Medieval Games & Passtimes
was widely popular and often a source of gambling entertainment;
both in the traditional format and in a simpler version played with
dice. Dice were easy to carry and were played in all ranks of society,
including the clergy.
Some games played during the Middle Ages are still played today,
including bowling, prisoner's base, blind man's bluff (also called
hoodman's blind), and simple "horseplay". Draughts (checkers) were
a popular pastime, as was backgammon. Children wrestled, swam, fished
and played a game that was a cross between tennis and handball.
Medieval knights would incorporate training in recreation, performing
gymnastics, running foot races, and tilting at quintains - devices
designed so that unless the knight hit it squarely with his lance
a heavy sack of sand would hit him in the back.
Spectators in the Middle Ages went to cockfights and bullbaiting.
At harvest time, villagers would bob for apples and go on hunts
in the surrounding forests. Hawks were trained to hunt game birds
and every medieval castle had a falconer, assigned to train young
birds for this sport.
Medieval Christmas games included "King of the Bean," where a small
bean would be baked inside bread or cake, and the one who found
it in their portion would be crowned king of the holiday feast -
a tradition that survives in some parts of Europe to this day.
Activity / Sports Games
- Bocce: a form of boules. A Bocce set is composed of 9 balls.
One small "target ball" called a Pallino and eight Bocce balls
(four each of two different colors). In period, the Bocce balls
were usually wooden, and about the size of a coconut. The Pallino
was about the size of a modern golfball. The modern official size
Bocce ball has a diameter of 4 1/5", a circumference of 13 1/2",
a weight of 2 lbs. 2oz., and is usually made of phenolic resin.
The Pallino, also made of phenolic resin, is still about the size
and weight of a modern golfball.
Dice games - knuckle-bones
- Fox & Geese
- Game of the Goose
- All Fours
- Alouette (2 or 4 players)
- As Nas