Tracy Martin’s six-year-old daughter is bleary-eyed at the end of a hectic Christmas Day. An early start is taking its toll.

Tracy’s husband is also bleary-eyed, and it’s nothing to do with the wine and beer. He’s spent most of the day with the rest of the family performing jerky motions with his hands and arms in front of the TV, sucked into a day of computer-generated graphics and the hypnotic background music that goes with them.

Somehow, the mesmerising machine beside the TV set – whether it be a Wii, XBox or PS3 – has conspired to hook the family’s attention for most of Christmas Day. Now it’s time for bed and Tracy is wondering where the time has gone.

Yes, everyone has been together in the same room, having fun, but she somehow feels left out. That was last Christmas. This time, things will be different. Tracy has invested some time and money in something that will be new for her kids, but which actually is something very old.

She invested time in researching old parlour games, and money in a couple of old board games that she used to enjoy as a child.

Her older games are set to take everyone out of the computer-generated imagery of this century and into the hands-on, practical entertainment of the nineteenth and twentieth.



The term ‘parlour games’ might not even be on some people’s radar, so Tracy can explain that in Victorian times the late 1800s, before electricity and television, people spent their evenings playing games with friends and family. These games were usually played in a room called the parlour which is the equivalent to our living room.

Some games they would have played include:

  • Do You Love Your Neighbour
  • Hot Boiled Beans or Hot and Cold
  • Lookabout
  • Pass the Slipper
  • The Name Game
  • Guess The Kiss


Do You Love Your Neighbour?

  1. Players – Five or more
  2. Duration – A few minutes for each round
  3. Equipment – Chairs, one less than the number of players

The chairs are lined up with all players sitting down except for one. The standing player asks one of the other players, ‘Do you love you neighbour?’ If he replies no, then the two players either side must quickly jump up and swap seats. He may reply yes, but must attach an exception. For example, he could say: ‘Yes, except for those wearing blue jeans’ or ‘except for those with blonde hair.’ Then all of those players must jump up and find a new chair.

Whatever the answer, while players are attempting to find a new seat the player who asked the question can try to sit down. Whoever is left standing asks another player: ‘Do you love your neighbour?’ ... and so on.


Hot Boiled Beans, or Hot And Cold

  1. Players – Three or more
  2. Duration – A few minutes for each round
  3. Equipment – An object that is easy to hide

One player is sent out of the room, while those remaining hide a small object such as a ball, pen or a watch. The player returns to the room as the others call: ‘Hot boiled beans and bacon for supper! Hurry up before it gets cold.’

The player attempts to find the missing object while everyone else calls out that her supper is getting very cold, freezing cold, hot, very hot, or burning in relation to how close or far she is from the hidden item. Once the item is found a new player is sent from the room and the object (or a new one) is hidden in a different location.

Sounds very basic but kids love it. The adult version incorporates forfeits – they have to perform a certain task chosen by the others if the object is not found within a certain time limit (prepare some in advance).



  1. Players – Four or more
  2. Duration – About 10 minutes for each round
  3. Equipment – Any object that is easy to hide

Players are shown a little knick-knack – a teaspoon, pen, thimble, anything small – and are then asked to leave the room. A player remains in the room and hides the item. When they return, everyone is to look for the item until they spot it. They are then to sit down without saying anything. It is recommended to wander around for a short while after finding the object so as not to reveal the hidden item to the other players.

The last person standing is obviously the loser, and hides a new item for the next round. To ensure that nobody has cheated and sat down without finding the object the person who hid the item should get each player to whisper its location in his ear at the end of the game.


Pass The Slipper

  1. Players – Six or more
  2. Duration – A few minutes for each round
  3. Equipment – Traditionally a slipper, but any similarly sized object will do

Players form a circle, sitting on chairs or the floor with one person standing in the middle. They must close their eyes while the slipper is passed from person to person behind their backs. When the centre person opens her eyes, the passing immediately stops and she must hazard a guess as to who holds the slipper. If the guess is correct, they trade places. If wrong, the eyes are closed and the passing begins again.


The Name Game

  1. Players – Four or more, better with larger groups
  2. Duration – A few minutes for each round
  3. Equipment – Slips of paper, pencils, basket or hat

Provide each guest with 10 small pieces of paper, and a pen or pencil. Ask them to write down the names of 10 famous people – movie stars, authors, sports figures, politicians, artists, inventors, scientists, etc.

Fold the papers, and put them into a hat or basket. Seat guests in a large circle. Each round is limited to 30 seconds, so have a watch with a second hand available. The first player pulls out a name, and keeps giving clues to the person beside him, but must never actually say the name or what it starts with. Once the name has been guessed within the timeframe the guesser scores a point, as does the clue giver. The hat is the passed to the next person and the clue giver now becomes the guesser and there is a new clue giver. The game continues around the circle until everyone has guessed and everyone has given clues. The one with the most guesses correct wins.


You’re Never Fully Dressed Without A Smile

One of the sillier parlour games, of which there were many. Parlour games often involved a person being required to perform silly actions in order to win the game.

  1. Players – Four or more
  2. Duration – A few minutes for each round
  3. Equipment – None

One person is selected to be ‘it’. That person is the only one in the group who is allowed to smile. He or she can do anything they want to try and get someone else to smile apart from touching them. If the person smiles, he or she becomes it. The person who never smiles is declared the winner.


Guess the kiss

  1. Players – the more the merrier
  2. Duration – as long as you like
  3. Equipment – lipstick

A player is chosen to be it and is blindfolded. They pucker up ready for a kiss from anyone in the room and have to guess the mystery kisser.

The depth of passion will vary according to your company. Simple pecks recommended for family get-togethers, naturally. Beards and moustaches are a dead giveaway, but you can play tricks by spraying perfume on men or disguise the suitor by other devious means.




Everyone likes a good, old-fashioned race and this one, based on horse racing, was invented by Messrs Lee and Palmer. In fact it’s a variation of Monopoly, which has always been a big favourite with families and which now has hundreds of variations. There are even different versions of Totopoly, with horses ranging from cardboard horses in wooden stands, flat painted metal horses on circular stands and 3-d painted metal horses.

The idea is that racehorses are leased by players and trained by them for the race. Leasing at auction, temporary ownership of racing stables is undertaken. When all the horses and business have been sold, the training of the horses commences and trainer and veterinary reports have to be obtained etc. etc. Some horses will make more progress than others and therefore win the race.



Nothing wrong with instilling some manners into the proceedings ... even if you are out to get your fellow players.

Sorry! was registered by Parker Brothers of Salem, Massachusetts, in 1934, but it was also registered and copyrighted in Great Britain with a different design and logo. The object of the game is for each player to move the four pieces under their control from Start into Home by moves governed by the cards drawn from the pack. Naturally, if you cause a rival to fall back, you need to say sorry.

Many old board games are still in production today, but for true collectors items Donay Games specialises in original games in their original boxes. You can contact them at


For a reminders about games you enjoyed as a youngster visit, a website that was founded in January 2000 as a resource for the board gaming hobby The database holds reviews, articles, and session reports for over 30,000 different games, including tabletop games.


... And finally How about this for a special present for someone you know who loves a dice game?
The Pernis Bottle Dice is a replica collectable. It’s a French, wooden bottle dice based on one made in the 1930s. The two parts unscrew to reveal three dice. These items were a useful, portable gambling item carried around by men who would retrieve them from their pocket whenever a bet was required. For example, it could be used in the bar to decide who would buy the next round. Nice little gift for stocking filler, or Christmas present. It costs £32 from