Drinking Games of Yore
Who knew drinking games had such a long and sozzled history? The following are just a few of the stranger games we stumbled into while trying to justify all the kegs in our office.
The Dreaded Puzzle Jug
First designed in 1300's France, the puzzle jug was basically created to test the mental agility of people hopped up on happy juice. More importantly, it was an easy way to make drunks look like idiots. The jugs were filled with wine, but also covered with holes. If a genius didn't tilt the jug in exactly the right way, and cover up the right holes, the contents would spill all over him. In addition to the laugh factor, barflies often gambled on whether a new drunk had the mental chops to get the wine from the jug into their mouth. But since the contents more than often ended up on the victim's shirt, the jugs remained a popular bar room feature for the next 400 years.
Back in 17th century England, drinking and drunkenness was heavily linked to swearing your political allegiance. Much in the way, you'd hug your friends deep into the night and say, "I love you so much, man," roaring Royalists used to one-up their friends in declaring allegiance to the king by putting their arses on the line. Literally. After singing drunken ballads to His Highness and the church, festivities would often escalate to playing a "game" where everyone who was loyal enough would slice off a piece of their rump, and then toast their own blood (instead of wine) to the monarchy. As you can imagine, the game went horribly wrong on a fairly regular basis, seeing how drunks wielding knives and performing elective surgery on themselves is never a good idea.
When in Rome
After important dinners, Romans used to indulge in convivium, which were more of an Emily Post endurance test than a game. The rules of etiquette were simple, but strict. Namely, the host determined how much everyone was going to drink (anywhere from 1 to 11 glasses of the good stuff). Then everyone drank in a ritualized form. And while staying in the contest didn't actually get you that much (except the buzz), being kicked out was a huge deal. If you couldn't keep up, couldn't down your drink in one pull, refused a beverage, or let out a burp during the festivities, you'd essentially be banned from hanging out at future convivium. And since only movers and shakers got to participate, a faux pas meant being demoted from sitting at the cool kids' table.
Still played today, poo-bum-dickie isn't exactly ancient, but it is definitely based on antiquated counting. The game basically involves counting in a circle in Roman numerals, using the word "poo" for I, "bum" for V, and "dickie" for X (until you get to 39, at least). Of course, if anyone says the wrong word, hesitates for too long, or giggles, the penalty is to drink. The game got slightly stranger when some students in Essex changed the phrases to "No", "Daddy" and "Don't Touch Me."
Like an ancient version of beer pong, one of the most popular games in ancient Greece was kottabos, where participants flicked the dregs of a cup at a target in the middle of the room. Not only were you judged on whether the droplets hit the target (which was generally a disk balanced on a thin stand), but also if you used the correct throwing motion. Prizes, like baked goods and smooches from servers, were awarded for hitting the mark, while improvised penalties (along with copious drinking) were assigned for missing. According to one source, many Greeks "took as much pride in playing kottabos as others did in hurling the javelin."