4 games traditionally played in Britain

We Brits love our games, whether playing at home, at a party, or out in the great outdoors. Not all of these games originated in the UK, but each one has become a firm favourite pastime for those living on British soil. Discover some of the most popular games in the UK and the basics of how to play.

Backgammon

Backgammon is among the oldest board games to exist, alongside chess, draughts and Ancient Egyptian senet and twenty squares. It’s thought to date back over 5,000 years, but the earliest mention of the game being played in England is in a letter dated 1635.

This enduringly popular game follows a familiar pattern of contrary movement on a board with 24 ‘points’. Guided by the roll of two dice, each player must move their ‘men’ to the other side of the board while trying to remove their opponent’s pieces in the process.

Backgammon has often been seen as a fashionable game, becoming a common feature at parties and country clubs throughout the 20th century.

Bingo

This well-known English staple is thought to have originated in Italy as an early form of their national lottery. Through trade and travelling carnivals, it spread throughout Europe and to the USA, eventually making its way to UK working men’s clubs and public halls dedicated to the game.

While various versions of the game exist, British bingo uses 90 numbered balls and 5×5 boards with a random selection of the numbers. A caller pulls out the balls at random, and players mark off any matches on their board. The first and second to a row and the fastest to a full house win.

Once enjoyed only in local venues, bingo can be played online now too, on dedicated platforms that often offer modern takes on the classic game.

Dominoes

The history of dominoes might be difficult to trace, but one thing’s for certain – when it arrived in the UK, it was quick to take off! Particularly in the latter half of the 20th century, this was a highly popular pastime thanks to its fast and competitive gameplay.

Dominos are double-ended game pieces decorated with two patterns of dots representing numbers. The typical version of the game is a simple two-player challenge where opponents try to connect their dominoes in an interlinked chain. However, there are more complicated evolutions of the game that can accommodate up to five players!

Marbles

Traced back as far as the Ancient Greeks and Romans, the game of marbles is another common UK pastime with an extraordinarily long history. The British and World Marbles Championship, held in Tinsley Green, West Sussex each year since 1932, shows how ingrained the game is in English culture.

The guidelines for playing the game are very simple. Roll – or use your thumbnail to flick – your marbles forward, aiming for a target or to knock your opponent’s marbles away. Marbles are small heavy balls, usually fashioned out of reinforced glass.

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