If you play a lot of table tennis, you may find yourself craving a change from playing back and forth according to the rules. But it never gets boring as long as you have a table, bats, and balls. I can promise that much.
Because you can vary this game so much that the fun is always given. I have collected and present some of the best and funniest table tennis variations for you in this post.
Many of the suggestions are not only fun but also have a certain training effect.
All you need for the variations is a table tennis table, a bat for each player (sometimes more), and enough ping pong balls. Only a few exceptions need some additional material. Of course, add that.
Ping pong variations are perfect when you are more than the usual number of players, for example at a party. I have therefore sorted them in this post according to how many players they are suitable for.
Table Tennis Game Variations For at least 2 Players
I always like to play variations after you’ve played a few matches and actually still feel like playing table tennis, just without the stress of a serious match.
In this case, you can simply change one aspect of your normal game and completely new situations emerge and coordination becomes a challenge. Here is a selection:
1. Table tennis only in reverse
The serve remains unchanged in this variation. But then it gets interesting: instead of playing the ball directly over the net to the opponent’s side, the ball must first touch your side and then go over the net directly to the opponent. This means that the ball must not touch the opposite side of the board (except for the serve).
2. Ping Pong
Ping pong is in fact not the same as table tennis but of course, both terms are often used interchangeably (e.g. here on this page). But in my childhood, when someone talked about “ping pong”, this game was meant:
Every shot has to touch both sides of the table like for a normal serve.
3. Monospin Table Tennis
Table tennis usually thrives on its variety. You can do so much by using spin on the ball. With topspin you put the opponent under pressure, back-spin is good for a controlled defensive play. But what if you are only allowed to play one kind of spin? So exclusively topspin, backspin, or side-spin (including serve).
In my experience, this is an immense challenge, because you have to concentrate and hit very consciously so that the “muscle-memory-autopilot” doesn’t play a topspin when you are supposed to play sidespin only.
The moment you change something about the way you hold the bat, it becomes a challenge to just play easy balls to one another. Here’s how you might vary in the process:
4. Penhold Grip:
This racket stance is used primarily in the Asian region. You grip the paddle with your thumb and index finger. The other fingers provide pressure from the back of the bat. If you are not used to playing this way, you will have a hard time in the beginning.
For me, especially the backhand is much more demanding than with my normal grip. However, you can see that the penhold grip also has its advantages (otherwise Asians would certainly not be so successful in table tennis with it).
With this variation, you really play table TENNIS. Here you always have both hands on the paddle for forehand and backhand.
6. Weak Handed
I guess that most of you have already tried how to play with the weak hand. It’s a bit difficult at the beginning, but you get a certain flow into the game surprisingly fast.
And the best part? It’s an extremely good exercise for your brain. Because you’re using the other half of it, which is why coordination is so hard in the beginning.
If you want the really big challenge, you can try changing the grip AND the hand. For example, play with your left hand instead of your right and with a penhold grip – have fun!
7. Double Paddles – The Darth Maul Version (requires 2 bats per person).
I think the name says it all. In each hand, the players hold one racket. Depending on which side the ball comes to, you play it with the left or right forehand. Again, this is extremely good brain training and a lot of fun.
Of course, you can also change the number of balls. But in my experience, you can’t play “matches” anymore. Even just playing to another becomes an extreme challenge.
So far I have not managed to play with more than 2 ping pong balls at the same time. Maybe you can do it!
Adjusting the Playing Environment
You can change not only the paddles and balls but also the playing environment. Sometimes you might be annoyed when you don’t have enough space to play table tennis, but why not make that the deciding factor?
9. Obstacle Table Tennis
For example, you can simply put chairs as obstacles in your movement radius. You have to be quick on your feet to reach every shot. If that’s not for you, then maybe these ideas are:
10. Squash Ping Pong
Here, you intentionally place the table along a wall, creating a new dimension for the game. Maybe you can even set up the table tennis table in a narrow aisle so you have a wall on each side.
11. Lob Ping Pong
To do this, you have to get a little inventive. Because you have to raise the net. Then, of course, you have to play in a much higher curve over the net. The rallies become slower and thereby more interesting.
It was enough for me to “simulate” a higher net with a construction of sticks and a thread. I can only say that it is really worth the effort.
12. Uneven Table (needs foldable table)
Especially when playing outside, it can sometimes be hard to find a place where the plate is level. But why not make it uneven on purpose? To do this, simply place elevations, such as books under the legs, so that the plate is folded slightly inward.
Here, above all, a good reaction is required, since the balls will no longer bounce off the plate at the usual angles.
13. T-Rex Table Tennis
This is probably the silliest variation, but it is also extremely fun and creates a good atmosphere. To imitate the short arms of a T-Rex, the elbow has to be on the body the whole time. So you can only hit from the forearm and the wrist.
This variant is not only funny, although it will definitely lead to laughs. Due to the shortened reach, you naturally have to do a lot more leg work to get to the ball.
Table tennis variants for at least 4 players
14. Round the World
You can also play Round the World with three players, but in my opinion, it’s only a lot more fun if you have at least 4 players. The more the better (up until like 10 players). It works like this:
All players divide equally to the two sides of the ping pong table. The players on the far right always play the next ball. The game is played normally. So the first one serve, then you have to play the ball over the net to the opposite side.
The clue is that after you have played the ball, you quickly run to the other side and line up there. If there is an odd number of players, the side with more players serves.
Whoever makes a mistake or does not get to a ball, is eliminated from this round. You can also make the rule that this is only the case after the 3rd mistake (or something like that). I would recommend this if you only play in threes or fours.
With each rally there are fewer and fewer players at the table, so you have to run around the table faster and faster to have a chance to get the ball.
When only 2 players are left, they play a short game (usually best of 3) of regular table tennis.
In the variant I know, the winner of a round gets a “crown”. This is an extra life, so to speak. In case of a mistake in the next rounds, the winner can use this “crown” instead of being eliminated.
15. Round the World (Advanced)
This is a small variation of the Round the World. Overall, the version works the same. The only difference is that the players who are eliminated put their paddle on the table. This makes it even more difficult because now it is even harder to place your shot on the table.
This variation is mainly suitable for more advanced groups. Otherwise, if you want to add spice to the Round the World, you can of course play rounds with the variations described above. So, for example with the weak hand or only with topspin, etc.
16. Turbulent Doubles (Requires additional tape, rope, or string)
Ideal here are 4 players so a double. The teams of 2 are tied back to back. The players take turns hitting the ball, so they have to turn around after each shot.
I really recommend trying at least some of the suggestions from this post. They are extremely fun, provide variety to the game, and maybe even have a little training effect. Besides that, there’s always the good old-fashioned version of regular table tennis.