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29 Games Nobody Plays Anymore

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You’ve played blind man’s bluff and hide-and-go-seek. You have Marco Poloed, hot potatoed, and I-Spied. But you’ve probably never had to pull a peg out of the ground with your teeth because your knife wasn’t as sharp as the others, or tried to knock a metal plate into a basin with the dregs of your drink. Here are 29 games you won't recognize, because no one plays them any more.

1. ABLE-WHACKETS (1700s-1800s)

Able-whackets is a card game that was “very popular with horny-fisted salts,” according to The Sailors Word Book (1867). Although its rules are lost, what we do know is that the loser of each round would be whacked over the knuckles with a tightly-knotted handkerchief.

2. ARE YOU THERE, MORIARTY? (1800s-early 1900s)

Two players are blindfolded, given a rolled-up newspaper, and made to kneel down opposite one other. The first player asks, “Are you there, Moriarty?” to which his or her opponent replies, “Yes sir, I am here!” Player 1 then has to try and blindly hit Player 2 with the newspaper, judging where he is only by the sound of his voice. Player 2 can try to dodge the blow, but his knees must remain in place at all times.

3. BANDY-WICKET (1700s-1800s)

As well as being the name of a winter sport similar to ice hockey, a bandy is an L-shaped or J-shaped wooden bat. Bandy-wicket was an 18th century form of cricket played with bandies rather than cricket bats.

4. BARLEY-BREAK (1500s-1600s)

Three couples are each allotted to one of three squares drawn in a row on the floor. At the word “go,” the couple in the center square—referred to as “prison” or “Hell”—must try and catch one of the other two couples. All three couples must remain holding hands throughout the game, but the two couples being chased can split up and change partners at any time to avoid being caught. (Jacobean playwrights, incidentally, also liked to use barley-break as a euphemism for sex.)

5. BLOWPOINT (mid 1500s-1600s)

Blowpoint probably involved players using a peashooter to fire wooden or paper darts at a numbered target (or else at each other), although some later descriptions suggest it was a form of archery in which arrows were shot through a hollow log at a target.

6. BUBBLE THE JUSTICE (1780s)

Bubble the justice was an 18th century version of a much earlier game called “nine holes,” in which players would take turns bowling a metal ball along a wooden board with nine numbered holes or “pockets” drilled into it. The aim was either to land your ball in each hole in numerical order, or to simply to score as many points as possible. It was renamed bubble the justice as this was one of only a few games not outlawed in a clampdown on games in London taverns in the late 1700s.

7. CHICKEN-HAZARD (1700s-1800s)

Hazard was a complicated Medieval English dice-throwing game. Chicken-hazard was a low-stakes version that became popular in the 18th and 19th centuries.

8. COCK-A-ROOSTY (early 1800s)

One player is chosen as “it” and stands opposite all of the other players, who are lined up on one side of a road in their “den.” One by one, each player in the den has to try and get past “it” to reach “home,” on the other side of the road. Oh, and everyone has to stand or hop on one leg the entire time.

9. COTTABUS (Ancient Greece)

Cottabus was a popular game among young men at Ancient Greek drinking parties. Although there were numerous different versions, the basics were always the same: players tossed the dregs of their drink at a metal basin, above which was mounted a loose plate or dish. The aim was simply to knock the plate into the basin with the wine, but men playing the game would often shout out their girlfriends’ names at the same time and the louder the sound of the plate landing in the basin, the better the relationship was deemed to be.

10. FOX-IN-THY-HOLE (Tudor England)

One player is the “fox,” whose job it is to catch all of the other players, who are “chickens.” As soon as a chicken is caught, the fox takes him back to his den where he too becomes a fox. The last chicken to be caught becomes the fox in the next round.

11. GRAND TRICK-TRACK (1700s)

Grand trick-track was apparently an even more complicated variant of chess that emerged in France in the 1700s. Its rules are lengthy and convoluted, but if you have an afternoon to spare you can find out how to play in The Compleat Gamester, 5th Edition (1725)

12. HIJINKS (late 1600s-1700s)

Its name has come to be synonymous with “shenanigans” or “tomfoolery,” but hijinks or high jinks was originally a drinking game popular in Scotland in the 17th and 18th centuries. Players would roll a die, and either the lowest scoring player or the first player to roll a designated number would have to take a drink or else pay some kind of humiliating forfeit.

