These are the current rules that most player play by. The IFPA is actually in the process of formulating a more official set of rules based on the last five years of evolution of the game. Please consider the below as a guideline for now, pending a more formal set of rules in the official rule book.
The game is played on a square court that is 14′ x 14′ (4,26m x 4,26m), split into four equal squares (where each square is 7′ x 7′, or 2,13m x 2,13m).
The lines that separate the squares should be at least 1 inch (2,5cm) thick, and no more than 2 inches (5cm) inches thick, but it can be any convenient side (many four-square courts are drawn with street chalk).
One square is designated as the “server’s square”, or “square 4”. The rest of the squares are numbered counter-clockwise from the server’s square (3, 2, and 1). See the diagram below.
With one player in each square, play may begin by the server calling his score aloud (“0”) and then tossing the bag to any of the other three players. Each serve must be a “courtesy” toss, meaning that the server may not try to trick or take advantage of the players during the service. (There are alternative rules that allow for “trippy” serves, however, these are not allowed unless the players agree on it at some point — see below).
Players continue kicking the bag until it lands on the ground, at which point someone is OUT. (Which player is OUT is actually relatively complicated. See below for a detailed explanation.) When a given player is OUT, they move to square 1, and then all people that were in a lower number square move clockwise one square. (For example, if the player in square 3 got OUT, they would go to square 1, the player in square 1 would move to square 2, and 2 would move to 3, the server would stay.) If the game has more than 4 people playing, the players who are not in the square should form a line outside square 1 (with the line wrapping around the outside of the court counter-clockwise). Each time a player gets OUT, they move to the end of the line of waiting players, and the player waiting at the front of the line (at square 1) steps into the first square.
The object of the game is to get to the server square and stay there. Every time a player serves a round and does not get OUT, they get a point (even if they did not actually do anything to cause the other player to get OUT). Games are usually played to 15 points, but they may (by agreement) be played instead to 11, 21, or other random numbers.
The Golden Rules
- At the start of each game, the players decide on which game rules will be used to start with. (The standard game rules are in the next section).
- A player is OUT if they kick the bag and it lands out of bounds, or on a line.
- A player is OUT if their pass is declared TOO LOW, or a SPIKE by current game rules.
- Any player who STEPS into another player’s square is OUT.
- Any player who interferes is OUT. (This means making contact INSIDE another person’s square.) If the player who interferes is from the outside, e.g., the line, then the point is replayed.
- If a player passes the footbag outside the four squares, anyone may attempt to recover the bag and get it back into play — even those who are outside in the line. In this case, the player who kicked the footbag out is responsible for what happens until another player from one of the other three squares touches the footbag. Thus, a player in line can become a “proxy” for a player in the squares who kicks it out of bounds, and any points or fouls they get are attributed to the last player in the square who touched the footbag.
- If there is any disagreement, a VOTE occurs. The outcome of the vote determines what happened and thus who is OUT.
- At the beginning of each round, before the serve, the server may propose one new rule for the game. A VOTE occurs. If the vote passes, the new proposition becomes a rule for this game. The proposition cannot break any of the golden rules.
-The server gets 2 votes, other players get 1
-If a player leaves the court during a vote, they are OUT
-Once a player casts a vote, they can not change it
-Players do not have to vote
-A tie vote results in a hack-off between the 2 players in question, or a re-serve
-Ideally, players should cast their vote by pointing at the person they think is OUT and say, “You’re Out!” (less talk, more play!)
- Hack-Off: If a vote results in a tie, then the 2 players who were in question settle their differences with a duel. The player in the higher numbered square serves to the other player, the other 2 squares are considered out. Players who are not involved in the hack-off may not interfere (just as players in the line during normal play). Any disagreements are voted on by all players. The loser is OUT.
Standard Game Rules:
We recommend starting with these rules until you get a feel for the game. These can be changed by the server through propositions.
- When the server begins and ends a round in square 4, he or she gets a point.
- The player to reach 15 points first wins.
- The server must call his or her score aloud before they serve, every round. If they fail to do so, they are OUT.
- A serve must be a nice toss in front of the player the server is serving to, and the serve’s arc must go above the waist of that player.
- There is no maximum number of contacts per player.
- If the footbag touches a player’s arm below his/her elbow, they are OUT, even if it was accidental.
- Players may kick into someone else’s square as long as they do not interfere (CONTACT FOUL rule).
- Players may go into the out-of-bounds region.
- Delaying the bag is allowed.
- Passes must be at least knee height of the player being passed to when the bag reaches the height of its arc (TOO LOW rule).
- Passes must go up before they go down (SPIKE rule).
Important Note about TOO LOW and SPIKE rules:
These rules are only meant to be guidelines for what kinds of shots are “gettable”. If a pass was too low, but clearly “gettable”, then don’t hesitate to vote that the pass was good and that the receiving player should be out. These rules are left up to the players judgment and are purposely included in the ‘house rules’ section so that different 4-square games / regions will develop their own styles. Each player is a referee in 4 square.
Examples of propositions/house rules:
- No nut shots
- Server only gets a point if every player touched the bag that round.
- Players can only use left/right foot
- Players can SPIKE (beware!)
- Trippy serving allowed, ie, servers dont have to give nice serves (don’t vote for this if Toby One is serving!)
- No delays, all delays
- After first contact…you must play tiltless
- Tripless (Hah…keep me out of this game)
- Every time you make contact with the bag you have to make an animal sound, or you are OUT
- If you say the word ‘OUT’ you are OUT
- Repeal a previous proposition
- Use your imagination!
- The Jury: if you have an OUT line of 3 or more people, you can play with the JURY rule, where players that are in squares do not get to vote, only the players that are in the OUT line. Nobody gets 2 votes if you play this way.
- 3 Square: If you only have 3 players, you can still play. Use the same court, but count square 1 are out.
- Team Squares: Everyone finds a teammate. Teams play together in the same square. The only change is that the serves are a toss from one team member to the other who kicks it to another square and each point the serve must alternate between teammates.
A Little History
One day in the sun 3 young men named Cody Roberts, Joe Crain, and Lon Smith were wandering in the streets of downtown Grass Valley. They had tired of hanging out at the local comic shop playing magic and decided to head over to the market for a drink and snack. While enjoying their goodies they wandered over to nearby Hennessy School to stop and play. Seeing as they had no football, basketball, soccerball, frisbee, badmitten, or anything else fun other than a hackysack they took to the big blacktop area to kick the ol’ sac around. There they found a four square court neatly painted on the school-yard ground, where only minues before, 4 school kids bounced a big red ball back and forth while they laughed and smiled. And since it was the flattest, most appealing spot, they moved the circle of three over to it. Right away they decided the squares were to be the playing field for some sort of hacky-game…..
We have had many hours of fun and laughter playing this game. It is cool to see footbag community enjoying it too!
I would like to hear from any others who have played this and what kind of rules they use. Please email me your ideas and four square experiences at firstname.lastname@example.org