There are some bizarre playground games for two that involve pain. Well known ones such as Feet Stamping, Slapsies and Knuckles and lesser known such as Extreme Rock Paper Scissors. But, there is one that understandably and thankfully never played today: Slapheads.
Slapheads is like the human equivalent of the summer fayre game of Hit the Rat ( a 'rat' is dropped through a drainpipe and the player has to hit it with a baseball bat when it emerges) Here, one person must hold his hands, palms facing inwards, a set distance apart (2 feet or so). The other must now bob his head down between the hands and avoid being slapped in the head. To trial this game I have just played a session with Mrs Blister and it is brilliant fun. Whether it's through fear of reprisals or slowness of reactions the bobber often wins and the slapee is left slapping thin air.
I suppose if this marvellous game were to take off today then the wearing of a safety helmet would be the only update required. Encouraging children to play old fashioned games to help in the fight against obesity is all well and good but not at the expense of a perforated ear drum.

Badfight / Badmington Fighting

Recently Strange Games received an E-mail from Michael Semenenko, senior lecturer of faculty of sports St.Petersburg State University. In it he describes a most brilliant new combination game that he has created.
Most strange games enthusiasts are aware of combining two games to make an unusual new one, Chess Boxing being the one that comes immediately to mind. But badmington fighting or Badfight as Michael has named it combines Badmington and a martial art and is very special indeed.

Badfight is played on a 6x12m area with a badmington net set at 2m high in the centre. Players attach flat sponge pads, measuring approximately 15cm square, onto the backs of their hands and also onto their feet (see pictures). The serving player must kick the shuttlecock over the net. The returning player has two moves to return it, first with the foot and then with the hand. To catch and flick up a shuttle using just your foot pad must take quite a lot of agility...and then to smash it back over the net with the hand pad! It sounds like it would be absolutely exhausting to play.
If the shuttle touches the floor or goes out of bounds then the point is lost. First to 15 points wins.
A superb game that deserves much wider publicity and inclusion in the Olympics as soon as possible.

Drawing Room Baseball

An extremely silly indoor game but immense fun nonetheless, Drawing Room Baseball brings the great American sport into the living room provides hours of endless fun and broken ornaments.

Best for small teams of three or four players (but I guess it depends on how big your house is), simply re-arrange some room furnishings to provide the bases. Then replace the baseball bat with a kitchen spatula (either wood or metal) and instead of a baseball use a ping pong ball. This gives the pitcher the opportunity to wind up his throwing arm and pitch the ball as hard as he wants without fear of injury. The damage to the room is not from bat and ball action but rather the dashes to reach bases and the scrambles for the ball of the fielding team.

Camel Jumping

Usually on Strange Games the equipment needed to play the games is minimal and often for the some of the best games all you need to be able to do is pretend to be dead.
For Camel Jumping you need...well, you need some camels. As this incredible footage from Yemen shows, to play, stand three camels side by side, take a good run up and then jump over them. Simple. Notice that the jumpers aren't exactly the tallest men you've ever met and they clear the camels with ease. Unfortunately the presenter of the piece doesn't have a go.

All those years watching extremely dull field events at the olympic games when we could have been watching camel jumping. And surely the sport could be extended to the Giraffe Polevault.
strange games no: 176

What Do You Want / More Spectacular Deaths

The childhood pastime of Spectacular Deaths has all but died out these days (sorry) but its coverage on Strange Games no:139 prompted an e-mail from Molly McDoodle about a variation played in Scotland called What Do You Want?

Players stand in front of a chanter who shouts out,
"What do you want, what do you want, Gun, Arrow or Atom Bomb?" After which all players must act out their death as if they were killed with a gun or a bow and arrow or most spectacularly of all an atomic bomb.

The 'winner' of the game is decided not just by who can die in the most sensational or realistic way but who can 'remain dead' the best when the chanter walks among them and prods the bodies with his or her feet.

It's a sort of combination game of Spectacular Deaths and a violent version of that old party favourite Statues. Marvellous!

strange games no:175

Stange Games New: Finger Jousting Rules

The king of hand games Finger Jousting has been covered by Strange Games a few times before but it is only now, after 2 years solid work, that the full, unabridged rules for Finger Jousting tournaments have been finalised.
Written by self styled Lord of the Joust Julian Gluck the rules run to 30 pages. The main structural change to competitive Finger Jousting is the move to 3 rounds of 2 minutes each with a minute break in between and an overtime round of 1 minute in the case of a tie.
My favourite rules, however, are:-

~Taking care of your fingernails is a sign of respect for your opponent and shows an interest in maintaining a healthy body.

