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This document does not attempt to formalize the rules of Fishpong, but should be a good introduction for new players.
Fishpong is a game between two teams of players, played using ping pong paddles, a ping pong ball, and two tables in an enclosed arena. The game resembles a mix of ping pong, volleyball, and cricket.
A standard game has two or three players per side. In a 2v2 game, the field of play is traditionally set up as follows:
B2 +---+ +---+ | | | | A1 | A | | B | B1 | | | | +---+ +---+ A2
In this diagram, Team A is made up of A1 and A2, with Team B made up of B1 and B2. The tables are labeled for the corresponding team: Team A is said to defend Table A.
Setup: Before play begins, one player flips a paddle while a member of the other team calls the flip (usually "red" or "black"). The team that wins the flip chooses which team will serve first. The other team chooses which table to defend. We'll refer to the team that serves first as Team A.
Basic flow: Play begins when A1 serves the ball to B1. The serve must hit table A, then table B, at which point team B has two hits (a set and a slam) to get the ball onto table A, after which team A has two hits to hit the ball onto table B, and so on until the point is won. All surfaces are in play except for the floor, the metal components of both tables (legs and bars), and the team's own table. Legal surfaces include the ceiling, walls, desks, and light fixtures. The point is won when the ball strikes a surface not in play or comes to a complete stop.
A standard rally goes as follows:
- A1 serves to B1 (ball strikes table A, then table B).
- B1 sets to B2, who hits the ball onto table A.
- A2 fields the slam from B2, setting the ball in the air.
- A1 slams the set from A2 onto table B.
- B1 fields the slam from A1, setting the ball in the air.
In other words, the teams take turns slamming the ball onto each other's table. The first hit is generally a set for the teammate, and the second hit is a slam onto the table, usually hit hard to make it difficult for the other team to field the slam.
Before the serve, players must respect the offsides rule (see below). But once the ball is served, players' movements are unrestricted, and players frequently move to the other side of the opposing table to have a better angle on the table.
Points and games: As mentioned above, the point is won when the ball strikes an illegal surface or else comes to a complete stop. The point is won by whichever team last successfully slammed the ball onto their opponent's table.
After 5 points, the receiving team rotates positions and takes over the serve. The only requirements are that the player who just received may not serve until all other players on the team have taken a turn serving. In the above example, if A1 started the game serving, then after 5 points, B2 will serve to A1. After another 5 points, A2 will serve to B2. Then B1 will serve to A2, then the initial configuration of A1 serving to B1 is restored.
The game is played to 21 points, and the winning team must win by two points. If the game reaches a 20-20 score, then the the teams rotate (and the serve switches) after each point until either team wins two consecutive points.
A traditional session is a standard best-of-five series.
Code of conduct: play must be gentlemanly at all times.
Player positioning (and offsides): In the above configuration (with A1 serving to B1), before play begins:
- A1 must serve from behind the trailing edge of table A.
- A2 must have (some part of) one foot on the Table-A side of Table B, and must not have any (part of a) foot behind Table B.
- Similarly, B2 must have (some part of) one foot on the Table-B side of Table A, and must not have any (part of a) foot behind Table A.
Once play begins:
- No player may strike the ball before the receiver does, unless the ball first strikes table B.
- Any player may move any where.
Surfaces in play: All surfaces in the room are in play with the exception of the floor, metal components of both tables (legs and bars), and one's own table. That is, after team B hits the ball onto table A, team B wins the point if the ball again strikes table A before table B. Specific surfaces in play include all edges of the table, the underside of the table, walls, the ceiling, light fixtures, desks, other furniture in the room, and other people. Players must not intentionally hit the ball off other players or themselves.
Two hits per side, one per player: Each team gets two hits per side, and no player may hit the ball more than once consecutively. A hit is counted when the ball hits the paddle or any part of the hand or forearm. Other parts of the player count as a surface in play, but the player must not intentionally manipulate the ball with any other part of the body.
Thrown paddle: Paddles may be thrown in order to hit a ball out of reach, but the thrower's team loses the point if the paddle hits a member of the other team or a spectator.
Interference: If a player from the opposing team directly interferes with a player's ability to hit the ball, intentionally or otherwise, and the player reasonably believes he or she had a play on the ball, then the player may make a call of interference. In that case, the point is replayed. The interference call is made at the sole discretion of the player that was interfered with.
