Christmas Parlour Games

Well, looks like it’s Christmas again people – and we all know what that means. Yep, Victorian parlour games. Those tried and tested delights of yesteryear, the ones you’ll inevitably be playing with your families as you quaff Dutch Advocaat and squeeze an ungodly amount of Waitrose mince pies into your oesophagus.

Okay, so unless you’re some sort of eccentric country landowner with limited access to technology and a penchant for family traditions over a century old, you’ll probably just be watching Dr Who or playing a half-arsed game of backgammon with your nephew. It doesn’t have to be like that though. Back in the olden days, long before TOTP2, they had to actually entertain themselves. Normally with something which was pretty mundane, like a satsuma or a spoon.

Yeah, it sounds crap. Bear with us though.

This year why not make things a little bit special? A trip down the nostalgic joys of days gone by. Where children used to run down the street hitting some weird little hoop with a stick, cheering as toothless adults waved from windows above. A simpler time. A time when, after all the pieces of wrapped coal and knitted socks were opened, people enjoyed each others company over a glass of light mead and some amazingly dull games.

Lookabout

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From the title this sounds like some sort of fun seventies kids show. Probably featuring hilarious puppets of some description. Don’t get excited though, it’s nothing like that.

One person chooses an object in a room and shows it to everyone else. Then everyone but the chooser leaves the room, at which point he or she must place it somewhere visible, but in a different position from where they found it. Once done the other players come in and search for the item. If it’s spotted, without saying anything, each player then takes a seat. The search continues until everyone is sat down. The last person to find the object then becomes the chooser.

It’s important to plan ahead with this one. If you’re likely to be spending Christmas with elderly relatives, or indeed people who have a strong interest in drinking, the game could take quite some time to finish. Take this into consideration when picking your objects.

Maybe don’t pick a small coin or a transparent pen lid. Or a pet.

Pass the Slipper

Back in Victorian times everyone had a slipper to hand, it was the done thing. Nowadays slippers are somewhat less commonplace. If you don’t have a slipper, or haven’t received one as a gift from you aunt, any small item will do. Literally anything – it has absolutely no effect on the game. Call it Pass the TV Remote if you want. It’s entirely up to you.

The rules of this are simple. All the guests form a circle and one player stands in the middle whilst closing his or her eyes. Whilst their eyes are closed the players pass the slipper behind them. When the person in the middle opens their eyes, they must stop. Now the central player must specify who has the slipper. Should he or she be triumphant, they swap places with the player with the slipper.

A great game with hours worth of enjoyment.

Blindman’s Buff

Classed as an old favourite, although we’ve never met anyone who’s ever claimed to have enjoyed it, this game sees a member of the group blindfolded and spun around in the centre of the room. Everyone else spreads out and waits in position until the “blind man” wanders around the room trying to grab someone. Once they capture a player they need to guess who it is, presumably through some sort of clever understanding of the fabric being worn or a whiff of their expensive perfume.

If the game is taking a while, maybe if you have enormous rooms, or indeed the “blind man” is heavily inebriated, you can call out Marco Polo-style to give assistance.

Not one to played in a room with expensive items/glassware/small children/pets/anything sharp. Actually if you are going to play it do it something safe, like a bouncy castle.

Squeak Piggy Squeak

Basically an abstract, and extremely odd, take on Blindman’s buff which sees the blindfolded person, here known as the farmer, sit on a cushion on the floor. The other players, known as “piggies”, sit in a circle around them. The farmer is spun around on the pillow, presumably on a shiny floor, and then must get up and place the pillow on a “piggy’s” lap.

Now, here comes the strangest part, without touching the piggy, the farmer sits on their lap and says “squeek piggy squeek”, to which the now squashed player replies with a pig noise. If the farmer guesses the identity then they swap places, if not, they have another go. Yeah, pretty odd.

Ensure strict rules on weight allowance, maybe looking at some sort of boxing-style system to ensure against injury/fights.

Forfeits

Bit of a weird one this, an open to unnecessary abuse should the group playing be that way inclined.

One person leaves the room (known as the judge) and everyone else places a small personal item into a box. The judge then comes back into the room and chooses an item. The owner of the item then has to do a forfeit based on the whim of the judge, otherwise they don’t get their small personal item back.

Back in Victorian times the forfeits would be rather amusing little things like singing a song, telling a story, barking like a dog or maybe even hopping around in a circle on one leg. Modern day attempts at recreating the game are more than likely to cause undue amounts of emotional stress and degradation.

Probably only play with nice friends and relatives.

Are You There Moriarty?

By far the pièce de résistance of parlour games. If you ignore everything else on this list, at least keep a note of this one and book some time to play it before the seasonal festivities are over.

A game for two players that works on the principle of a duel (see, told you it was good). Each player is blindfolded and given a rolled up newspaper/magazine (significantly more painful though). Both players than lie on the floor facing each other with about a meter in-between their heads.

The starting player calls out “are you there Moriarty?” to which the other player replies, unsurprisingly, “yes”. The first player then attempts to hit the second with the newspaper by swinging it over their head. If he misses, the second player then tries to hit them back. The winner is the first one to actually manage to hit them. The next player then takes the loser’s place.

We’ve actually played this before. It’s a damn fine game but can become quite dangerous based on size of participants, choice of weapon and, as with the case of most of these games, level of inebriation.

Reverend Crawley’s Game

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Early planning stages. Novice players.

Quite a clever once this. Not that we’d ever want to play it. Think Twister for a generation that hadn’t developed a spinning arrow on a piece of card and you’re almost there.

Everyone playing stands together in a small circle and are told to hold hands with someone else. The only problem is they’re not allowed to do it with the person next to them, or with both hands holding the same person. The result should be a kind of human knot with people awkwardly embracing each other to hilarious effect.

Now everyone is in a big knot, the aim is to get out of it without releasing hands, kind of like if you were untying a real knot. Clever huh?

Not one for people with boundary issues. Or sweaty hands. In fact just don’t play it, it sounds horrible.