In case you are unfamiliar with the real life rendition of quidditch, it's a 10-years-old sport that is quickly spreading globally. The most updated international rules can be found on the International Quidditch Association website, but I will provide a quick recap of the relevant rules. I am ignoring the element of play represented by Snitch and Seeker as they would only be marginally relevant to my question.

How the sport works (in 1 minute)

  • 3 Chasers per team + 1 Keeper per team have the goal of scoring through the opponent's 3 hoops/goals with the quaffle (volleyball) and defending their own hoops.
  • 2 Beaters per team use bludgers (dodgeballs) - of which there are 3 in total to grant that each team can have possession of 1+ bludgers - to temporarily eliminate ("beat" or "knock out") opponents.
  • Every player must hold a broom with their hands and/or legs at all times.

How a player can be eliminated from play

In certain situations, a player can be considered "dismounted": when this happens, they are required to run back to their goals before they can re-enter play. Until that happens they must not interact with play. As a reference, the 2 goal lines where hoops are situated are 33m from each other.

A player is considered dismounted when one of the following occurs:

  • They are hit by a bludger thrown or propelled by an opponent beater - the defending Keeper is immune to this effect while in their own keeper zone (think football/soccer's penalty area)
  • They dismount their own broom - the broom is no longer held, or no part of it is between the player's legs
  • They commit a foul whose corresponding penalty is sending the player back to their own hoops

The first situation is by far the most common, but all three constitute a complexity in play design that is not so strongly present in any other sport of my knowledge.

Impact on play design

While the quaffle carrier being beat often implies a loss of possession, and a strong numeric and positional superiority from the defence often results in a reset by the attack, in all other cases play continues.

I have seen and/or recurred to two main approaches to this particular aspect of the game in design of plays:

  1. Consider worst case scenario only for the team executing the play - opponent in possession of 2 bludgers, if an opponent beater tries to hit someone they will succeed and viceversa, etc. - and best case scenario for the opponents
  2. Consider all relevant subsets of the initial play caused by the elimination of 1 or more players, and develop them as independent plays

1) is not necessarily employable in all situations because it only allows for a limited number of options and can't fully account for plays where players are used as "bait" for beaters, for instance, and more generally still needs to rely on 2) as the opposing team has more than one option on if/who/when/where to attempt a beat.

2) is not entirely applicable if not with a more or less big margin of semplification: it's not only dependent on which combination of players is eliminated from play, but also from the exact moment when a player is eliminated, especially in plays with a high number of phases (think basketball).

Do you know a more effective approach from another sport, or can you suggest a better approach, to simplify and improve play design in quidditch, in relation to the possibility of players being eliminated from play for a relevant amount of time by the opposing team?

1 Answer 1


Two sports seem relevant here: Basketball and Hockey.

In basketball, you have plays drawn up, but you also have a very fluid situation where your play can quickly break down. While you wouldn't have a player eliminated, you do use a useful concept: the reset. The point guard (or other ball controlling player, if you're the Cavs or such) takes the ball to the top of the key, and calls a new play, discarding whatever they'd done before.

In your case, a regroup and reset when a player is eliminated - and a strategy for how to deal with this in-between time - may allow you to go back to a full-on play with all players.

Hockey, on the other hand, has the concept of an eliminated player (or even two), via penalties. As such, hockey teams have different strategies for 5 on 4 and 5 on 3, on both sides. If you're on the 4 or 3 side, you're playing a defensive-focused game; there are specific well-defined strategies that minimize the offense's chances. On the 5 side, there are more offensive-focused strategies that maximize your chances while taking into account the defensive changes that will be made by the short side.

In your game, I don't know if you're in quite as straightforward of a situation as far as offense/defense when a player is eliminated; presumably an eliminated player when you're on your own end isn't eliminated for very long, since he/she is closer to their goal, so perhaps you have to focus more on strategies for attacking a player down.

This doesn't have to be quite as complicated as "all relevant subsets", though it is trending in that direction (and I imagine professional-level teams would); it could be as simple as recognizing what a player down means for your protections and adjusting them, regardless of which player is down (though your positional differences make some difference there - in most sports, all players are effectively equal in at least legal play, other than goaltenders).

  • I wasn't expecting an answer on this question anymore, thank you! You are right in assuming the offence is generally affected more by this peculiarity of the game, so for the defence it really boils down to optimizing rotations accounting for this aspect (i.e. you don't only rotate on passes, shots, and defenders beaten by the ball carrier, but also in case of players taken out). I like the simplicity in "we are X players down, reset the ball unless you have a clean chance to drive to the hoops", I suppose you'd only need some exceptions in order to not become easy to anticipate.
    – Michele C
    Commented Jan 8, 2016 at 13:19

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