Hit out of order: Any time the ball strikes a table, players on the opposing team may not hit the ball again until it hits their own table again. Such a hit generally constitutes interference.
Traps: While playing close to the table, a player may inadvertently trap the ball between the table and the paddle (i.e., hit the ball a second time). In this case, the point is automatically replayed.
Serving order: Within each group of serves (five points during normal play, or each point after a game reaches 20-20), the same player must serve each point. Within a game, all players on a team must serve before any player serves again, and all players must serve twice before any player serves three times, and so on. Teams may choose the serving order for a game, and it need not be consistent across games.
Alternating serves between games: The team that serves first alternates in consecutive games. In games with even teams, players should avoid serving to the same opposing player in subsequent games until they've served to each player on the opposing team for a game.
Bookends: the only exception to this rule is for 2v2 games, where the serving configuration for game 3 should match that of game 2.
Red Sox Rule: in standard (non-tournament play), a best-of-five series becomes a best-of-seven series in the event that either team loses the first three games in a row.
Numbers of players: teams may have any number of players, and do not need to have the same number of players. Most games involve 2-4 players per side, with even teams if possible, but 1v1 (mano a mano), in which players are allowed consecutive hits, is a popular variant.
The ball strikes the table's front edge, popping up a short distance.
The "ceiling popup"
The server hits a popup with sufficient force that the ball strikes the ceiling.
The "kill shot"
The ball strikes the table's front edge, popping straight down and into the floor.
The "bounce back"
The player strikes the ball to the other table's front edge, bouncing back onto to the players table. The player or their partner must then return the bounce back, else lose a point.
The "double bounce back"
The player strikes the ball to the 2nd table's front edge, bouncing back to the 1st table's front edge, then bouncing back to the 2nd table.
The "triple bounce back"
The player strikes the ball to the 2nd table's front edge, bouncing back to the 1st table's front edge, then bouncing back to the 2nd table's front edge, then bouncing back to the 1st table.
The "thrown paddle"
The player throws their paddle at an otherwise unreturnable ball in an effort to play the ball back to the opponent's table. This move is rarely successful.
The "thrown paddle set"
A variation on the thrown paddle that results in a set to a teammate.
The "edge shot"
The ball strikes the side edge of the table, rebounding in an unexpected direction.
The "trailing edge"
A returned ball strikes the far edge of the table, deflecting sharply towards the floor.
The "room shot"
A spiker hits the ball with enough force that it bounces over the wall and into an adjacent room, a shot that has never been returned.
The "wall shot"
The player returns a ball which has bounced off a wall.
A spiker swings to smash the ball and misses, distracting the opposing player.
The ball rebounds from a table edge and moves in an erratic and unpredictable way, changing direction in flight randomly. The trajectory that the ball moves on is impossible for normal ping pong balls, casting doubt as to whether these are really ping pong balls or whether they are something else. The FishPong UFOs are shaped like a white saucer, seen from above; or a long white cigar, seen from one end. FishPong officials deny the existance of UFOs, even though experienced FishPong players have seen them on more than one occassion.
A condition affecting the server's ability to put the ball near the table, characterized by repeated attempts with identical failure modes.
Australian for the "paddle".
The "saboteur" (also known as the "sabby")
When a player goes oh-for-five on serves and then oh-for-five returning.
The "perfect saboteur" (the "perfect sabby")
When a player goes oh-for-five on serves and never hits the opponents table, followed by oh-for-five on returns in which the player never touches the ball. The eponymous saboteur was also a perfect saboteur.
The "half-saboteur" (the "half-sabby")
When a player goes oh-for-five on serves. Going oh-for-five on returns may also be called a half-sabby, but gentlemen will reserve use of the term for instances in which all or most of the serves were highly returnable, and only the receiver made errors.
The "perfect half-saboteur" (the "perfect half-sabby")
When a player goes oh-for-five on serves, never even hitting the opponents table. Also known as "the demoralizer" and "the spirit crusher", a perfect half-sabby can do substantially more damage to a team's morale than a mere half-sabby in which the opposing team simply fielded well.
A series of successively awful serves, each with its own particular pathology. The encyclopedia, so called, because the series catalogs the wide array of different failure modes.