Reading Jane Austen’s novels gives me a nostalgia for my own childhood when we sometimes played cards and board games after dinner. Back then, we didn’t have cell phones, and there weren’t so many channels and shows to watch on TV. We found other ways to entertain ourselves, and games required that we socialize with family members or friends.
The other day, longing for those simpler times, I looked up some Regency games to play with my sons. After a month of snowy weather, we were getting a little stir crazy inside the house, and I thought some old-fashioned games might be a good change of pace.
After researching various Regency-era games, my husband and I decided that bullet pudding sounded easy enough. The instructions I found online said to pile up some flour on a plate and top it with a bullet. Each player takes turns cutting away the flour with a knife until the bullet falls down into the flour. Whoever lets the bullet fall must put his face into the flour and dig out the bullet with his teeth.
I was a little worried about using an actual bullet because it might contain lead or other toxic substances, so I substituted a button. Then, because several members of my family are gluten intolerant, I substituted cornstarch for the flour.
My boys were all too eager to make a mess with cornstarch. It was less than a minute before one of them let the button fall into the cornstarch. In another few seconds, he had the button in his teeth. (In hindsight, I probably should have used a smaller button.) Then one of my sons remembered having heard that if you blow cornstarch out of your mouth over a lighter, it will look like you’re breathing fire. Thinking that sounded like a Regency appropriate game (kind of like Snapdragon), I told them to go for it.
Pretty soon, they had a lighter out on the back porch and were taking turns blowing cornstarch out of their mouths and trying to light it on fire. My husband supervised. They got it to work a few times. (Later on, when the snow melted, the boys were excited to find several patches of oobleck or cornstarch slime under the back porch. These disappeared after another few days of rain and snow.)
After the boys came back inside, I taught them how to play Tableaux Vivants, otherwise known as the living picture game. In this game, the participants choose a famous painting and try to pose like the participants. People of Regency times even went so far as to dress in costumes. We played a much simpler version of the game that was more like charades. After dividing into teams, we each looked through a book of paintings and tried our best to pose like the subjects. Then the other team looked through the art book until they guessed the right painting.
This game was just as fun as charades and probably easier because we had access to the art book. We found ourselves laughing out loud over the comparison between our silly poses and the actual pictures.
On another night, we sat down to a game of Scrabble, which always reminds me of the time Emma and Frank Churchill played with the alphabet together. As luck would have it, the first word happened to be anus. That’s what happens when you play with teenage boys. I wish I’d taken a picture of the board that day. It made me laugh.
What are your favorite games to play?