Victorian Games

game piece

Talking Games

Talking games require nothing more than a group of players and their own voices and wits. Any of these games would make good games for long car rides, and some of them are played on car trips today.


This was the most popular parlor game during the Victorian era and was played by both adults and children (Beaver 63).

One player leaves the room while the others choose a secret word. Ideally, this should be a word that rhymes with a lot of other words. Then, they call the lone player back into the room to guess what the word is. The other players give the guesser a hint by telling him a word that rhymes with the secret word. The guesser then tries to guess the secret word without actually saying the words he's guessing. He does this by trying to describe the words he's guessing, and the others tell him whether he's right or wrong (Beaver 63).

Example: Suppose that the secret word is "ball," and the hint that they've given the guesser is "call." The game might go like this:

Guesser: Is it the season when the leaves change?
Others: No, it isn't fall.
Guesser: Is it a place where we go shopping?
Others: No, it isn't mall.
Guesser: Is it everything?
Others: No, it isn't all.
Guesser: Is it a round object?
Others: Yes, it's ball!

As you can see, even the people who know the secret word have the challenge of figuring out what word the guesser is referring to by the clues he gives them.

For an extra challenge, the person doing the guessing can try to rhyme the guess (Greenaway 33). For instance, instead of saying "Is it the season when the leaves change?", the guesser could say:

"Is this the time when we see
leaves turn red on every tree?"

What Is My Thought Like?

This game is about making connections between things.

One player starts by thinking of something, either an object or a person. Then, the player asks the others, one at a time, "What is my thought like?" Each of the other players takes a guess at what the object is by naming an object of their own. Then, the first player tells the others what the original object was. The odds are against anyone guessing correctly what the object is, but it doesn't really matter. The other players aren't expected to guess rightly; the challenge is really about how the players make connections between the object the first player originally thought of and the objects that they guessed. Each player in turn has to tell the first player how their guess is similar to the original object. If someone can't think of a connection, that person has to pay a forfeit (Greenaway 25).

Example: Suppose that Beth is the first person to think of something and that she thinks of a horse. Then, she asks the other players to guess what she is thinking of. The closer their guess is, the easier it will be for them to make a connection. However, the farther their guess is from Beth's thought, the more creative their connections have to be, and the funnier they are likely to be.

As the other players try to guess what Beth's thought is like, John says it's like a dog, Alice says it's like a birthday party, Peter says it's like a boat, and Tommy says that it's like a pizza. After Beth tells them what she was really thinking of, they have to explain why their guesses are like Beth's original thought.

John says that a dog and a horse are both four-legged animals. Alice might have a harder time explanation the relationship of a birthday party to a horse. Perhaps she could say that she has always wanted a horse for her birthday or that she once rode a horse at someone's birthday party at the zoo? If she cannot think of some connection between her guess and Beth's thought, she will have to pay a forfeit. Peter might say that a horse and a boat are both methods of transportation. Tommy may have the most difficult time, trying to connect pizza and horses, but if he says that he's so hungry for pizza that he can eat a horse, it could still be a connection.

It's up to the players to determine whether someone's explanation is good enough to avoid the forfeit.

Grandmother's Trunk

Grandmother's Trunk is one of the oldest word games in the world. It is still a popular game with many variations. The players take turns repeating and adding to a list of objects of things found in "Grandmother's Trunk" in alphabetical order.

The first player begins by coming up with an object that starts with the letter A that is kept in the trunk, but it doesn't have to be anything that makes sense. In fact, the sillier it is, the better. For instance, the first player could say, "My grandmother keeps an armadillo in her trunk." The next player repeats what the first player said and adds another object to the list that starts with B, saying something like "My grandmother keeps an armadillo and a Bible in her trunk." The third player continues the pattern, adding another word that starts with C, like, "My grandmother keeps an armadillo, a Bible, and cake pans in her trunk."

The players continue working their way through the alphabet like that. None of them are allowed to laugh or even smile as they repeat the list, no matter how ridiculous it is. If someone laughs, smiles, or forgets one of the items on the list, that person is out of the game (Beaver 64).

Russian Gossip

This is an old version of the game Telephone. I don't why it's called Russian Gossip, but the idea is the same, that gossip that is repeated many times over (by telephone or otherwise) often bears little or no resemblance to the original message.

The players sit or stand in a circle, and one person is chosen to start the game. This person whispers something, any short message that he makes up, to the person sitting next to him. Then, that person whispers it to the next person in the circle. Players continue passing along the message in whispers until the last person tells it to the person who created the original message. Then, that person repeats both messages aloud so that everyone can hear the difference between them (Beaver 39).


Many people will be familiar with this because it's a popular game to play on long car trips today, although there are many variations of it, some of them using different numbers. It takes some basic math skills in order to play and concentration in order to play well.

The players take turns counting aloud, starting with the number one, but every seven or multiple of seven must be replaced with the word "buzz." Anyone who fails to say "buzz" at the right time and says "seven" or names a number that is a multiple of seven has to leave the game. Eventually, there will be just one person left, and that person is the winner (Beaver 39).

Example: A game with three people might go something like this:
Ann: Five!
Jack: Six!
Meg: Buzz!
Ann: Eight!

As the counting goes on, they say:

Meg: Thirteen!
Ann: Buzz! (Because fourteen is a multiple of seven)
Jack: Fifteen!
Meg: Sixteen!
Ann: Buzz-teen! (Because she can't say the word "seven.")

In the same way, twenty-seven becomes "twenty-buzz." Twenty-one and twenty-eight are simply replaced with the word "buzz" because they are multiples of seven. If the players count high enough, the number 77 becomes "buzz-buzz." If anyone forgets to say the word "buzz" at the right time, that person is out of the game (Beaver 39). The faster the players go, the harder it gets. Sometimes, players like to make the game more challenging by also saying "fiz" instead of "five" (Greenaway 13).

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