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Life In A Medieval Castle
Medieval Games

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Medieval Games & Passtimes

Chess 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.
  • Bowling.
  • Curling
  • Pall-Mall


Dice games - knuckle-bones

Board Games

  • Alquerque
  • Fierges
  • Fox & Geese
  • Game of the Goose
  • Merels
  • Nyout
  • Parchisi
  • Senet
  • Tablut
  • Wari


Card Games

  • All Fours
  • Alouette (2 or 4 players)
  • As Nas
  • Basset
  • Karnoffel
  • Tarok


puppet show, 1338-44 (Romance of Alexander)
doll cradle, 14th cent.  
Boys' Games from Hortus deliciarum
tops & dice, after 1278  (from excavations in Konstanz and Freiburg)
dice and balls, after 1278 
(from excavations in Konstanz and Freiburg)
Classroom scene (from Omne Bonum, English, c. 1360-75)

Games link



More on Life in a Medieval Castle


Introduction to Life in a Medieval Castle

Rooms in a Medieval Castle


Officers & Servants in a Medieval Castle

Medieval Clothing

Medieval Food & Cooking


Medieval Drinks


Medieval Gardens

Medieval Warfare:


Medieval Taxes

Medieval Games & Pastimes

The Feudal System



Rivers & Fishponds

Mills: Windmills and Water Mills


The Great Hall at Christ Church College, Oxford




A baker with his assistant. As seen in the illustration, round loaves were among the most common.



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