~A finger jouster is prohibited from wearing clothing that is profane or lewd; exposes the bosom, belly or groin; contains sharp or excessively hard parts.

~The length of a competitors finger shall not be longer than 6 inches

~Bending ones own ‘lance' (finger) down or dropping it so that it no longer sticks out, known as sheathing, is illegal.

~Illegal fingernail length is an automatic disqualification unless an approved glove is worn or the fingernail is trimmed immediately.

The rules also come with a great diagram indicating hand signals for referees should you wish to get involved in the judging and refereeing side of this marvellous game. You can download the full rules from the World Finger Jousting Federation site

video of finger jousting
download finger jousting rule book here

Caterpillar Racing

There has been a flurry of odd racing games on Strange Games recently (Spit Racing and Banana Racing being particular highlights) and Caterpillar Racing is yet another children's racing game about to be resurrected from the past.

For as many players as want to play. From a standing start, lie face down flat on the ground as quickly as possible with your arms stretched above your head. Where your fingertips touch the ground will be your next starting position so now you have to leap to your feet and place them where your fingertips used to be. And so on. Players continue performing this set of moves as quickly as they can to get to the finishing line first.

strange games no:174

High Heel Racing / Stiletto Running

Recent posts about strange forms of racing prompted reader Boris Spedding to mention the sport of High Heel Racing.

High Heel Racing, or Stiletto Running, is exactly as it says on the tin...running as fast as possible whilst wearing stiletto shoes. In the last two years the sport has taken off in Europe with large organised events taking place in Russia, Germany, Holland and Poland.

The minimal rules state that the shoes worn must have a heel of 7cm or longer with a tip of diameter no more than 1.5cm (i.e. you will be disqualified if you turn up in your 1970's platform heels)
At this years Berlin race competitor Denise Hanitsch won the 100m race in a stunning time of 14.7 seconds.
But Europe can not claim Heel Racing as its own. There is an annual High Heel Race held by local drag queens in Washington DC. And it has been held for the last 19 years.
Surely it is time for the marvellous sport to extend to other track events. The High Heel Hurdles would surely be an event worth staging.

video of russian high heel racing
video of drag queen high heel racing
strange games no: 173

Tackling Childhood Obesity: Modern v Old Fashioned

Childhood Obesity is literally a big problem but fortunately Kaiser Permanente have found a solution.... a video game!
"Kaiser Permanente recently launched a video game that teaches kids to eat healthier foods, be more active and manage how much time they spend in front of the computer and television.
Developed by the producer of the "SpongeBob SquarePants," "Monsters, Inc." and "Rugrats" video games, "The Incredible Adventures of the Amazing Food Detective" is the first game of its kind available for free on the Web in both English and Spanish." read the full article

Old Fashioned:
A great old street game 'Anything Under the Sun' (a variant of games like 'Shop Windows', 'I sent my Son John', etc) is known under many names such as 'John Bull', 'Odds & Ends' or simply by the category name used to play it, “Boys Names”, “Countries”….
To play: One player stands on the far side of the street – this player is the caller. All other players remain where they were. The caller picks a category and shouts out his challenge,”A boys’ name starting with ‘M’?”
If a player wants to guess they must run to the caller then back to their place then back to the caller once more and shout out their guess. “Is it Montegue?” If more than one player runs then only the one arriving first can guess. If they are correct then places are changed and they become the new caller. Otherwise the game continues.
A great game for reducing obesity and (if you select the category Countries) increasing your knowledge of geography.
If only some bright spark would make a computer version of it.

strange games no:172
Strange Games is indebted to Ducky for this superb chanted intro to the game:
Boys, Girls
Fruits or Flowers
Ice Cream, Cake or Candy
Anything under the sun, except dirty rotten bubble gum

Association Bobbage (International King of Sports)

In the unlikely event that you switched on to Channel 5 (UK) at Sunday teatime in 2002 you would have been transfixed by a television programme called International King of Sports. This superb programme, (the Superstars for the 21st century) alongside the game Walking Trippy, is one of the main inspirations for this blog.
International King of Sports contained the sorts of sports that you may have made up or fantasised playing as a child; games like backwards running races, underwater shot put and longest skids. King of Sports featured real sportsmen performing the stupidest sports. If you get chance to watch it (usually open mouthed) look out for one of its greatest games- Association Bobbage.

