There are two basic styles of play in curling, the "draw" game and the "take-out" game. While most teams will have a predominant style of play, there are also many other factors that determine the type of game played. Much of curling is situational, with that particular situation at hand dictating strategy. The ability and attitudes of your teammates, along with those of your opponents may require a certain style of play. The score, ice conditions, which end it is and who has the hammer are also factors to be considered. Overall play is meant either to score, to protect a scoring rock or to prevent your opponent from scoring.
The Draw Game:
This is generally a more offensive or aggressive style of play that requires more finesse shots that are riskier and more difficult. This style of play is designed to score more than one point, or to steal points from an opponent. The most common types of shots are "guards", "freezes", "raises" and "come-arounds". The guard typically stops between the hogline and the house and is meant to guard a rock so an opponent cannot take it out. The freeze stops immediately in front of another rock. Raises move another rock into the house. The come-around is a shot that curls around a guard and stops in the house. When having the hammer, most skips will advocate this style of play to attempt to score more than one point. Also, slow ice, fast ice, and "swingy" ice (ice that curls a lot) dictates this style of play. If behind late in the game, most skips will want to play into the house with the draw game.
The Take-out Game:
While this style of play is more defensive in nature, it is also mainly comprised of shots that are easier to make. It is designed to both remove opponents' rocks from the house, and to keep the front of the house as open as possible. This type of play is much more conservative, and is designed to hold a lead, keep the game close or hold the opposition to one point when they ave the hammer. The shots used are the "raise", the "hit and stick" and the "hit and roll". The raise promotes a stone into another rock in an attempt to move it out of play. The hit and stick is a take-out that removes a rock and comes to rest in virtually the same spot it was when it made contact with the other stone. A hit and roll takes out a rock and then spins a short distance, usually behind a guard. Without the hammer, most skips will use this strategy to try to limit the opposition to just one point. On straight ice that doesn't curl much, offense is generally created with freezes and draws and this will mandate more of a take-out style of play. If your team has a big lead late in the game, the skip will usually want to prevent your opponent from scoring by utilizing the take-out game.
There are also other factors that influence the style of play. One of these is the "Free Guard Zone". The FGZ is the area between the hogline and the house. If a lead puts a rock in the FGZ, it cannot be taken out by the lead from the opposing team. Therefore, the position of the lead's rocks is critical to the manner of play for that end. Rock placement on the sheet is also dictated by the FGZ, the score , the end and the hammer. The team with the hammer will attempt to split the house by placing rocks away from the center of the sheet, keeping open access to the four foot circle. This creates an opportunity to score multiple points. Teams without the hammer like to keep rocks close to the center of the sheet to control access to the four foot circle. An aggressive strategy will utilize rock placement in the FGZ. This will help to get as many rocks in play as possible. This is usually done later in the game, once players have established the correct weight for the ice, or when the team is down by two or more points. A more conservative strategy ignores the FGZ and throws rocks in, or through, the house. It also means removing any opposition rocks from the front of the house as soon as possible. This is either done early in the game, or to protect a lead.
While a team may rely on an overall strategy, that strategy is subject to change, based on the situation at hand in the game. Depending on that situation, it is possible to be playing both offense and defense on consecutive rocks! Remember, curling is not just about placing the rocks where the skips wants them, it also means keeping your opponents from placing their rocks where their skip wants them.