13. HONEY-POTS (1800s)

One player rolls himself up into as tight a ball as possible. The other players then have to pick him up and carry him, as if he were a jar of honey being taken home from market.

14. HOT COCKLES (c.1300-1800s)

One player is blindfolded and made to kneel on the floor with his head in another player’s lap and his hands held, palms outwards, behind his back. The other players then take it in turns to strike his hands, one at a time, and the kneeler has to guess which of the other players has hit him.

15. JINGO-RING (1800s)

An early 19th century dancing game from Scotland in which a circle of girls, all holding hands or linking arms, would dance around another girl in the center, singing, “Here we go the jingo-ring, the jingo-ring, the jingo-ring! Here we go the jingo-ring! About the merry-ma-tanzie."

16. JOHN BULL (1700s)

An old English pub game in which players would take it in turns tossing coins or stones onto a four-by-four grid of squares, randomly numbered from 1-16, in an effort to score as many points as possible.

17. KING ARTHUR (late 1500s-1600s)

Francis Grose’s Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue (1811) lists a game called King Arthur that was played by sailors in the 16th and 17th centuries. According to Grose, one crew member would play “King Arthur,” and would customarily be dressed up in ridiculous robes and made to wear a wig made of old rope. The King would be sat beside a tub of water, and one by one all the other members of the crew would be ceremoniously introduced to him and then made to pour a bucket of water over this head with the words, “Hail King Arthur!” As Grose explains, “If during this ceremony the person introduced laughs or smiles (to which his majesty endeavours to excite him, by all sorts of ridiculous gesticulations), he changes place with, and then becomes, King Arthur.”

18. KING CAESAR (Tudor England)

Hopping on one foot, the “King” must chase down all the other players and tap them on the head. As soon as they are hit, they become one of the King’s “subjects” and can help him catch the rest of the players, but they too have to stand on one foot. The last player to be caught becomes the next King.

19. LOGGITS (Tudor England)

As mentioned in Hamlet (“Did these bones cost no more the breeding, but to play at loggits with them?”), loggits was an old Tudor game in which a stick would be pushed vertically into the ground as a target. Players would then take it in turns to throw smaller sticks towards it, and whoever managed to land theirs the closest won. Loggits was one of a number of games banned by Henry VIII in 1542 out of concern that it would distract his soldiers from military practice; the same statute banned quoits, all card and dice games, and even tennis.

20. MILKING CROMOCK (1500s-1618)

The only thing we know about milking cromock is that it was a gambling game popular in pubs and taverns in Tudor England. And we only know that because it was one of a number of games listed by name in a 1618 directive that made playing it illegal.

21. MOULD-MY-COCKLE-BREAD (1600s)

According to the 17th century writer John Aubrey, Mould-my-cockle-bread was a “wanton sport” that was once played by young women in northern England. As Aubrey explains, the women would “get upon a table-board, and then gather up their knees and their coats with their hands as high as they can, and then they wobble to and fro with their buttocks, as if they were kneading of dough with their arses.” There doesn’t seem to have been much point to the whole thing, but there was a rhyme should you want to try it out: “My dame is sick and gone to bed, And I’ll go mould my cockle-bread. Up with my heels and down with my head, and this is the way to mould cockle bread.”

22. MUMBLETY-PEG (1600s-?1960s)

The earliest description of mumblety-peg dates back to 1627, while more recent accounts suggest it was still being played as recently as the 1960s. The game involves players throwing knives into the ground, blade first, either aiming at a target or aiming just to propel the knife into the earth as deeply as possible. In the earliest versions of the game, the loser would be made to pull a wooden peg out of the ground with his teeth, hence the name.

23. PAPSE (Medieval England)

The only thing we know about papse is that it was popular in the Medieval England, and the loser was hit over the head.