Association Bobbage is delightfully simple to play. Strap on your best diving flippers and your speedos and jump vertically into a swimming pool. However, your face must remain dry. You must jump into the swimming pool and try to ensure that no part of your body above your neck touches (or goes under) the water. From the pool edge, and wearing flippers, this is relatively easy - but players must jump from successively higher platforms. A wet face means elimination until an Association Bobbage winner is found.
On the show the highest bobbage was by Hungarian footballer Laszlo Fazekas - from an incredible height of 2.4m. Watching him jump it is hard not to believe that he is made of balsa wood.

bring back international king of sports facebook group
strange games no:171

Strange Racing: Banana Racing

Another almost forgotten but brilliant childrens' racing game from Duncan Flann (Strange Games' Crewe Correspondent). Once played, never forgotten, Banana Racing is fun and physically demanding to play and hilarious to observe, especially if played by adults.

Mr Flann writes:

Banana Racing is simplicity itself. Slide one foot as far forward as you are able, as if slipping on a discarded banana skin. Then drag the trailing foot back up to meet the first. Both of your feet must remain touching the ground at all times. And once you have mastered the required feet movements you need to practice increasing the speed - obviously the faster the better.

A marvellous game for indoors or out, but remember the official shoe of the Banana Racer is not training shoes or sneakers but the well weathered, leather-soled brogue.

duncan flann's spitting race /spitfires
video of banana slipping
strange games no:170

Gorodki / Russian Street Skittles

Strange Games is extremely grateful to reader Larches Yeltsin for highlighting the brilliant street game of Gorodki.
Gorodki (Russian for 'little towns') is a truly unique Russian street skittles game that has been played for centuries but only got a standardised set of rules in the 1920s.
The target skittles are five cylindrical wooden blocks (about 6" in length) which are set up in a series of 15 distinctive formations. These formations (the towns) are placed inside a chalked square area (the city) 13 meters away from the throwers. The said throwers wield impressive 1m long heavy wooden batons which they hurl aggressively at the skittles in a sideways throw - the aim being to knock all sticks in the town outside of their containing square. Once all skittles have been removed then the next formation is set up. The team that takes the fewest throws to destroy all 15 'towns' wins.

Gorodki is famed for being a popular game of Lenin, Tolstoy and Gorky and it also makes an appearance in Vladamir Nabakov's 1957 novel Pnin:
"The favourite recreation was Gorodki...One drew a big square on the ground, one placed there, like columns, cylindrical pieces of wood...and then from some distance one threw at them a thick stick, very hard, like a boomerang, with a wide development of the arm. I still hear the trakh! when one hit the wooden pieces and they flew into the air."

strange games no:169

Blindfold Water Pistol Fighting

My recent post on Street Wars reminded me of a blindfolded party game that is immense fun yet rarely played these days.

Blindfold Water Pistol Fighting is a great game for 2 or even 3 players at a time. Simply place two loaded water pistols in the centre of the room and then stand two players at the side of the room, blindfold them and set them off. Their first task will be to find their weapon, then they have to fire it in the direction of their opponent. First player to shoot the other wins. Non playing party goers add to the fun and confusion by shouting out directions to the players.

best ever water pistol game: high noon vitamin C
strange games no:168

Hopping Bulldog

Hopping Bulldog is a great lost street game with similarities to Dance, Fight or Windmill and of course British Bulldog and is surely due a revival amongst street games enthusiasts.

One player stands in the middle of the street, balanced on one leg with his arms crossed. All other players stand facing him on the kerb. The centre player now chooses one, and only one, to cross first. This player must now try to get to the other side of the street but must travel in a likewise fashion by hopping with his arms crossed. It is the job of the center player to crash into him with the aim of knocking him over/getting him to put a foot down before he gets to the other side of the street. If he is successful in this spoiling activity then the travelling player is captured and joins with the centre. Another victim is then picked. If, however the travelling player successfully gets to the far side undisturbed (or if the centre player falls/puts foot down) then all the other players must hop across at once. The centre player attempts to disrupt and capture as many as possible.
The game continues with more and more 'hoppers' becoming centre players and eventually a solitary winning crosser is left.

web: hopping increases bone density research
strange games no:167

World Conker Championships: Conker Facts & Terminology

With the 2007 World Conker Championships being held on the Green at Ashton, Northamptonshire on 14th October it seems appropriate that Strange Games makes a post. Everyone is familiar with the game itself so this post concentrates on some of the more unusual rules, terminology and facts that are associated with the king of seed sports.

