Sunday, August 04, 2013

Bullet Pudding and other games of chance

I felt that I just had to explore this idea of parlour games more thoroughly - you'll notice that I didn't use the word exhaustively, though many of these sound exhausting, if not downright dangerous!! A quick google search brought me to this site which is btw another great source of insane blog topics. Anyway, one of the posts was by a blogger Stephen West. His post on parlour games is beautifully written and illustrated, presumably with un-copyrighted photos. Here is the link. The author is trying to build up a readership, so you may want to follow him. Here is a brief synopsis of Stephen's description of 10 parlour games that some crazy Victorians played. I have humbly annotated a few :)

1. Bullet Pudding - load a platter with a huge mound of flour and place a bullet in the centre at the top. Each person takes a turn "fiddling" with the flour and hoping not to disturb the bullet. The one who does, has to do this - I'm quoting from the author -

The player whose avalanche caused the bullet to fall must put their hands behind their back and slam their face into the flour mountain, digging around using only their face and mouth and retrieve the bullet with their teeth. It can be read in the diaries and letters of the people who played this game back then that the real challenge of the game was to do all of this without laughing too hard, because if you did you would run the risk of inhaling the flour and choking yourself to death. This game is truly a timeless classic. Substitute cocaine for flour and you have a family reunion you won’t soon forget . . . just ask Amy Winehouse.

I can see further extensions with whipped cream, jello or some other equally disgusting  sticky, gooey mound. Bobbing for apples is sooo tame.

2. Are You Moriarity? I have to quote the author Stephen West entirely for this -

Professor Moriarty was the arch-nemesis of Sherlock Holmes in the classic stories written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle during the Victorian-era. People despised him so much for his fictional transgressions against a a guy that walked around in a safari helmet with a Baskerville pipe, that he lives in infamy as the target of angst in a popular game of the same time period. It is a two player game where the players blindfold each other, hold one hand each and lay on their stomachs. In the other hand, they hold a rolled up newspaper and call out, “Are you there, Moriarty?” The other player replies, “Yes!” and then the player who asked the question tries to hit the other player in the head with the newspaper. That’s it. Someone gets hit in the head with a newspaper, and everyone maniacally laughs until it fades into awkward silence.

Maybe its re-incarnation is "Marco Polo." I could never figure out the intent of this game either. Funny how no-one has invented a "Dr. Watson, I presume" game - probably because it's a different Dr. Watson :)There's that awkward silence again!!

3. Snap Dragon - You basically fill a bowl with brandy and add some raisins or plums. Then light the brandy and everyone playing tries to pick out the fruit from the flames. Waste of some good brandy, I say. I'm not sure why it's called "Snap Dragon." All I can imagine is all those ruffled cuffs going up in smoke, if you didn't snap your hand back quickly enough, while trying to drag out the raisin.

4. Hot Cockles - I'm am going to use the author's exact words here because the game itself has those weird Victorian overtones of slightly offbeat sexual fantasies disguised as a "game."

Hot Cockles sounds like the name of something you buy at a food truck that is absolutely delicious and greatly shortens your life expectancy. Turns out only the second part is true. This is a Victorian-era variation of everyone’s favorite classic Blind Man’s Bluff, because apparently it was such a good game that it needed spin-offs. One person sits in a chair while the main player puts their head in their lap. One by one, everyone else comes up behind them and kicks them. The object of the game is for the guy being kicked to correctly guess who just kicked him. If he gets it right, the person he identified is the new punching bag. Sometimes the simplest things are the most memorable, but if you can’t manage to remember, the bruises will help.

5. Wink Murder. This I have played in theatre school. One person is the murderer and another is a detective. Everyone sits around in a circle doing something else, while the murderer tries to catch someone's eye and wink at them, at which time the murdered performs a magnificent death. The detective, then, tries to discover the murderer, as he continues to slay other players. Perfect for those actors who have always wanted to execute the perfect death scene!!

