Regency Party Games, by Zoe Burton

Regency Party Games, by Zoe Burton

I’m currently about twenty percent of the way through the writing of a new book. At the beginning of the story, there is a house party. At a house party, at least in the Regency era but I assume even today, there are games. I recently spent an hour or so of writing time in research about party games in the Regency, all so I could plan out what entertainments would be available at the party in my story. I have not actually showed the characters playing the games, but I know what they’re doing every night, anyway. LOL I thought I would share with you all some of the games I learned about.

Some of the activities I will mention here I have heard of before, and others were new to me. I will list some of them here, some with my often-amusing but othertimes bland commentary. At the end, I’ll list the ones that I consider my favorites.

  • One of the games I had heard of before is Blind Man’s Bluff. This is the game where one person is blindfolded and they have to feel someone else’s face and say who that person is. Sometimes, the blindfolded one is turned three times and let loose and sometimes not.
  • Charades is another game I have heard of before. We still play it nowadays. Well, not we as in me. I’m not into that kind of thing, but some people do. LOL
  • Hide and Seek is a third game that we still play today. However, I have heard it called Sardines, so I looked it up. It turns out that Sardines was more popular in the Victorian era and that it was a kind of reverse Hide and Seek. One person would hide and the rest would have to find him or her and squeeze into the hiding spot with him. Claustrophobia, anyone?
  • In one of the Sense and Sensibility movies, the one with Alan Rickman, Marianne draws Willoughby’s profile as seen through a candle-lit piece of paper. This “game” is called Shades. You’d have to be a far better artist than I am to do this with any skill. LOL
  • One of the games I’d love to try one day … after I pulled my long hair back or tied it up in a bun … is Snapdragon. Just the thought of having a legit reason to play with fire … Oh. *clears throat* Sorry. Forgot where I was for a moment there. 😉 
  • Spillikins is a game similar to the modern pick up sticks game. In the Regency era, the sticks were made of ivory or wood. Depending on the set, the ends might be rounded or blunt. I’ve never played pick up sticks, that I can recall. I can see me becoming frustrated with it. LOL
  • Cards, as we know from Pride and Prejudice, were a popular entertainment at Regency era parties of all kinds. Lottery Tickets, Whist, and Vingt-et-un are three popular ones.
  • There is a messy-sounding game called Bullet Pudding that was popular, as well. It involved a bag of flour, a bullet, and noses.
  • Word games of all sorts were popular. For example, one person might come up with five words and the other players have to come up with a verse or story using those words. 

Now, for the ones I liked.

Snapdragon is my favorite, I think. I like to be daring sometimes and one certainly must be daring to thrust one’s hand into a plate of burning alcohol. Plus, I love raisins, almonds, and many of the other items often used in this game. So … fire, snacks, and danger … what could be better? 😉

For my second choice, and this might make me boring, but I prefer cards, unlike Mr. Darcy at Netherfield. LOL I actually play a lot of Solitaire. Nowadays, I play on my phone or tablet, but I believe I still have a Styrofoam “board” from back in the ‘60’s or ‘70’s that held a deck of small cards that came with it. It also had a book that taught me how to play several versions of the game. I’ve also played gin rummy and was pretty good at it, so I think I’d have done well playing any of the card games of the Regency. 🙂

Finally, I enjoy word games. This requires more mental energy than the other three, though, so I’d not want to be too tired or worn out when they began. LOL

In case you’re wondering, in my story (which does not yet have a name), I chose Snapdragon, cards, word games, Charades, Hide and Seek, Spillikins, and Blind Man’s Bluff for the games played at the house party.

Which of these games would you enjoy playing? What are other Regency-era games you have heard of? Have you ever tried any of them?  





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March 16, 2022 3:04 PM

In your research I’m sure you’ve discovered that Charades during the regency period is not the same as modern Charades (an acting game). The game that was so popular with Jane Austen, and a number of her characters, was actually a game of riddles (ie Mr. Elton’s “courtship” riddle for Emma)

February 6, 2022 3:06 PM

We used to play many of these when I was a child! In fact I think all but Bullet Pudding and Snapdragon.
We often played Pick-up-sticks, all kinds of card games including Kan-u-go which was a forerunner of Scrabble as you made a crossword with the cards which had letter, and Whot (the cards had numbers and shapes and was really good) we also played dominoes and board games.
My niece was the star of hide and seek – we couldn’t find her and she turned out to be standing in my Dad’s wellingtons inside the coats on the rack!

February 4, 2022 10:38 AM

Oh! I just saw something while scrolling Instagram and wanted to share it since it mentioned sardines. It was a post on @pandp2005. The post talked about the three weeks of rehearsal time before the movie started. Here’s a quote from the post where sardines was mentioned:

We went down there and spent a few days playing sardines, and just mucking about in the house so that they could claim it as there own house. They each had their own bedroom and a space of their own. Tom Hollander also played sardines and claimed that when he was in a cupboard with the five Bennet sisters it was the happiest day of his life.” (director Joe Wright)

Now isn’t that a fun idea? 😀 Mr. Collins stuffed in a closet with his cousins. LOL

February 2, 2022 4:16 PM

My family loves to play word and card games. I’ve also played sticks, charades and hide-and-seek (but not sardines).

J. W. Garrett
J. W. Garrett
February 1, 2022 6:30 PM

This was really interesting. I’d be terrible at any of them. You playing with fire… I should have known you’d like fire. LOL! I do NOT have a poker face and that’s why I’d be horrible at poker and even when we played ROOK or any card game… they could tell by my face whether I had a good hand or not. Grief!! I can’t wait to see what you have done with this house party. Blessings on the completion of this work.

Jean Stillman
Jean Stillman
February 1, 2022 5:27 AM

Thanks for the interesting article. I think word games would have been my favorite. I love Scrabble or any of the on-line word game apps today. Next, I think Charades. Our family has played this at big family Christmas parties, and it is always a hit. Last, I think Spillikins. My sister and two brothers and I used to play pick up sticks. It might be nice to see if we still have a steady hand.

February 1, 2022 12:57 AM

A version of Blind man’s buff: The men are blind-folded and they go through a line with a guide. The man will have to guess who his wife is amongst a line of (quiet) women. The guy who correctly claims who his wife is wins or wins a prize (if there is more than one winner). My parents always win…I think it is because my Mom has a birth tag in her left ear. (or they just knew each other very well???)
It is funny but maybe disconcerting how many of those guys will claim who their wives are but they weren’t their wives (and these were couples who had been married for lots of years)

cindie snyder
cindie snyder
January 31, 2022 6:33 AM

I have heard of some of them. My friends and I. used to love hide and seek! Charades is fun and I like card games too.I’m not dating enough for Snapdragon!lol

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