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Victorian Games
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The Victorians played many games.
Bellow are some games which they played.

Many of these popular games, such as "Charades", "Blindman's Bluff", and "Pin the Tail on the Donkey", are still played at parties (especially children's parties) and gatherings today.

Below are some other children's Parlour Games that were popular during the Victorian Era.


A variation of Blindman's Bluff, this version utilizes a stick (the wand) in which the other children take turns grasping one end while the "blind" player (blindfolded) holds the other end. The "blind" player then asks 3 questions to the player holding the opposite end of the stick, and the aim of the game is to recognize the voice of the player who replies. Therefore, the players try to disguise their voices as much as possible. Sometimes, instead of questions, children imitated the sounds of animals. For example, barking like a dog, meowing like a cat, etc.


This was a game for only two players, but children enjoyed watching as much as playing! Both the "deer" and the "stalker" would have been blindfolded. They were then guided by other children to opposite ends of a large table. When a designated bystander yelled, "Go!", they began moving around the table. Naturally, it was the "stalker's" job to catch the "deer", and the "deer's" job to avoid the stalker. Absolute silence was to be maintained by both the players and the audience, and no one could leave the room. Sometimes, children played in their barefeet, in order to be all the more quiet.



To play this game, first children would have decided upon a letter of the alphabet; for example, the letter "T". The first player would have announced to the second, "Cupid's coming." The second would ask, "How is he coming?" The first responds with a word that begins with the chosen letter, "T", and ends with the ending, "ing", such as, "Tumbling". The game continues from player to player, through all the players, and as long as words beginning with "T" (or whatever is the chosen letter), and ending with "ing" can be thought of. Anyone who could not answer the question on the spur of the moment would have had to pay a penalty of some sort, or be ejected from the game, and a new letter would have been chosen.



This is still a fun game for children to play, but during the Victorian Era, it was a real favourite. To play, one person thinks of a person, place, or thing, and the other players try to guess who or what it is by asking only "yes" and "no" questions. The game continues until the players discover who or what the first person is thinking of, or until twenty questions have been asked -- whichever comes first.



This game was played with two teams. Team 2 would leave the room whild Team 1 chose a "secret word", such as "sky", as well as a clue word that would rhyme with the chosen word, for example, "tie". When Team 2 re-entered the room, they would be told that the "secret word" rhymes with "tie". Team 2 then began to act out words they believe might be the "secret word", based on the clue that it rhymes with "tie". As they acted out incorrect words, Team 1 would have hissed loudly to let them know they were way off base. Team 2 kept acting out different words until they guessed the correct word. Then, the teams switch, and Team 1 would have left the room while Team 2 chose a "secret word", etc.



Taboo was a word game which was somewhat similar to "Cupid's Coming" in that a certain word of the alphabet was selected, however, in the game Taboo, instead of responses utilizing the chosen letter, they were to avoid using the letter at all cost. A player would have been chosen as "It". The other players asked "It" questions, trying to force "It" to use the for-bidden letter. For example, if the forbidden letter was "C", players might ask, "What type of animal meows?" If "It" answered, "Cat", he or she used the forbidden letter and would have lost the game. But, if "It" answered, "Kitten", then play would continue. In a more difficult version of the game, players who are "It" must answer the questions in complete sentences, and may not use the forbidden letter anywhere in the sentence: "The little kitten meowed for some milk."



This game is also similar to "Cupid's Coming". Players formed a circle, and the first player began the game by announcing, "I have a basket." The person sitting next to him/her asked, "What's inside?" The first person has to name something that begins with the first letter of the alphabet, "A". The next person names something that begins with "B", and so forth. The game ends when a player can not think of something that begins with the letter that falls on his/her turn.



We know this game today as "Pick-up Sticks". It was a very popular Table Game during the Victorian era. Players used a pile of wood splinters or straws, while today's versions of the game use wooden or plastic sticks. There were actually some very fancy sets that used "straws" made of ivory. The sticks were dropped in the middle of a table and each player took a turn removing a stick from the pile, while not moving any other stick.



While most everyone has certainly heard of "Tiddly Winks", few people really know how this game was actually played. Players used a disk called a "shooter" to flip smaller disks, called "winks", into a cup that sat in the middle of the playing area or table. The aim of the game was to be the first player to sink all of his/her "winks" into the cup. During the Victorian era, the game was actually taken quite seriously, and players practiced intensely during their spare time.


Some board games that children played during the Victorian era were already centuries old. Examples of some of these old favourites included Checkers, Chess, and Backgammon. Many new board games were introduced in the 1800s, and they taught children about geography, science, or history. Others taught children values such as good behaviour and hard work.

One such game was called "Errand Boy". It was a popular board game in the 1800s, and it taught children the value of good deeds and hard work. The object of the game was to follow the career of an errand boy as he was promoted in the banking business. Moves on the board were determined by a "teetotum"--a spinning top with numbers on it, used instead of dice. Many people did not use dice for playing games because dice were associated with gambling.

