Colonial Games

game piece

Although the American colonists came from different countries, they often played similar games. Blindman's Buff was a common game, played by people from many different European countries. Different groups still referred to the game by the name they used in their countries of origin. For instance, people from Sweden (their colonies were in Delaware and New Jersey) called the game "blindbock", which means "blind buck" in Swedish. German colonists living in Pennsylvania called it "Blinderkuh", which means "blind cow." "Colin-maillard" was the name used by French people living near the Hudson River in New York. The origin of the French name was an old story about a knight who continued to fight bravely in battle even after being temporarily blinded. Today, the game is also called Blindman's Bluff. The word "buff" comes from "buffet" because players would hit and shove each other while playing older versions of the game. Later, people forgot the origins of "buff" and began using "bluff" instead (King 77).

During the 18th century, Blindman's Buff was played by both children and adults (King 77).

Blindman's Buff

The rules for this version of the game (a popular version from the Colonial era) come from Colonial Days by David C. King, pp. 77-78.


Players: You'll need a large group, five or more people. In fact, the more you have, the better. There is no upper limit.

Equipment: Some sticks or straws of different lengths and a scarf or cloth for the blindfold

The first step is to select one person to be "it." You can do this by drawing straws. The person who chooses the shortest stick or straw will be "it" and will wear the blindfold.

Once "it" is blindfolded, the other players stand in a cirlce around "it." A couple of players break away from the circle to spin "it" around a few times, then join the circle again. The players in the circle all hold hands and walk around "it." They stop walking when "it" claps three times. Then, "it" (still blindfolded) points at one of the people in the circle. The person "it" points at walks into the middle of the circle. Then, "it" tries to guess who this person is.

"It" only gets one guess. If "it" correctly guesses the person's identity, that person puts on the blindfold and becomes the new "it." If "it" guesses wrong, "it" reaches out and tries to touch the other player's clothes, head, or feet while the other player tries to dodge. If "it" succeeds in touching the player, "it" gets a second chance to guess the person's identity. If the second guess is right, the person becomes the new "it." If the second guess is also wrong, the person joins the circle again, "it" is spun around once more, and "it" must point at another player to continue the game.


Here is another variation of Blindman's Buff played in Colonial America. This one (rules and dialogue) comes from Colonial American Home Life by John F. Warner, p. 99.

One person, called "Buff," stands in the middle of the room, blindfolded. The other players form a ring around Buff, and one of them starts a conversation with Buff that goes like this:

Player: How many horses has your father got?
Buff: Three.
Player: What color are they?
Buff: Black, white, and gray.
Player: Turn about and turn about and catch whom you can.

Still blindfolded, Buff turns around three times and then tries to catch hold of one of the other players. When he manages to catch someone, that person becomes Buff in the next round.

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