Traditional pub games have always been a large part of life in a British inn. The British love a challenge and five hundred years ago there were no organised sports as such and so what better than to try and beat your fellow man at throwing something into something or racing something against something else !
Combine a few pints of good ale with an over active mind and many different suggestions will come forward, some of which have died a death over the years but many still remain and can be played in pubs and inns today.

Pool and darts are now the most often found 'sports. Electronic 'Space Invaders' took over in the 1980's and quizzes, electronic games and gambling machines can be found in many inns but many more interesting games can be found such as: Dwile Flonkin, Conga Cuddling, Egg Rolling, Rhubarb Thrashing and Cheese Rolling. Various suggestions of racing creatures against each other have sprung forth although not so popular now due to a higher concern for animals rights to not be raced against each other - whether they want to or not. Maggots, beetles, ferrets, mice and tortoises have all been subjected to racing each other at some time.
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For more detailed information on many of the games mentioned here go to the Online Guide to Traditional games


The ancient ancestor of Draughts. Spanish mispronunciation of the Arabic 'Quirkat'.

Aunt Sally:
Mainly played in Oxfordshire, the game involves players hurling six two-foot long sticks at a skittle, known as a 'doll' mounted on a post.

is one of the oldest pub games, dating back to the 11th Century.

Pub game of the Billiards family that spawned the smaller children's Bagatelle that in turn evolved into Pinball and Pachinko

Bar Billiards:
An adaptation of Russian billiards, this was first played in the Rose & Crown, Elham (a little village about five miles north of Folkestone), Kent, in 1935. It proved ideal for small pubs as both opponents stand at the same end of the table.

Bat and Trap A bat and ball pub game from Kent. A relative of Cricket.

A game in which two white and a red ball are knocked around a table and into corner pockets using cues.

A game in which heavy balls are rolled on a lawn at a smaller ball, the Jack. Many pubs have their own bowling greens. See also: Crown Green Bowls.

Carom Billiards:
A generic term for games of the Billiards family played on tables without pockets.

Cheese Rolling:
Similar to Egg Rolling, where an inn located next to a big hill, might stage an event involving throwing food to the bottom of the hill an obviously the winner is the person whose lunch gets to the bottom first !

Cribbage or Crib:
Sir John Suckling, the inventor of the game in the 17th Century, is reported to have amassed a fortune of around 20,000 in his day by playing with marked cards. Still popular in friendly and competitive levels in many parts of the Country.

A game in which coloured balls are knocked through hoops on a lawn using mallets.

Crown Green Bowls:
A version of Bowls played on a square lawn which is slightly higher in the middle than at the edges

The most successful pub game ever invented and now played world-wide. Its probable origins date back to the Middle Ages where it transpired into an indoor version of archery with the end of a barrel used as a target. Regional variations include the Yorkshire (or Manchester) board that has no treble ring and a twelve-bed board, once popular in the east-end of London, Essex and parts of Suffolk. Earlier versions called 'Puff and Dart' - played using a blowpipe fired at a target and 'Dart and Target' - A precursor to the pub game of Darts

Many different Dice games have been and still are played including Canoga, another name for the pub dice game, Shut the Box

Devil amongst the Tailors:
Another name for Table Skittles, an indoor version of Skittles.

An Italian word referring to the black masks worn at masquerades, the game arrived in Britain from Italy in the early 1800's. Although 13 variations are listed, including games with nine and twelve-spot dominoes, the usual game is to play play the 'fives and threes' rules although it is common to see 'windmill' being played in friendlies.

The internationally recognised version of draughts is played on a 10 x 10 board. Also called Polish Draughts.

Dwile Flonkin:
Masquerading as a medieval court pastime, this team game is more likely 20th Century lunacy, marketed by the great Michael Bentine of Goon Show fame. Two teams of twelve partake, dressed as 'country bumpkins'. One side forms a circle and, with hands linked, turn in the direction nominated by their captain. Inside the circle is the "flonker", who armed with his "dwile", an ullage-soaked rag on the end of "driveller", or pole, turns in the opposite direction. Upon the appropriate word of command, or signal, the dwile is flonked at the opposing side and points scored for striking various parts of the anatomy. Should the flonker fail to hit his opponents on either of his two turns, a penalty has to be paid. This generally involves drinking vast quantities of ale from a chamber pot or similar device. When all members of one side have been flonked, the roles are reversed. The winning team are the ones with the most points awarded by the umpire, though results are always dubious and contested. Get involved at your peril. Don't say you haven't been warned!

Egg Rolling:
Similar to Cheese Rolling, where an inn located next to a big hill, might stage an event involving throwing food to the bottom of the hill an obviously the winner is the person whose lunch gets to the bottom first !


Indoor Quoits:
A form of Quoits in which smaller rings are thrown at hooks on a wall or on a table:

Long Alley Skittles:
Long Alley is often played outdoors on grass or a wooden pitch of exactly 35ft. in length and the ball must bounce once before striking the 'pins'

Northamptonshire or 'cheese' skittles:
Northamptonshire skittles bears a similarity to Old-English Skittles which is on a larger scale and played in London, in which discus-shaped cheeses are hurled at nine pins which are housed in a 'pen' with surrounding netting..

Nine Men's Morris:
Ancient game where the objective is simply to get three pegs or stones in a row. Also known as Merels, Mill, Morris

Nine Pins:
An alternative name for the pub game Skittles.

Pall Mall:
A game of the Croquet family which gave it's name to the famous London Street

Generally thought to have evolved from American Four-ball Billiards, an old US derivative of Billiards, the mother of many of the modern US Pool games. It differs to the American game in that British tables have smaller pockets though follows the American 'eight-ball' variation.

Push Penny:
An earlier version of Shove Ha'penny.

This very ancient game, originally known as 'horseshoes', involves pitching steel rings 18ft. towards a pin embedded in the centre of an area of clay, 3ft. in diameter (the hob). The indoor version is known as 'clobbers'  where each player throws four rings towards a pin mounted on a table.

Ringing the Bull:
Ringing the Bull is a game still played in some pubs. It consists of a metal ring - usually found through the nose of a bull, hanging by string from the ceiling. The aim is to swing the ring and try to hook it over a hook or sometimes a bulls horn, which is fixed to the wall.

There are many variations of skittles. In the West Country, the counties of Gloucestershire and Somerset can boast of more than 2,000 teams of 'Western' skittlers apiece! Wooden balls the size of a cistern ball-cock are hurled towards nine wooden pins and is played indoors on permanent alleys made of wood or concrete. Many different 'games' of skittles can be played.

Shove Ha'penny (Shortened from Half Penny) which dates back over 500 years, involves flicking a coin along a wooden board to try and slide them into a position between marked lines. Also known as Shoffe-grote, Slide Thrift

Shovel Board:
The ancestor of games involving the pushing of discs down tables.

An early bat and ball game similar to Cricket and still played in Sussex.

Table Skittles:
A small ball suspended on a chain is swung around a pole at nine small pins, mounted in the usual 'off-square' pattern on a table. This game may also be known as 'bar skittles' or 'Devil Amongst the Tailors'.

Three Men's Morris:
A simpler form of Nine Men's Morris played on a three by three board

Yorkshire Darts:
See Darts