24. PLUCK AT THE CROW (1500s)

Pluck at the crow was a Scottish children’s game, the only point of which seems to have been to tug and pull at someone’s clothes as much as possible. It dates from the reign of Henry VIII, but there are no records of it later than 1570.

25. SHAKING IN THE SHALLOW (late 1700s)

The “shallow” in question here was a type of hat popular in England in the 18th century, and all that we know about shaking in the shallow is that it was a dice game that presumably involved players rolling the dice around inside the hat.

26. SNAP-DRAGON (1500s-late 1800s)

The aim of snap-dragon was to pick a raisin out of a bowl of burning brandy as quickly as possible without being burned yourself. Although it dates back to Tudor times (Shakespeare mentions it in several of his plays), it became a particularly popular party game at Christmas in Victorian England.

27. SPARROW-MUMBLING (1700s)

According to Grose’s Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue (1811), mumble-the-sparrow was “a cruel sport practiced at wakes” (that’s old village festivals, not funerals) which involved a player, with his hands tied behind his back, trying to bite off the head of a live sparrow that had been placed inside a hat. Thankfully, the player would only ever succeed in being repeatedly bitten and pecked on the face by “the enraged bird”, which would either then be set free or kept as a pet. A later variation of the same game, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, involved holding one of the sparrow’s wings in the mouth, and then “attempting to draw in its head by movement of the lips.”

28. TAMBAROORA (1880s-mid 1900s)

Named for a town in New South Wales, Tambaroora is an Australian drinking game dating from the late 19th century. Players place a token amount of money (originally sixpence) into a hat, and then take three turns rolling a die. The player (known as the “nut”) who scores the highest collects the money in the hat, buys all of the players a round of drinks, and keeps any left over cash for himself.

29. UP JENKINS (1800s-mid 1900s)

Two teams sit opposite each other at a table with their hands kept under it, out of sight. One member of one team secretly hides a coin or a button in one of their hands. The captain of the opposing team then shouts “Up Jenkins!” and the team who are hiding the coin have to place their hands, palms downward, onto the table. Their opponents then have to guess who is hiding the coin under their hand; if they’re correct they win a point, but if they’re incorrect, their opponents take the point.

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Ramones Karaoke, Flickr // CC BY-NC 2.0
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Fake It Until You Make It: 10 Artificial Ruins
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Ramones Karaoke, Flickr // CC BY-NC 2.0

The love of ruins, sometimes called ruinophilia, has for centuries inspired the creation of clever fakes—a host of sham facades and hollowed-out castle shells found on grand English, European, and even American estates. The popularity of constructing artificial ruins was at its peak during the 18th and 19th centuries, but architects occasionally still incorporate them today.

Why build a structure that is already crumbling? Between the 16th and 19th centuries, the popularity of counterfeit ruins was influenced by two factors—a classical education that enforced the ideals of ancient Greece and Rome, and the extended tour of Europe (known as The Grand Tour) that well-to-do young men and women took after completing their education. Travelers might start in London or France and roam as far as the Middle East, but the trip almost always included Italy and a chance to admire Roman ruins. More than a few wealthy travelers returned home longing to duplicate those ruins, either to complement a romantic landscape, to demonstrate wealth, or to provide a pretense of family history for the newly rich.

Here are a few romantic ruins constructed between the 18th and 21st centuries.

1. SHAM CASTLE // BATHAMPTON, ENGLAND

Sham Castle (shown above) is aptly named—it’s only a façade. The "castle," overlooking the English city of Bath, was created in 1762 to improve the view for Ralph Allen, a local entrepreneur and philanthropist as well as to provide jobs for local stonemasons. From a distance it looks like a castle ruin, but it's merely a wall that has two three-story circular turrets and a two-story square tower at either end. The castle is not the only folly (as such purely decorative architecture is often called) that Allen built. He also constructed a sham bridge on Serpentine Lake in what is now Prior Park Landscape Garden—the bridge can't be crossed, but provides a nice focal point for the lake. Today, Sham Castle is part of a private golf course.

