Officially, there are two ways to play table tennis – singles and doubles. There are, however, infinite ways to have fun with a table, some bats and balls – and sometimes you don’t even need all of those.
Now we’re into territory that the serious table tennis players wouldn’t recognise. Round-the-table, or Rundlauf as it is known in its spiritual home of Germany, is a way of involving a large group of players in a game all at once. As few as four or five and as many as ten, twelve, twenty or more players can start each game, though twelve to fifteen is a good fit for the size of a table. Players split into two queues, leading anti-clockwise (for right-handers) around the table. The player at the head of the longest queue serves, and then moves around, with each player hitting the ball just once before carrying on to the back of the queue and taking their turn. ‘Losing’ a point means elimination, or losing a life, depending on the rules. As the number of players goes down, the circumambulation gets quicker. When only two players are left, they play out a final of ‘standard’ ping pong – though some variants require them to turn a full circle on the spot between each hit.
Local variations on Rundlauf include:
i) Unlimited players start, one miss and out, final played up to five points (as played at Dr Pong, Berlin)
ii) As above, but you can’t be knocked out the first time you hit the ball (as played at Ping Pong, Newcastle)
iii) Twelve Players get three lives, represented by two wristbands and their bat. Final played between the last two players with any lives left, and best of three (as played at The Young Offenders Institute, London)
Round-the-table can be played with any number of players from five upwards, ten to sixteen is ideal. Too few, and its all running and chasing, too many and its all queuing and waiting. Try it!
And if you’re really mad (and very Swiss and organised), you can always do it with 509 players:
Guerilla ping pong
The idea of rolling a table tennis table into a public space and encouraging social play has a long history in Berlin and has recently arrived in London thanks to Untitled Space’s ‘Hit and Run’ events.
Wrong Pong, devised and promoted by the International Wrong Pong Association is the ping pong equivalent to crazy golf. It’s all about angles, obstacles and unusual surfaces to create fast, fun and unpredictable matches. If you fancy your chances there are events, including the annual international tournament, held in Nottingham.
Wall Pong, another strictly recreational variation, is played only in tight quarters. Occasionally a table tennis table is in a basement, garage, or another location where the walls and the ceiling infringe on gameplay. In Wall Pong, these tight quarters are celebrated, and players are permitted to use the walls and ceiling to direct the ball where they desire. Most of the same rules of the traditional game apply to Wall Pong.
Ceiling Ping Pong
After the ball lands on your side, you hit the ball upwards towards the ceiling. The ball must touch the ceiling.
the ball must land on your opponent’s side.