~Conkers is also known as ‘Cheggies’, ‘Hongkongs’, ‘Cobs’ and best of all ‘Obbley-onkers
~Flat conkers are known as ‘cheesers’ or ‘cheese cutters’
~Old conkers are known as ‘seasoners’, ‘yearsies’ or ‘second yearsers

~First to call out ‘strings’, ‘clinks’, ‘tangles’ or ‘snags’ when you get tangled strings gets another go.

~Hardening methods: bake for an hour, leave in dark drawer for a year, soak in soda solution or vinegar but best of all : pass the conker through the digestive system of a pig!

Having first strike is an advantage and can be gained with the use of the following rhymes,
Bagsie first cracks’,
‘Idly idly ack – my first smack’,
Hobily hobily honker my first conker’,
'Obbly oh, my first go’.

If a conker is knocked out of opponents hands, shout ‘stamps’ and jump on it! But if they shout ‘no stamps’ first you can’t.

In the 1970's a re-usable toy conker was produced made from plastic. It never caught on, presumably because of the above 'stampsies' rule plus it is a stupid idea to begin with.

In 1952 Huw Wheldon, for some reason, suggested a televised conker competition, The Conker King. Tens of thousands of children applied to enter. The finale pitted a 460-er a 1136-er, a 2385-er and a 3367-er together. The winner became a 7351-er!

strange games no:166

Spit Racing / Spitfires ~a very strange racing game

It is not our job at Strange Games to comment upon and judge games, rather we are a conduit for unusual activities. And if you are looking for an extremely unusual game that combines athleticism, stupidity with possible hygiene issues then you need look no further than Spit Racing.
Suggested by reader Duncan Flann, who remembers playing it as a youth in the 1970s, Spit Racing (or Spitfires) appears to have died a death with that decade.

The simple, and disgusting, idea is that players race against each other by spitting saliva as far forward as possible then rush to the point it hits the ground. Then they must spit again. And so on until they reach the finishing line first and are declared the winner. Obviously a combination of solid running and spitting ability is required to be good at the game. Duncan writes: "I remember that the fastest time achieved for the 100m was about 90 seconds. Although there was quite a strong following wind that day."

strange games no:165

Street Wars~ the king of urban games

If you have ever held a water pistol and fantasised about being a Jackal-like assassin, slipping through crowds un-noticed before clinically dispatching your victim, then Street Wars is the game for you.
Street Wars is the brand name for an urban hunting game that is staged in various large cities around the world at different times. The game is designed to last 3 weeks and is for 100-150 players. Once players have signed up they are given an envelope containing their victims details (name, work and home address, photo) and they have to wipe him out as quickly as possible. Obviously, every player as well as being a hitman is a target himself.
Players can hunt down and eliminate their victim anyway they like as long as it involves the use of a water based weapon: water pistols, water bombs, even a glass of water. If you wet him, you kill him. And on his death the victim must give the killer his own envelope, the person inside being the new target for the victorious player. If, however, the envelope contains your own details then you are a winner of the game.
The excitement of minutely planning a hit is amplified by the fact that as you work out how to get into someone's place of work whilst carrying a super-soaker someone else at that very moment may have you in their sights. And for up to three weeks every time you are in a lift and the doors open you will feel the fear.
Street Wars events have been staged in New York, Vancouver, London and many other major cities.
streetwars video (poland)
strange games no:164
hitman online: amazing banned book, technical manual for independant contractors

Urban Pacman

Urban Pacman is another great recommendation for the bored city dweller from Strange Games reader Tommy Teal. Mr Teal writes:

Many computer games are representations of the real world. NYU’s Interactive Telecommunications graduate program however decided to see what happens when you convert a computer world into a real life one and so Pac Manhattan was born.

