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For those of you who are uneducated in the game of skittles, this quick guide will hopefully give you some enlightenment into the pub sport.

There are variations of skittles played across the United Kingdom and mainland Europe - all versions of the game involve hitting pins down with some kind of throwing device.

There are three main versions in the UK - in North England and Scotland it is more common to see skittles played on the bar or a table. A weight is tied to a string, and swung to knock pins over.

In the East, skittles has many similarities to boules - balls are thrown at the pins rather than being rolled.

In South England the game is played on an alley, and is very similar to Ten Pin Bowling. It is believed the Dutch took skittles to America, where the ten pin version of the game was formed and made popular around the world.

There are also variations of skittles in each region - for example, some Midlands leagues require the ball to be bounced down the alley, some require the ball to roll smoothly... Some leagues don't use balls, but use missile shaped objects instead... Most leagues use nine pins in a diamond shape; others (such as Irish leagues) have just five pins.

It could be argued that the wide variations from league to league have left the game of skittles at a disadvantage in modern times, as it is not possible to create a national image or uniformed version of the sport.

The Malmesbury & District Skittles League is in the South West of England, and as such the game is played in pubs and private clubs on alleys. The ball is rolled to strike the nine pins. A game usually lasts around 80 minutes.

Two teams play per game, each team has nine players, divided into three legs of three players per team. Each player takes it in turn to have six goes - three balls with each go.

If a player knocks down all the pins before their third ball, the pins are reset. A total of ten points are awarded per game: Two points for winning each leg, and four additional points for winning overall.

Most leagues do not have legs, and each player takes it in turn to have their go straight down the board- a point is awarded if you beat your opponent. Some leagues play with six on a team.

The Malmesbury League is one of the largest, carrying more than ninety teams and twelve hundred players within a ten mile radius of the town centre. The pins are placed in a diamond shape, and are larger than what you would find in Wales, but smaller than those used in the far Westcountry. There are known as the ‘Gloucester’ shape of pin. The alleys are around thirty feet long.

Skittles is often incorrectly referred to as ‘bowling’ although the ideology of the two games is similar, there are several key differences.

- Bowling alleys are highly polished and pristine, the balls are large and have finger holes, the pins are perfectly shaped and centred on the alley electronically... everything about the game is precise.

- In Skittles, the alleys, the balls and the pins are... let's say they ‘have character’. This is a pub sport and, as such, is not expected to be perfect and shiny in every way... Skittles still relies on humans to tally up the scores and stick up the pins.