Victorian Games

game piece

Forfeits are stunts or actions that a person who has made a mistake or lost a game are required to carry out as punishment (and for the amusement of their fellow players). They're usually something silly or slightly embarrassing, which is why players want to avoid them, although sometimes they can be something pleasant. In a way, they're kind of like the dares from a game of Truth or Dare. If a group of teenagers uses the kissing forfeits, the odds are good that someone will want to earn a forfeit so they'll have an excuse to kiss their boyfriend or girlfriend. Sometimes in the Victorian Era, the other players would hold some object belonging to the player who had earned the forfeit as a ransom until the forfeit was carried out, but that isn't really necessary (Beaver 130-131).

Forfeits come in many different forms, some long, some short. Most of them are pretty straight-forward. Some of them are almost like mini games or puzzles. In some cases, failing to perform a forfeit properly can lead to another forfeit, like failing to figure out one of the trick forfeits, but that also depends on how you want to play it.

It may be a good idea to have backup ideas ready in case someone has a problem with the forfeit they've been assigned. If you like, you could write down a number of forfeit ideas and draw them randomly from a hat, allowing players to draw again if they have a problem with their assigned forfeit. If someone draws a forfeit twice and rejects both options, that person could settle for simply being out of the game at that point. If you don't care for the idea of forfeits in general, you could skip them and just declare players out of the game instead.

The forfeits described below are from Victorian Parlor Games by Patrick Beaver (pp. 131-139). You can make up forfeits of your own, if you like, just don't make them anything dangerous or mean-spirited. Choose ones that are likely to suit the group of people you're with. Remember, games are supposed to be fun!


Three Questions

This forfeit is really like a mini game. The person performing the forfeit leaves the room, and the others think up three questions for the person to answer. They must be yes-or-no questions. When the person comes back into the room, the others ask him what his answer is to the first, second, and third questions without actually telling him what the questions are. The person blindly answers yes or no to each. Then, the others tell him what he has refused or agreed to.

There aren't really any limits on what the questions can be except that they have to be answerable with "yes" or "no." (Remember, this is all in fun, so don't make them anything hurtful or insulting.) They could be mildly embarrassing such as "Do you think that (name of person) is cute?" It's best if they're something silly, such as, "Do you think you're smarter than your last math teacher?", "Do you believe in aliens?", "Do you believe that (name of other person in the room) is the coolest person in the world?" or "If you were elected President of the United States, would you let us all stay with you at the White House?" (If they answer "yes" to that last one and later on actually become President of the United States, try to hold them to it! ;) )

This forfeit can also be used to get someone to blindly choose other forfeits to perform. For instance, the three questions could be something like, "Would you eat a peanut butter and marshmallow sandwich?", "Would you stand on a chair and sing the national anthem?", or "Would you dance the Funky Chicken?" Then, when the person gives his answer to each of the questions, the others will make him perform the actions that he agreed to. In other words, if he says "yes" to eating the peanut butter and marshmallow sandwich, he'll have to do it.

Show the Spirit of the Contrary

The other players all give orders to the person performing the forfeit, and that person must do the opposite of whatever they tell him to do. If they tell him to stand up, he sits down. If they tell him to turn to the left, he turns to the right. If they tell him to jump up and down, he stands still, etc.

The Living Statue

The person performing the forfeit stands on a chair and pretends to be a statue, posing in whatever way the other players tell him.

Give Good Advice

The person performing the forfeit has to go to each of the other players and offer useful words of advice. He can tell them anything he likes. There are no requirements. Of course, the sillier the advice is, the better. The person could recite popular mottos such as "A fool and his money are soon parted," tell someone that "Nothing good ever happens after midnight," or remind someone else to never to wash red socks with white ones, whatever the person thinks is best.

Make Your Will

The person performing the forfeit goes to each of the other players and tells the person what he would leave them in his will. The legacies left to each player can be tangible or intangible objects and as silly as the person can make them, such as "my collection of ballpoint pens," "my ruggedly handsome good looks," or "the ability to appreciate opera."


The person performing the forfeit yawns until someone else in the room also yawns.

"Ennui" basically means "boredom." (Merriam-Webster)

The Cordial Greeting

This is a forfeit for two people at once. They are both blindfolded and led to opposite ends of the room. Then, without taking off the blindfolds, they have to find each other and shake hands. (Remove trip hazards first!)