Utilising a six by four block of Manhattan for the course, one player is dressed as the pacman and four others are dressed as the ghosts Pinky, Blinky, Inky and Clyde from the classic 80's arcade game. Five other controlling players are needed. These ‘generals’ sit together in room and control one player each using a mobile phone. They can't actually see the players that they are controlling but whenever a pacman or a ghost gets to a street intersection they must then report their position and the ghosts are told the pacman’s state but NOT his position.
As in the computer game the pacman's state can change by eating one of the corner power-ups. These are imaginary, but fixed in position before the game starts by the generals, and provide the pacman with invincibility for two minutes and he can then be directed to chase ghosts. If he catches one then that player has to return to the game's starting position before being able to chase again. Point are gained for the total distance the pacman achieves before being caught.

pacmanhatten website
strange games no:163

Snowball Fighting / Yukigassen

Unsurprisingly the simple pleasure of throwing a snowball at someone has been turned into a game with standardized rules and field definitions. Snowball Fighting, or Yukigassen as it is called, originated in Japan in 1988. Since then it has snowballed, so to speak, and has been taken up by the Nordic countries, especially Finland where an annual two day Yukigassen festival is held in Kemijarvi.
Snowball fighting is played by two teams of seven players on a ten by forty meter pitch which has a series of snow walls for hiding behind. Play consists of three sets of 3 minutes each and during each set the team has a supply of 90 snowballs only. The snowballs are created before each game using a snowball making machine ensuring uniformity of size and density and stopping the childhood technique of adding a little ice to the finished ball.
Each team's home area contains a flag and they must defend this whilst trying to capture their opponent’s and avoid being hit by a ball. If a player is hit he is out for the whole of the set. A set is won by either capturing the flag or by having more players left on the pitch at the end of 3 minutes. If there is a tie then the team that used the fewest snowballs wins that set. Surely there should be a push to get Yukigassen into the next Winter Olympics, at the very least as a demonstration sport.

yukigassen on yuki-tube
strange games no:162

Tommy Teal's Human Curling

Recent Strange Game no:158 Inuit Airplane Game prompted reader Tommy Teal to write:

"A great extension to the Inuit Airplane Game would be for teams to play it on ice. The aim being to throw one player, in full airplane position, stomach-down onto the ice with enough speed so that they reach a target. Just like in real curling other team members could rush in front of the 'stone' frantically brushing at the ice. The team that gets their 'stone' nearest to a target wins."

After a little research it appears that the game already exists, albeit not in such an extreme form as Tommy describes. Human Curling is usually played by teams diving onto large rubber innertubes that are attached to a base board. Nearest the target wins.

video of human curling
brilliant (spoof) video of yogic curling!
strange games no:161

Split the Kipper - strange games with knives #1

Split the Kipper, incredibly, was a popular game played by children in the 1970’s.
All that is required to play is soft ground, stout shoes, a knife and large amounts of stupidity. That’s right, a game for children involving knives.
Players stand facing each other a distance of 1 or 2 meters apart with their legs together. The leading player, the one with the knife, then aims and throws his weapon so that it lands outside his opponents feet. That is to the right of his right foot or left of his left foot. The knife must stick into the ground blade first and must be within 30cm of said foot. If it is further away or if it doesn't stick in the ground at all then it is a ‘no-throw’ and doesn’t count. If it is within 30cm then that player has to move his nearest foot to where the knife landed. He now pulls the knife out of the ground and it is his turn to throw back in the same way.
The game continues with each player taking turns to throw whilst all the time trying to remain standing, their legs getting further and further apart. If a player falls over or gives up, he loses.

When one player feels he can’t take it any longer he may decide to ‘split the kipper’. Here he aims the knife between his opponents feet and if he throws it there successfully may now close his own legs to the starting position. Obviously, the number of times you are allowed to ‘split the kipper’ should be decided before starting otherwise games can continue a long time.

strange games no:160

Dwile Flonking / Dwyle Flunking

Resurrected in the late 1960’s Dwile Flonking (or Dwyle Flunking) is an outdoor pub game of dubious origin but startling originality. Centred around the villages of Bungay and Beccles in Suffolk this is a bizarre game made even more unusual by its incredible array of yokel terminology.
The game requires two teams formed of twelve players each. One team forms a circle (called the Girter). A member of the opposing team takes his turn to stand in the middle of the Girter and be the Flonker. The Flonker carries a 2-3 foot long stick (or Driveller) on the end of which is a beer sodden sponge (or dwile). As the Girter members dance around him the Flonker must flonk his dwile using his Driveller to try and hit a member of the Girter. He has two attempts and scores as follows:

Hit on the head (a Wanton) 3 points
Hit on the body (a Marther) 2 points
Hit on the leg (a Ripple) 1 point

Miss totally (a Swadger) 0 points, plus the poor Flonker must now, as a forfeit, quickly drink a pint of ale. A process which for some reason has no rustic alternative name in the yokel-lexicon.