Players who landed on spaces describing good deeds, good behaviour, or hard work, could advance the number of spaces shown on that square. If a player landed on a space describing laziness or dishonesty, he/she would have to move back, or they might even be sent to jail. The winner of the game was the first player to become Bank President.


These games seemed to have been direct descendents of hockey. "Bandy", also known as "Shinny", is similar to field hockey, and "Curling" is similar to ice hockey. Organized "Bandy Teams" used a stick shaped much like a modern field hockey stick, except the blade was shorter and more rounded. Most children simply used tree branches for sticks, and everything from a ball of yarn to a tin can for a "ball". "Curling", like ice hockey, was played on frozen lakes, ponds, and even rivers. The play field was called "a sheet". The game required two teams of four players each to slide granite stones over the ice, attempting to get the stones as close to the "tee" as possible.



Graces is a game that dates back to the 1830s. It was originally intended as an indoor parlour game, but could be played outdoors as well, and due to its popularity, it often was. It was a two-player game which used two wooden throwing rings, (usually decorated with ribbons), and four catching wands. Each player held two catching wands, one in each hand. The first player would place the rings over the wands which he/she held, then toss the rings, one at a time, to the other player. The winner was the player who had caught the most tossed rings within a set amount of time. It was generally considered a "girl's game" as it was meant to encourage gracefulness--hence, the name, "Graces".



This game has been a favourite child's game since tin cans came into use--around the time of the Crimean War. The variations of the game are as endless as a child's imagination.



This was a very early version of "Badminton". Boys and girls of all ages enjoyed playing this game. The battledore was the racket, and the shuttlecock was the birdie. The object of the game was to volley the shuttlecock in the air as long as possible.



This game is based on a chant of sorts, and is similar to the popular children's game, "Red Rover". In this game, the chanted verse goes like this:

"The needle's eye that doth supply
The thread that runs so true;
I stump my toe, and down I go,
All for the want of you."

A large group of children would be lined up in two rows, about eight feet apart, facing the opposing line. After "singing" the chanted verse, one child would run across to the opposite line and try to break through the clenched hands of the opposite team.

A popular variation of the game, however, was played much like the game, "Farmer in the Dell", whereby, after reciting the verse, one child chose another to join him/her in the center of the circle. Then, that selected child would choose another, and so forth, until no more children could fit inside the ring.


Football, as we know it today, is basically a combination of two old sports -- soccer and rugby. But, during the 1800s, football was actually more like playing modern-day soccer.

The original rules stated that the team which scored two out of three times, won the game. Beginning in the 1870s, the rules for university football teams allowed players to carry the ball, and defenders tackled the person who was in possession of the ball in order to keep him from crossing the goal line. Eventually, these newer rules helped created the game we know today.


In the mid-1800s, baseball became a popular sport in the United States, however, there was an American predecessor to baseball, which was called, "Townball". While professional teams played in cities throughout the country, baseball has always been a popular sport for boys, and except for a few differences, (especially regarding use of equipment--for example, over 100 years ago, children wore no mask, guards, gloves, or helmets), the rules of baseball have actually changed very little since the 1800s. Some terminology has changed over the years. Examples of this include the fact that the batter was originally called a "striker", or a "batsman". Also, he could hit the ball in a number of ways. Some strikers hit the ball over their heads, while others hit "grounders", the way a golf ball is hit. Often, the bat was homemade; sometimes it was nothing more than a large stick.


What child hasn't played some form of "Tug-of-War"? In the 1800s, when toys and pastimes were limited, Tug-of-War was a popular game that required only two things in order to play:

willing children, and a rope.

Two teams were formed, and a line was drawn on the ground between them. Children held onto a rope, pulled with all their strength, attempting to pull the opposing team over the line. Sometimes, to add more excitement to the game, children played with a mud puddle or a stream between the teams.


One of the most common outdoor amusements for both boys and girls during the Victorian era, this particular "game" has been around for thousands of years. It is known to have been played by children during the ancient Egyptian times. Simply stated, the child propelled a hoop of wood (about 2 feet in diameter) by hitting it with a stick to keep it rolling along as the child ran alongside.


Long ago, marbles were played with any object which might resemble a small ball -- nuts, pebbles, as well as actual marbles like we know today. The most common marble game played was called "Ring Taw". It's the same game that children play today. A circle is made from string, or drawn on the ground with chalk, or in the dirt. The marbles that were placed inside the circle were called, nibs". The players crouched outside the ring, and each took a turn flicking a large marble, called "the shooter", into the circle. The goal was to knock other marbles out of the circle, and each player got to keep the marbles that he/she knocked out. The winner was naturally the player with the most marbles.

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