Better Parlour Games :)

6. Prussian Exercises - from the author, himself, because I think that this is the most ridiculous game so far.

If you’ve always had the dream of getting bossed around like a military recruit in basic training, but never could quite pull the trigger on enlisting, this game is for you. One person is assigned as the captain and everyone else stands in rank and file formation and strictly follows any order the captain gives, without laughing. He gives them commands for a while until everyone is bored and then the game ends by him commanding everyone to get down on one knee. He then walks over to the person that is the furthest to the left or right and pushes them inward so that they crash into the next person and everyone falls over like dominoes. Sounds more like aggravated assault to me.

I hate to even mention that my grandfather was in the Prussian army. I think that he was a bit of a rebel, though. One of his stories was of how he had to wash the floor of his barracks with a toothbrush. Something more productive at least than the aforementioned game.

7. Reverend Crawley's Game a.k.a. Tangle. Again, here is the author's discription -

No one knows who Reverend Crawley was, but he’s probably haunting someone’s cottage in England angry about the fact that the only thing people remember him for is a children’s game. He shouldn’t feel too bad though, it has stood the test of time. Even today this game is commonly used as an icebreaker among new groups of people, or even just an exercise to build teamwork. First, eight to ten people get in a circle and put their hands in the middle. Then everyone tangles their arms up and grabs the hand of someone else on the other side of the circle. No one can let go of anyone’s hand, but the group must untangle themselves back out to a circle. This usually requires a great deal of acrobatics, flexibility and patience. Why was a reverend playing this game anyway?

The variation that I have played is that all but one of the players join hands in a circle. The lone player stays out of the circle with his back turned to the others. The circle players then try to tangle themselves up. When finished, the player outside of the circle has to untangle them. Great for icebreakers at physical rather than verbal parties :)

8. The Bellman. Stephen's description is hilarious -

If you’ve ever dressed up as Santa Claus and worked the donation kettle for the Salvation Army, you’re going to be amazing at this game. One person is given a bell while everyone else blindfolds themselves. The bellman sneaks around the room periodically ringing the bell while everyone else tries to use the sound of the bell to lunge towards him and catch him. It was played mostly in the Victorian-era which I guess was still too early for people to realize the inherent danger of several blindfolded people all running towards the same place with conviction.

Thank heavens for wheels on suitcases. You'll have to read this blog for the connection.

9. The Ball of Wool - using a cotton ball or a bit of roving (this speaks to the knitter in me) all players try to  keep their ball from being blown off the table by the opposing team. Do not do this if you are prone to hyperventilation! The loser must complete a dare, decided on beforehand. I double dare you to eat the cotton ball, for example :)

10. Change Seats - The author says it perfectly -

It is mind-numbing to consider the fact that out of all the parlour games people used to play, this is the only game where the instructions typically tell you to proceed with caution. The warning actually has nothing to do with human safety, they just urge players to clear the room of precious valuables on the off-chance things get dangerous. If simon says and musical chairs had an illegitimate love child, this game would be it. One person is “it.” They stand in the middle while everyone else sits around them in a circle of chairs. The player in the middle asks someone in the circle, “Do you love your neighbor?” that person has the option to say “No”, which forces the people adjacent to them to run around the circle and try to grab a new seat, or they can say, “Yes, except those who wear . . . ,” (brown, blue, etc.) at which point anyone who meets the criteria has to scramble for a chair. The person in the middle will almost always get a chair because they are so much closer, so the one leftover player takes their spot. There’s no way to win the game, it ends either when the players reach retirement age or someone is knocked unconscious by a priceless figurine.

I think that there are variations of this played where ever there is not enough chairs for the people in question. Except that it's more polite - "No, I'll just stand." - "No you can't, allow me." and so it goes ad infinitum :)

Here is Stephen's blog. Please join for more fun and mayhem, maybe!!

Have fun day!!

No comments:

Post a Comment