in Skittles?
Well, under the standard rules, it's 275. That is, if you can knock down 13 pins worth 5 to 100 points and leave standing the two pins worth minus 10 each. All with one jerk of the toplike spinner.
Ed Ford, public relations director for the college, says people start to get some strange notions about novel ways to get that little spinner to knock down all those pins.
One local old-timer, who had just witnessed a particularly bad spin, claimed the player "just didn't hold your mouth right."
"There's an awful lot of body language involved," he says.
The Skittles games handmade at Berea College's Woodcraft are of native poplar wood.
Sometimes players get pretty involved in the game, which is the 14th-century predecessor of the modern game of bowling.
"Most people who get into Skittles start acting like kids playing video games," Barker says.
The most unusual Skittles spin he's ever seen happened at a major craft exposition in New York a few years ago.
"A guy jerked the string, and the spinner flew in the air and disappeared," he says. "We never did find that spinner."