Tour of London board game by M@
Granted a night in with pals playing board games is not uncommon, but Londoners once drew upon a vast vocabulary of parlour games, many of which required stamina and a quick wit. "Feather" meant keeping a feather in the air by blowing it between a roomful of your pals. In "Alphabet Minute", each new sentence in a conversation on a given topic must start with the next letter in the alphabet. In "Poor Pussy", players must address someone pretending to be a cat as "poor pussy" three times without laughing, and in "Dictionary" players vote on fake definitions of real (but obscure) words. Or for the more physically-inclined there was "Reverend Crawley's Game" where players stand in a circle linking hands - but no two hands may be held with the same person, and not with the people on either side of you. Then you have to unravel without letting go of hands. Others were more sophisticated - with players asked to write the first line of a particular novel, so that everyone can guess which is the real one. Not quite Wii, but surely better for the little grey cells.
Where are they now?
The vast majority of parlour games have either become drinking games, or are played by drama students in exercises intended to expedite trust or extroversion. Some have become commodities. "Dictionary" was packaged and marketed as Balderdash, but can still be played with a simple dictionary. The British Library and the Bodleian Library Oxford brilliantly re-created Ex Libris (available from the British Library shop) - the game where players write their own imagined first line of real novels. Visit Playin' Games near the British Museum for a great collection of board games (33 Museum Street, WC1A 1LH, tel: 020 7323 3080).