Nose and Ears

The person performing the forfeit uses his left hand to hold his nose and his right hand to touch his left ear. Then, he uses both hands to slap his knees, puts his left hand on his right ear, and uses his right hand to hold his nose. He has to keep slapping his knees and switching hands quickly several times in a row.

Blind Dancers

This can make a good party finale, especially if there are several people who still owe forfeits. Just make sure that you do it in a room with plenty of open space so that no one gets hurt and nothing gets broken! All of the forfeiters are blindfolded and told to dance. Any kind of popular dance moves or whatever they make up will do. Put on some music and watch the fun!

Short Forfeits

These forfeits are exactly what they sound like:

Laugh in One Corner of the Room, Cry in Another, Sing in Another, and Dance in Another.

Lie Down on the Floor and Rise with Your Arms Folded.

Being Friendly -- The forfeiter walks around the room and smiles at everyone else, one person at a time.

Trick Forfeits

These forfeits sound impossible at first but are actually simple once you know the trick. Part of the challenge for the player who gets one is to figure out what the trick is. If the person can't figure it out, they might have to perform an extra forfeit (you'll have to decide ahead of time how you want to play it). Let them experiment a little, but be nice and clue them in later if they don't get it.

Put Four Chairs in a Row, Take off Your Shoes, and Jump over Them

The trick is that the person needs to jump over their shoes, not the chairs. Be sure to clue them in before they carry this one too far!

Ask a Question to Which the Answer Cannot Possibly Be "No"

The usual question is "What does Y-E-S spell?" If someone can think of another question that also qualifies, give them credit for it!

Kiss a Book Inside and Outside Without Opening It

The trick is to kiss it inside and outside of the room, not inside and outside of the book itself.

Kissing Forfeits

Kissing games were played during the Victorian era as well. I haven't given the rules for any here, but pretty much any game can be turned into a kissing game by making kissing part of the forfeits. Kissing games are only fun if the party guests don't mind kissing each other. If anyone has objections, do not try to force them into it. Kissing another person's hand or blowing kisses may be acceptable alternatives to kissing people on the cheek or lips. Here are some examples of kissing forfeits:

Kiss Your Own Shadow

This is kind of a trick forfeit. The person performing it is allowed to kiss his or her shadow anywhere it falls, so if there is someone in the room that the person wants to kiss, all they have to do is make sure that their shadow falls on that person. If the person doesn't want to kiss anyone, they can make their shadow fall on the wall and kiss it there.

Three Kissing Questions

This is like the Three Questions forfeit, only all of the questions have to do with kissing. The forfeiter leaves the room while everyone else decides on three yes-or-no questions to ask. When the forfeiter returns, he or she must answer yes or no to the questions in order without knowing what they are. Once the person is told which questions he or she refused or agreed to, he or she must follow through on them. Some examples of questions they could ask are: "Would you like every man (or woman, whichever is more appropriate) in the room to kiss you?" (a "yes" answer means that the forfeiter gets kissed by every man or woman in the room), "Would you like to kiss (name of person)?" (a "yes" answer means that the forfeiter has to kiss that person), and "Would you like (name of person) to not kiss you?" (this one is tricky because a "yes" answer means that they don't kiss, and a "no" means that they do, questions like this can trip up a person who tries to say no to everything).

Kiss the Lady You Love Without Anyone's Knowing It

This is a forfeit for a man, although it could be made to be a forfeit for anyone by calling it "Kiss the One You Love Without Anyone's Knowing It." This is also a trick forfeit. The best way to accomplish the task is for the man to kiss every woman in the room, including the one he loves, so that no one can know for sure which one he loves. For women, the task would be to kiss every man in the room, including the one she loves.

Postman's Knock

This is actually a game by itself, although it can be used as a forfeit. It's the only kissing game I've included here. One person is appointed to be the postman (this can be the forfeiter). The postman stands outside the door to the room where everyone else is. When he knocks at the door, a person standing next to the door answers and asks the postman if he has a letter for someone and how many pennies it will cost to get the letter. The postman names the person he wants to kiss and says how many kisses he wants. The number of pennies is the number of kisses. The person then leaves the room with the postman and kisses him the number of times he says. When playing this as a game instead of a forfeit, the person who received the last "letter" becomes the new postman.

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