Games in the Regency Era

Table of Contents

BOCCE

Do we still play it?

Yes! Bocce is the third most popular sport in the world, following soccer & golf. In the United States alone, more than 25 million people play Bocce.

What is it?

A game played between two players, or two teams. Each team plays with four bocce balls that are differentiated by color. The goal of the game is to roll your team’s bocce balls closer to the jack (called a boccino (‘little bocce’) or pallino (‘bullet’ or ‘little ball’) in Italian, depending on local custom) than the other team’s bocce balls. Each frame is played from one side of the court and begins with the jack being rolled into play on the court.

How to Play

Bocce is traditionally played on a natural soil or asphalt court up to 27.5 metres (90 ft) in length and 2.5 to 4 metres (8.2 to 13.1 ft) wide. Every roll (including the jack) must meet the following criteria to remain on the court: 

  • Player’s feet must be behind the foot fault line. 
  • Ball must be thrown underhand and roll beyond the half court line. 
  • Ball cannot touch the back wall unless it makes contact with a ball in play first. 
  • When throwing the jack, if the jack doesn’t go beyond the half court line, or touches the back wall, the toss is invalid and is turned over to the other team to begin the round. 
  • The team closest to the jack is “in” and the other team is “out.” The team that is “out” throws until they are “in” or out of bocce balls. 
  • Both teams must throw all of their bocce balls to complete a frame. 

Points are scored after all balls have been thrown. The team with a ball closest to the jack is the only team scoring in that frame. 

  • Scoring team receives one point for each of their balls that are closer to the jack than the other team’s closest ball. 
  • If two balls are equidistant from the pallino at the end of the frame, then the next closest ball breaks the tie. 
  • A ball that is touching the jack (“kissing”) is counted as two points. 
  • The team that scores, controls the jack to begin the next frame. They get to throw the jack, followed by the first bocce ball. 

The first team to reach 11 points –and win by 2 points– wins that game.

BLIND MAN'S BUFF
Photo from littledayout.com

Do we still play it?

Varieties of this game continue to be played.

What is it?

A variant of tag in which the player who is “It” is blindfolded. The traditional name of the game is “blind man’s buff”, where the word buff is used in its older sense of a small push. 

Popularized Modern Version

Tag.

How to Play

Typically played in a spacious area, one player, designated as “It”, is blindfolded and attempts to touch the other players without being able to see them, while the other players scatter and try to avoid the person who is “it”, hiding in plain sight and sometimes teasing them to influence them to change direction. When the “it” player catches someone, the caught player becomes “it” and the catcher flees from them.

CRICKET
History of Cricket at Game Connor

Do we still play it?

Cricket is still played globally, but is more popular in Europe.

What is it?

Cricket, England’s national summer sport, which is now played throughout the world, particularly in Australia, India, Pakistan, the West Indies, and the British Isles. 

Popularized Modern Version

Baseball

How to Play

Cricket is played with a bat and ball and involves two competing sides (teams) of 11 players. The field is oval with a rectangular area in the middle, known as the pitch, that is 22 yards (20.12 metres) by 10 feet (3.04 metres) wide.

Two sets of three sticks, called wickets, are set in the ground at each end of the pitch. Across the top of each wicket lie horizontal pieces called bails. The sides take turns at batting and bowling (pitching); each turn is called an “innings” (always plural). Sides have one or two innings each, depending on the prearranged duration of the match, the object being to score the most runs.

The bowlers, delivering the ball with a straight arm, try to break (hit) the wicket with the ball so that the bails fall. This is one of several ways that the batsman is dismissed, or put out. A bowler delivers six balls at one wicket (thus completing an “over”), then a different player from his side bowls six balls to the opposite wicket. The batting side defends its wicket. There are two batsman up at a time, and the batsman being bowled to (the striker) tries to hit the ball away from the wicket. A hit may be defensive or offensive. A defensive hit may protect the wicket but leave the batsmen no time to run to the opposite wicket. In that case the batsmen need not run, and play will resume with another bowl. If the batsman can make an offensive hit, he and the second batsman (the nonstriker) at the other wicket change places. Each time both batsmen can reach the opposite wicket, one run is scored.

CHARADES
A game of charades in Vanity Fair

Do we still play it?

Not really.

What is it?

Charades in the Regency period were not the hand gesture-driven game that we know today. They were invented in the 18th Century in France and quickly became popular in England. Each line of the poem describes a word in a poetic fashion. The words in each of the pairs of lines are syllables that are put together to answer part of the riddle. Charades was a popular game with Jane Austen, both to play with her family and guests and as an entertainment for her characters in several of her novels.

Popularized Modern Version

Riddles

How to Play

A riddle was spoken that gave clues to the syllables of a word then a description of the whole. And the whole thing had to rhyme. The first one to guess the charade won. ​Below are a couple of charades printed in the book Riddles, Charades, and Conundrums, complied by John Winter Jones in 1822:

  • My first, whatever be its hue, 
  • Will please, if full of spirit;
  • My second critics love to do,
  • And stupid authors merit.