2. WIMPOLE FOLLY // CAMBRIDGESHIRE, ENGLAND

Building a structure that looks as if it's crumbling does not preclude having to perform regular maintenance. The four-story Gothic tower known as Wimpole Folly in Wimpole, Cambridgeshire, England, was built 1768-72 for Philip Yorke, first Earl of Hardwicke and owner of the Wimpole Estate. Owned by Britain’s National Trust, the ruin threatened to truly crumble a few years ago, so restoration efforts were needed. The last restoration was so well done it won the 2016 European Union Prize for Cultural Heritage. The Wimpole Estate is now open to the public for walks and hikes.

3. CAPEL MANOR FOLLY // ENFIELD, ENGLAND

Capel Manor at Bulls Cross, Enfield, England has been the site of several grand homes since the estate’s first recorded mention in the 13th century, so visitors might be tempted to believe that the manor house's ruins date back at least a few centuries. But that sense of history is an illusion: The faux 15th-century house was built in 2010 to add visual appeal to the manor gardens, which have been open to the public since the 1920s.

4. ROMAN RUIN // SCHONBRUNN PALACE, VIENNA, AUSTRIA

The Roman Ruin was built as a garden ornament for the 1441-room Schonbrunn Palace in Vienna, one of the most important monuments in Austria. The ruin was once called The Ruins of Carthage, after the ancient North African city defeated by Roman military force. But despite the illusion of antiquity, the ruins were created almost 2000 years after Carthage fell in 146 B.C.E. The ruin’s rectangular pool, framed by an intricate semi-circle arch, was designed in 1778 by the architect Johann Ferdinand Hetzendorf von Hohenberg, who modeled it on the Ancient Roman temple of Vespasian and Titus, which he had seen an engraving of.

5. THE RUINEBERG // POTSDAM, GERMANY

One of the earliest examples of artificial ruins in Germany was the complex of structures known as The Ruinenberg. Frederick the Great, King of Prussia, had a summer palace in Potsdam, near Berlin, that was said to rival Versailles. In 1748 Frederick commissioned a large fountain for the palace complete with artificial ruins. The waterworks part of his plan proved too difficult and was soon abandoned, but not before designer Georg Wenzeslaus von Knobelsdorff constructed the ruins. The complex includes Roman pillars, a round temple, and the wall of a Roman theatre. Since 1927 the site has belonged to the Prussian Gardens and Palaces Foundation, Berlin-Brandenburg.

6. PARC MONCEAU // PARIS, FRANCE

Elegant Parc Monceau is located in the fashionable 8th arrondissement of Paris near the Champs-Elysees and Palais de l’Elysée. In 1778, the Duke of Chartres decided to build a mansion on land previously used for hunting. He loved English architecture and gardens, including the notion of nostalgic ruins, so he hired the architect Louis Carrogis Carmontelle to create an extravagant park complete with a Roman temple, antique statues, a Chinese bridge, a farmhouse, a Dutch windmill, a minaret, a small Egyptian pyramid, and some fake gravestones. The most notable feature of the park is a pond surrounded by Corinthian columns, now known as Colonnade de Carmontelle.

7. HAGLEY PARK CASTLE // WORCESTERSHIRE, ENGLAND

The ruins of the medieval castle at Hagley Park in Worcestershire are definitely fake, but they were built with debris from the real ruin of a neighboring abbey. The folly was commissioned by Sir George Lyttelton in 1747 and designed by Sanderson Miller, an English pioneer of Gothic revival architecture. The castle has a round tower at each corner, but by design only one is complete and decorated inside with a coat of arms. The grounds, which also feature a temple portico inspired by an ancient Greek temple, some urns, and obelisks, are now privately owned and not open to the public.

8. TATA CASTLE RUINS // TATA, HUNGARY

French architect Charles de Moreau (1758-1841) was a scholar of classical Roman architecture known for his ability to counterfeit impressive ruins. Nicholas I, Prince Esterhazy of Hungary, hired him to work on Tata Castle and to create the ruins of a Romanesque church for the palace’s English Garden. Even though the ruin Moreau created was fake, he built it with the stones of a real ruin, the remnants of the early-12th-century Benedictine and later Dominican abbey of Vértesszőlős. A third-century ancient Roman tombstone and relief were placed nearby.

