Traditional Tavern Games to Try

Liar’s Dice is just one of the many interesting tavern games to try. Photo by Kenneth Lu/Flickr

Games can certainly add some fun thrills to an evening in or a night out with friends. Interestingly, though, playing them in pubs and taverns is an activity that is rooted in cultural history. So, from dominoes to ringing the bull, here’s our list of some top tavern games that you might want to start playing the next time you head to your local boozer.

Dice Games
Long before they entered the domain of role-playing board games, dice have been used as a stand-alone way to stay entertained for a long, long time. In fact, dice games have been a form of entertainment for centuries. The origins of craps, for example, can even be traced back to ancient Mesopotamia, and they’ve been a staple of tavern culture since the days of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales.
Although we’re not quite sure of its exact origins, Liar’s Dice is one of those traditional dice games that you can easily play, and you’ll no doubt end up pretending to be a swashbuckling pirate when you do play it, thanks to its association with the Pirates of the Caribbean movies! To play, you just need five dice apiece and something to conceal and roll them in. Once all the players have rolled their dice, you will start to make guesses on the value of your opponents’ dice. For example, if you were to make a bid that there are “two 4s”, you’re stating that there are at least two dice showing a 4. Players can then challenge their opponents, or keep rolling, but if the player who made the initial challenge does have the dice as described, they will lose one of their stash.

Board Games and Dominoes
Board games are also known to have their origins in ancient history. Backgammon, for example, has been reported to date back to the time of the ancient Egyptians, after evidence of the game was discovered at various archaeological sites throughout the country. This particular board game involves trying to remove all your checkers from the board as you also block your opponent’s checkers.
Then we have draughts, another game with Egyptian origins. In this case, the game involves moving from one side of the board to the other as you try to capture your opponent’s checkers.

A game of dominoes is a pub classic. Photo by Wokandapix.

Dominoes is another pub and tavern favourite. Again, nobody really knows when people began playing this exact variation, but the game does bear a resemblance to Chinese tile games like Mahjong. The format is simple enough. Opponents take turns to match each other’s’ dominoes, and the winner is the one with none left in the fastest time. Despite its simplicity, a game of dominoes can be really engrossing to play after a few pints of local ale,

Obscure games
People have invented some truly bizarre ways to stay entertained down at their local, and it’s no surprise that such games have died out with time and common sense! A couple of the more obscure tavern games have managed to survive, however, and you should be able to play them without incurring the wrath of the landlord or landlady!
Ringing the Bull is a 12th-century pub game, which originally involved throwing rings onto a bull’s horn that was attached to a wall. These days, however, pubs that still allow patrons to play the traditional game (like The Murrell Arms, West Sussex) use metal hooks instead.
Although you’ve probably heard of many of the other games we’ve talked about in this article, we bet you haven’t come across Pitch Penny yet! Most historians are agreed that this game started being popular with tavern patrons during the early 1900s. Players find a random hole, such as in a wall or on a table or chair, and take turns trying to launch a penny into it. Definitely proceed with caution if you’re going to give this one a go, though.
So, the next time you’re bored during that pub lunch, pull out a couple of dice or find a hole that you can chuck some pennies into for instant entertainment.

Andrea Smith



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