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Regency Games to Amuse

Jane Austen

I love games. There was nothing I looked forward to more as a kid than the crossword puzzle from the New York Times. I’ve always loved playing with words and riddles. Puns are something for which I wish I had a talent. So, I thought today that I would look up some word games of favorite authors such as Jane Austen. But why limit it to words, I thought next? Why, I’ll see what other games they played in that time period as well. In Austen’s time they played many games such as charades (mentioned in Emma), cards (mentioned in Pride and Prejudice), and one I found called ‘Bullet Pudding,’ which I shall demonstrate shortly. Who doesn’t love a good game? I’ve gathered here a list of regency games, including word games, from Miss Austen’s time period that you can play by yourself or with loved ones.


I have gathered here a few riddles I’ve found on the net for you to play charades with. The answer key is provided for each at the bottom of the page.

  1. In confinement I’m chained everyday
    Yet my enemies need not be crowing.
    To my chain I have always the key
    And no prison can keep me from going.
    Small and weak are my hands, I’ll allow
    Yet for striking my character’s great.
    Though ruined by one fatal blow
    My strokes, if hard pressed, I’ll repeat.
  2. Divided, I’m a gentleman
    In public deeds and powers.
    United, I’m a monster who
    That gentleman devours.
  3. When my first is a task to a young girl of spirit,
    And my second confines her to finish the piece
    How hard is her fate! But how great is her merit,
    If by taking my all, she effects her release!
  4. My first has the making of honey to charm,
    My second brings breakfast to bed on your arm,
    My third bores a hole in leather so fine,
    While united the whole breaks the heart most kind.
  5. You may lie on my first by the side of a stream,
    And my second compose to the nymph you adore,
    But if, when you’ve none of my whole her esteem
    And affection dimminish – think of her no more!

Bullet Pudding

Bullet Pudding
Bullet Pudding

I discovered this great game! See if you can rustle up some friends to try it out!

“I was surprised that you did not know what a Bullet Pudding is but as you don’t I will endeavor to describe it as follows: You must have a large pewter dish filled with flour which you must pile up into a sort of pudding with a peak at the top, you must then lay a Bullet at the top & everybody cuts a slice of it & the person that is cutting it when the Bullet falls must poke about with their nose & chins till they find it & then take it out with their mouths which makes them strange figures a covered with flour but the worst is that you must not laugh for fear of the flour getting up your nose & mouth & choking you. You must not use your hands in taking the bullet out.” – Fanny Austen Knight to Miss Chapman 1808


Pick Up Sticks
Pick Up Sticks

Spillikins is played the same way that early versions of Jack Straw and the American “pick up sticks” are. The difference comes withe the playing pieces. Jack Straws were originally played with uniform pieces of straw (though now  wooden or plastic farming tools are generally used.) Pick up sticks are made of wood or plastic, of uniform length, sometimes with knobs on the ends. Spillikins, were crafted from wood or ivory and could be blunted or rounded depending on the set.

When playing with sticks of uniform size and shape, like those that belonged to Austen, the rules are, as follows:

  1. The object of the game is to pick up the most sticks.
  2. To begin the game, a bundle of sticks are somewhat randomly distributed so that they end up in a tangled pile. The more tangled the resulting (dis)array, the more challenging the game. In some versions of the game, any isolated sticks, or sticks lying alone, are removed.
  3. The first player attempts to remove a single stick, without moving any other stick. In some versions of the game, players use a tool to move the stick away from the pile; this “tool” may be one of the sticks, held aside before the game begins. In other versions, players must pick up the sticks by hand. In either case, players must not move any other sticks while attempting to remove the chosen stick; if any other stick moves, his or her turn ends immediately. Players who successfully pick up a stick can then have another turn; the player keeps removing sticks until he or she causes a secondary stick to move.
  4. The game is over when the last stick is removed. The winner is the player with the highest number of sticks picked up.

In some versions of the game, different coloured sticks are worth different number of points, and the winner is the person with the highest score.

SOURCE: from Janeausten.co.uk/spillikins


A dragon playing Snap-Dragon. Photo: Robert Chambers' Book of Days
A dragon playing Snap-Dragon.
Photo: Robert Chambers’ Book of Days

Here is a game that will certainly light you on fire!

“Snap-dragon (also known as Flap-dragon, Snapdragon, or Flapdragon) was a parlour game popular from about the 16th to 19th centuries. It was played during the winter, particularly on Christmas Eve. Brandy was heated and placed in a wide shallow bowl; raisins were placed in the brandy which was then set alight. Typically, lights were extinguished or dimmed to increase the eerie effect of the blue flames playing across the liquor. The aim of the game was to pluck the raisins out of the burning brandy and eat them, at the risk of being burnt….

The liquid used in Snap-dragon was typically brandy, although similar flammable liquors could also be used. Traditionally, raisins were the treat to be snatched; William Sandys specifies Málaga raisins. Other treats, however, could also be used. Of these, almonds were the most common alternative or addition, but currants, candied fruit, figs, grapes, and plums also featured. Salt could also be sprinkled in the bowl. The low bowl was typically placed in the middle of a table to prevent damage from the inevitable splashes of burning brandy. In one variation a Christmas pudding is placed in the centre of the bowl with raisins around it.”

SOURCE: from janeausten.co.uk/snapdragon


Answers to Charades: 1. A Repeating Watch, 2. Agent, 3. Hemlock, 4. Betrayal, 5. Bank Notes

Do you have any fun games from the Regency Period to suggest? Sound off below…



Love games? Check out this fun game to play with your friends.

See how Rebecca played the game in Fictional Characters to Marry, Date, or Dump Round 2.

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By on February 25th, 2014

About Rebecca Lane

Rebecca Lane grew up in the hot desert landscape of Tucson, Arizona where she decided early on she wanted to write, if only to mentally escape her blistering surroundings. She has always been enamored of the arts and literature. As a child she often wrote short stories, and rewrote the endings of novels that she simply could not abide. She received her Undergraduate degree from Sarah Lawrence College in New York, where she was lucky enough to also spend a year studying at Oxford University. While she began her journey dreaming of the day she would sing opera in a large Manhattan theater, she found in the end she could not stand waitressing and simply could not give up books and her hopes of someday writing them. She is currently working as a freelance writer/editor and earning her Masters in English and Comparative Literature from Columbia University.

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