9. BELVEDERE CASTLE // MANHATTAN, NEW YORK

Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux designed Central Park in the mid-1800s, and their plan for creating romantic vistas included the construction of a folly known as Belvedere Castle. The Gothic-Romanesque style hybrid, overlooking Central Park’s Great Lawn, was completed in 1869. Although the folly was designed as a hollow shell and meant to be a ruin, it eventually served a practical purpose, housing a weather bureau and exhibit space. The castle also provides a beautiful backdrop for Shakespeare in the Park productions, evoking the royal homes that play prominent roles in the Bard’s works.

10. FOLLY WALL IN BARKING TOWN SQUARE // LONDON

In a borough known for its real historic buildings, the ancient wall found in London’s Barking Town Square might look centuries old. It’s not, and ironically, the wall is part of the square’s renovation efforts. The wall was built by bricklaying students at Barking College using old bricks and crumbling stone items found at salvage yards. Known as the "Secret Garden," named after the children’s book about a walled garden, the wall was designed to screen a nearby supermarket and was unveiled in 2007.

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IA Collaborative
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Lovely Vintage Manuals Show How to Design for the Human Body
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IA Collaborative

If you're designing something for people to hold and use, you probably want to make sure that it will fit a normal human. You don't want to make a cell phone that people can't hold in their hands (mostly) or a vacuum that will have you throwing out your back every time you clean the house. Ergonomics isn't just for your office desk setup; it's for every product you physically touch.

In the mid-1970s, the office of legendary industrial designer Henry Dreyfuss created a series of manuals for designers working on products that involved the human body. And now, the rare Humanscale manuals from Henry Dreyfuss Associates are about to come back into print with the help of a Kickstarter campaign from a contemporary design firm. Using the work of original Henry Dreyfuss Associates designers Niels Diffrient and Alvin R. Tilley, the guides are getting another life with the help of the Chicago-based design consultancy IA Collaborative.

A Humanscale page illustrates human strength statistics.

The three Humanscale Manuals, published between 1974 and 1981 but long out-of-print, covered 18 different types of human-centric design categories, like typical body measurements, how people stand in public spaces, how hand and foot controls should work, and how to design for wheelchair users within legal requirements. In the mid-20th century, the ergonomics expertise of Dreyfuss and his partners was used in the development of landmark products like the modern telephones made by Bell Labs, the Polaroid camera, Honeywell's round thermostat, and the Hoover vacuum.

IA Collaborative is looking to reissue all three Humanscale manuals which you can currently only find in their printed form as historic documents in places like the Cooper Hewitt design museum in New York. IA Collaborative's Luke Westra and Nathan Ritter worked with some of the original designers to make the guides widely available again. Their goal was to reprint them at a reasonable price for designers. They're not exactly cheap, but the guides are more than just pretty decor for the office. The 60,000-data-point guides, IA Collaborative points out, "include metrics for every facet of human existence."

The manuals come in the form of booklets with wheels inside the page that you spin to reveal standards for different categories of people (strong, tall, short, able-bodied, men, women, children, etc.). There are three booklets, each with three double-sided pages, one for each category. For instance, Humanscale 1/2/3 covers body measurements, link measurements, seating guide, seat/table guide, wheelchair users, and the handicapped and elderly.

A product image of the pages from Humanscale Manual 1/2/3 stacked in a row.

"All products––from office chairs to medical devices—require designs that 'fit' the end user," according to Luke Westra, IA Collective's engineering director. "Finding the human factors data one needs to achieve these ‘fits' can be extremely challenging as it is often scattered across countless sources," he explains in a press release, "unless you've been lucky enough to get your hands on the Humanscale manuals."

Even setting aside the importance of the information they convey, the manuals are beautiful. Before infographics were all over the web, Henry Dreyfuss Associates were creating a huge compendium of visual data by hand. Whether you ever plan to design a desk chair or not, the manuals are worthy collectors' items.

The Kickstarter campaign runs from July 25 to August 24. The three booklets can be purchased individually ($79) or as a full set ($199).

All images courtesy IA Collaborative

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