Skittles or Tenpin

Due to shared similarities, people often get confused between skittles or tenpin. To sort this confusion, let’s take a look at some of their differences below.

Skittles vs. Tenpin

Skittles is an ancient indoor pub game played with heavy balls on a bowling alley that has nine bowling pins or skittles. Tenpin, commonly known as bowling, is also played with a bowling ball on a wooden platform, but the number of bowling pins differs; it has ten bowling pins in a triangular formation.

Main Difference

Skittles comes from European origin and used to be played as an outdoor lawn game. It can be said that tenpins is inspired by skittles, although it originated in either Egypt or Germany, and there are very different elements at play. It is also important to mention that skittles is an ancient game, while tenpins is more popular and widespread.

In the 1800s, skittles and nine pins were popular games, yet entirely different from one another. Skittles involve ‘tipping,’ and the only aim of the player is to try and reach a certain total first by counting the number of pins knocked over. In contrast, nine-pins is played at a certain distance, and the player has to knock down all the pins in over three throws. Whoever manages to knock them over in their earlier throw is the winner. Ten-pin bowling evolved from nine-pin bowling.

The key difference between skittles and ten=pin bowling lies in the formation of ball pins in both games. While skittles have nine-ball pins with a central pin in a 3×3 setup in an orthogonal manner, ten-pin has a triangle formation.

Skittles pins


Skittles game is also known as nine-pins, dutch pins, four corners, or rolly-polly. Bowling pins in skittles are usually made of wood, and their shape varies from region to region. There are four kinds of bowling pins in skittles; barrel style, bristol style, welsh style, and somerset style.

The idea is to stand at a distance and try to tip the pin over. Even though a spherical ball is used these days to play skittles, in ancient times, players would just use an object called ‘cheese.’

There are different versions of skittles. In the front pin first, knocked pins are counted if they are knocked over by the very first pin. In nomination, the player has to first choose the pin that he intends to hit before he throws the ball. In four-pins, as the name suggests, only four pins have to be hit by the first pin in order to score. The London bridge involves only the landlord and two copper setups. German skittles can be played by more than two players, each having 3 lives, and you lose one of them in case of a miss. The six-ball Westbury is also a multiplayer game, in which each player has 6 balls, which are reset once all the 9 pins are knocked over.

Tenpin Bowling

Tenpin bowling is also known as big-ball bowling, five-pin bowling, candlepin bowling, and duckpin bowling, depending on the region it’s played in.

In ten-pin bowling, the player rolls a bowling ball on a synthetic lane, which measures 105 centimeters by 18 meters, to knock down the bowling pins. The game includes a foul line near the bowler, so the player has to prevent crossing that line. Each player gets a single shot at a new rack of ten pins and is given a total of 10 frames to get rid of all the pins. From the 1st to the 9th frame, the players are allowed 2 rolls, but for the 10th and the last frame, they can have up to 3 rolls.

skittles bowling

Ten-pin has three different variants for scoring; a strike happens when the player manages to strike down all ten pins during the first ball; a spare is when the player knocks down all the balls by the second ball, and open is when none of the pins are knocked over even after the second ball. When you hit a strike, you get ten points.

Closing Thoughts

Even though skittles and tenpin bowling have their differences, they do share some key elements that are at play in both the games, such as the strikingly similar manner of scoring and the style in which the player may pose to score.

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