Answer: Eye-lash

  • My first a blessing sent to earth, 
  • Of plants and flowers to aid the birth; 
  • My second surely was design’d 
  • To hurl destruction on mankind: 
  • My whole a pledge from pardoning heaven, 
  • Of wrath appeas’d and crimes forgiven.

Answer: Rain-bow

ENGLAND AND FRANCE

Do we still play it?

Yes, but we call it something different…

Popularized Modern Version

Tug-of-War

What is it?

A sport that pits two teams against each other in a test of strength.

1500 and 1600 – Tug-of-War is popularized during tournaments in French châteaux gardens and later in Great Britain

1800 – Tug-of-War begins a new tradition among seafaring men who were required to tug on lines to adjust sails while ships were under way and even in battle.

How to Play

Teams pull on opposite ends of a rope with the goal being to bring the rope a certain distance in one direction against the force of the opposing team’s pull.

HOP SKOTCH

Do we still play it?

No.

What is it?

Pall-mall (from Italian pallamaglio: palla, “ball,” and maglio, “mallet”) is an obsolete lawn game (though primarily played on earth surfaces rather than grass) that was mostly played in the 16th and 17th centuries. It is considered a precursor to croquet.

How to Play

An English traveler in France mentions it early in the 17th century, and it was introduced into England in the second quarter of that century. Thomas Blount’s Glossographia (1656) described it as: A game wherein a round bowle is with a mallet struck through a high arch of iron (standing at either end of an alley) which he that can do at the fewest blows, or at the number agreed on, wins. This game was heretofore used in the long alley near St. James’s and vulgarly called Pell-Mell.

LEAP-FROG
Detail from Children's Games by Pieter Bruegel the Elder

Do we still play it?

Yes!

What is it?

 A game where players take turns leaping over each other while bent over at the waist. The first player crouches down and puts their hands on their knees, and the next player runs and leaps over them like a frog.

How to Play

In Regency era the rules are described from Samuel Griswold Goodrich’s article in Peter Parley’s Annual: When playing it, the first boy who runs out to “make a back,” as it is termed, should hold his head down close beneath his shoulders, which should be well elevated. His hands should be placed on his knees, not firmly, but so that they will slide if necessary; or, in- stead of the hands being on the knees, the arms may be folded when good players make a game. After a back has been set, the second player runs, takes his leap, and sets a back for the rest. The third now runs and leaps over Nos. 1 and 2, setting a back in the same way; the fourth over 1, 2, and 3; and the fifth over 1, 2, 3, 4; and so on, till the whole number of players are run out. When this is the case, No. 1 takes his leap over the whole; No. 2 does the same; No. 3 follows, and so on till the whole have had their leaps, or the players are tired.

In modern days, leap-frog is played with a line of players, all players except the last one in the line, squat down with their hands on their thighs. The last player in line runs up behind the player directly in front. The end player then places his hands on the back of the player in front of him while simultaneously jumping over the back of the player. The player then continues to jump over the backs of all of the players until he reaches the front of the line. The new end player then restarts the game. This game seems very simple but the difficulty comes when players fail to make the jumps.

PALL-MALL
MIRRORPIX // GETTY IMAGES

Do we still play it?

Yes!

What is it?

 A game where players take turns leaping over each other while bent over at the waist. The first player crouches down and puts their hands on their knees, and the next player runs and leaps over them like a frog.

Popularized Modern Version

Croquet

How to Play

An English traveler in France mentions it early in the 17th century, and it was introduced into England in the second quarter of that century. Thomas Blount’s Glossographia (1656) described it as: A game wherein a round bowle is with a mallet struck through a high arch of iron (standing at either end of an alley) which he that can do at the fewest blows, or at the number agreed on, wins. This game was heretofore used in the long alley near St. James’s and vulgarly called Pell-Mell.

SHUTTLECOCK
Image by Annette from Pixabay

Do we still play it?

Yes!

Popularized Modern Version

Badminton

What is it?

Players, armed with rackets, tried to bat a feathered shuttlecock back and forth, without a net, and keep it in play as long as possible.

Lydia Maria Child in her book, Girl’s Own Book (1833), suggests: “Little girls should not be afraid of being well tired (playing battledore and shuttlecocks) that will do them good but excessive fatigue should be avoided especially where it is quite unnecessary.”

How to Play

The game involves the two opponents hitting the shuttlecock over the net into the other person’s side. The rally ends when the shuttlecock touches the ground. Only one stroke is allowed to pass it over the net. One match is made up of three games, of 21 points each.

SKITTLES
Image by MustardSeedMornings

Do we still play it?

No

What is it?

Before there was a rainbow of fruit flavors, Skittles meant a lawn bowling game that would eventually give birth to the modern 10 pin bowling.

Popularized Modern Version

Bowling

How to Play

The rules and methods of scoring varied from place to place, but the basic principle of bowling a wooden or rubber ball (weighing about 10 pounds [4.5 kilograms]) at nine large oval-headed pins, set in diamond formation 21 feet (about 6.5 metres) away, remained the same. The player who knocked down all the pins (scored as “chalks”) in the fewest throws was the winner.