Story By: Jess Lander // Photo Courtesy of Vincent Connors

On a Roll with TERRABALL

While most people spent the pandemic playing games to pass the time, Napa artist Vincent Thomas Connors invented one. Named TerraBall, the game is a unique cross between pool, shuffleboard, and golf and is a sort of silver lining from the 2017 fires when Connors lost his art studio at his family’s Carneros property, the famed Devaux Ranch.

Connors considers himself an abstract artist who “treads the line between abstraction and representation.” He has a background in textile manufacturing and has worked with top designers in the industry. But, when he and his wife Rebecca decided to settle permanently in Napa, Connors decided to pursue his art full time. Most of his work focuses on landscapes because, as he said, “It’s hard not to be influenced by the landscape of Napa.” Some of his paintings can be viewed at the Heron House in Yountville.

After the fire, Connors said they had to cut down some redwood trees that were burned and damaged, and for a while, he had a bunch of wood rounds lying around, just waiting to be repurposed into something new. Those and some wooden wine boxes were the humble beginnings of TerraBall, his first game.

Picture a long pool table with green felt and raised wooden formations — called terraforms — that slope at different degrees and create obstacles on the course. There are two holes at each end of the table, one larger than the other. TerraBall is for singles (two players) or doubles (four players), and the game includes eight balls that players try to sink into the holes for points. One ball, the TerraBall, is the largest and worth more points than the others. The terraforms, of course, don’t make sinking them easy.

“It’s not as intimidating as pool,” said Connors, who has handcrafted the TerraBall tables himself via a lengthy research and development phase. “This game is straightforward to learn and really easy to play, and the more you play it, the more you figure out there’s strategy involved in it.”

One of the most unique aspects of TerraBall is that literally, every single game can be different. The terraforms come in different shapes and sizes and are removable so that players can create a new course every time. Connors has even created a mini tabletop version of the game.

“The whole thing was built off that idea of changing the modularity of it, being able to move it, switch things out, and have new pieces,” said Connors. “If you play a TerraBall table at one place and then go to a different place, there will be a different course everywhere you go.”

TerraBall made its triumphant debut at Acumen Wine Gallery on First St. in downtown Napa in December, and Connors hopes to get more tables placed at restaurants, bars, tasting rooms, and pool halls. Tables are available for lease (for events or extended stays), and some early TerraBall adopters have already expressed interest in creating a Napa league.

“People that are playing it are kind of taken aback,” said Connors. “They seem excited about a new kind of bar game. It’s been a long time since shuffleboard or pool or darts came around, and I wanted to make something for everybody.”

While the abstract artist works to get TerraBall off the ground, he’s also already immersed in his next project, setting up two installations for the Napa Lighted Art Festival, which will run from January 15 through March 13. Connors will have a metal barrel hoop sculpture at Dwight Murray Plaza and a hanging lanterns installation on a cork tree by Compline on First Street.