Each member of the team has a go at being the Flonker then the two teams change places. The highest combined team score wins although often games finish with no-one knowing or even caring about the score.
Like many village games, Dwile Flunking's origins are cloudy to say the least but a game very similar in appearance appears in the 16th century painting “Children’s Games” by Breughel.

strange games no:159

Inuit Airplane Game

The last post about Human Battering Ram brings to mind the traditional Inuit game of Airplanes.

A game for teams of four that appears at first glance to be easy but requires phenomenal upper body strength. One member lies on the floor, feet together and arms outstretched - the 'airplane'. The other three team members now lift the 'airplane' up - one person holds the ankles with one each holding the players wrist/forearm. The airplane must keep his body totally rigid - sagging is not allowed - as long as possible whilst his team 'fly' him around the room. The team that flies their plane the furthest wins.
For the ambitious games player you could always try getting a Human Airplane formation team together - a sort of Inuit Red Arrows!

video: wheelbarrow racing the nearest Western equivalent game
strange games no:158

Human Battering Ram

Yesterday's post on Piggy Back Fighting led to a missive from Resh Dorka (Strange Games' expert on playground stupidity) detailing a pleasingly violent variation he played as a child.
Human Battering Ram is best played with a large number of players. Everyone gets into groups of three people and then every group bar one forms a Piggy Back Horse as detailed in the previous post (two players form the horse, one rides them). The sole remaining team of three now forms a human battering ram: basically two players hoist the third onto their shoulders so that he is horizontal to the ground with his feet facing forwards - some players prefer to hold the 'ram' under their arms. Play commences with the battering ram rushing at horses and riders, their aim being to knock a rider off his mount. That team will then be out of the game. Play continues until a victorious horse and rider remains.
strange games no:157

More Piggy Back Fighting

The last post on Kibasen prompted the following mail from Herbert Rowsell (Strange Games Expert on Playground Games):

"Monty, I remember a piggy back game very similar to Kibasen being played on the school playing fields. It was a more complicated version of piggy back fighting in the sense that it was really horse back fighting. A couple of boys would form a horse by one bending down behind the other and placing his arms around the standing boy's waist - a little like the position needed to be a pantomime horse. A third boy, the rider, would now climb upon his back. Other groups of three boys would form their horse and riders and then battles would commence. Horses would charge into each other and the riders would attempt to pull others off their mounts - thus securing victory. A relatively harmless game as long as it was played on grass although I do remember it being banned when an irresponsible boy brought in some pool cues to use as lances and tried to have a jousting competition."

the attached picture is a Picasso sketch showing how to make a horse
strange games no:156

Kibasen / Cavalry Battle

The traditional schoolyard game of piggyback fighting, with its associated back, arm and head injuries, is probably near the top of the league of banned games in Britain's schools (just behind British Bulldog and Red Rover) The Japanese version Kibasen (Cavalry Battle) however is so popular in Japan that it even forms part of school sports day.
Kibasen is for teams of four players. Three people stand in a triangular formation, facing the same way, and hold hands. This enables the fourth member to perch on the back of the front player with his feet supported by the others hands (see picture). All riders wear a hat or headband. Now battle commences. The aim is for each group to charge towards the other and for the rider to grab and remove an opponent rider's hat thus eliminating that team from the game. Falls and injuries are commonplace.

Games can be simply between two teams of four, or as often happens the whole school forms two armies and a full scale Kibasen battle is held.
strange games no:155

Strange Games for the Bedbound: A Toy Lift

Strange Games receives many e-mails like the following: "Montegue, my child has (fill in contagious disease of your choice) and has to remain resting in bed for two weeks. Are there any unusual activities that will entertain him during this time? regards, Roland Puleston Jones."

Obviously you want to avoid new-fangled entertainments such as television, portable games machines and MP3 players (in my day you were lucky to get a copy of the Dandy and a bottle of Lucozade) so I suggest you make a Toy Lift.

Here are the original instructions for a Toy Lift from the book Something To Do' (1966)
You need a very long piece of strong string, some cotton and three curtain rings. Put the long piece of string through the bar of the bed behind your head and secure loosely. Thread the other end of the string around the rail at the end of the bed and slip the three curtain rings onto it. Holding on to the end, untie the string at the head of the bed and tie both ends together, making a belt of string that can be pulled around. Tie a small aeroplane, or a little doll, or anything which might enjoy riding in space on to the middle ring with cotton. Then lie back and send your traveller off on his journey. Marvellous!

The original illustration from the book shows how much fun can be had.
strange games no:154

Strange Swing Ball Variations

My last post about Office Face Ball, a game that uses the string and ball part of a swingball, has led to Strange Games being deluged by an e-mail (thank you Maurice Tweddle) regarding other odd variations on Swingball.

Blind Swing Ball: Like all blindfolded versions of normal sports and games (blindfold driving, blindfolded football) blindfolded swingball is inspired, stupid and often painful. Simply position yourself at opposing sides of the swingball, put on your blindfolds and try and hit the ball. All normal swingball rules apply.

Space Hopper Swing Ball: Like Blind Swingball this is a game that is entirely described by its title. Both players must bounce on a space hopper, holding on with one hand whilst they try to hit the tennis ball with the other. Inspired.

video of space hopper swing ball in action
strange games no: 152 & 153

Office Face Ball #2

Randy Linebacker (Strange Games American Correspondent) writes:
Your recent post on the brilliant office game of Face Ball (
strange game no 147) reminded me of a game I've played myself in offices when the boredom becomes too much. We used to call it Face Ball but really it is more of a cross between Face Ball and Wallhookey/Ring the Bull (strange game no:107).

Simply get a tennis ball and attach some string to it, or even better get one from a Swingball set and fix it to the office ceiling. The height should be adjusted so that when the string is at about 60 degrees to the vertical the ball will be at face height of the competitors. Two players now stand either side the dangling ball and set it off in a circular motion. They then take it in turns to flap at the ball with their hand, when the ball is closest to them, so that if they make contact it swings and strikes their opponent in the face. Simple. The most scores out of ten attempts wins, or the first player to retire injured loses.

video of Office Face Ball from You Tube
strange games no:151

Sitting Ducks

There is nothing like the expectation of pain to make a game more interesting.
Sitting Ducks is the playground equivalent of the fairground game where you must shoot moving ducks to win a prize.

The ‘ducks’ are created by players finding a narrow playground wall and walking back and forth along it. The shooter stands 15 meters or so away from the wall with his supply of footballs. He has a limited number of shots of the footballs to knock as many ‘ducks’ off the wall as possible. It adds a frisson of excitement to the game if the drop from the wall for the ducks is of a reasonable height.

strange games no:150

Are You There Moriarty?

Strange Games is extremely grateful to Sky Croeser for highlighting this superb activity.

Are You There Moriarty? a game involving the magic ingredients of blindfolds, violence and chance is like a supine version of the game
Big Brother (strange games no:96). For two players, each is blindfolded and lies on the ground, flat on their backs but with their heads facing each other. Each wields a plastic sword (or rolled up newspaper for the less brave). One player now calls out, "Are you there Moriarty?" to which the other must respond, "Yes" whereupon the first can now strike out by flinging her sword arm over her head in an attempt to strike the other. The other, once having said "Yes" can turn over to their left or right side, or remain stationary in an attempt to avoid the blow. If the first player makes a successful strike then she gets to go again, otherwise the roles are reversed.

strange games no:149
the accompanying photograph shows members of the Western Australia Strange Games Association playing Are You There Moriarty? at their Summer Shindig

web: video of Sideways version of the game

Face Ball and Ball Ball

Every so often the human brain surpasses itself with its ingenuity and invents a game so sublime that Olympic status can surely only be seconds away. Face Ball is one such game.
Created by the febrile minds of the staff at the game Face Ball is like a stationary version of dodgeball.
For two players, each sits on an office chair ten feet from his opponent. Players then take it in turns to throw a beach-ball type ball at their opponents face. If they manage a successful strike they retrieve the ball and throw again. If they miss it is their opponents turn. Target players may not move to avoid the ball but must remain still whilst their opponent throws. Points accumulate with each strike over a set number of rounds.

For rules, purchases of regulation Face Balls and videos of game play visit:
If you find strange office ball games like Face Ball too tame and long for more hardcore action then the game you need is Ball Ball. Again for two players but this time using one of those gigantic plastic inflatable balls used by rhythmic gymnasts. Here one player clutches the ball to his chest, the other has none. Both players then run towards each other at the greatest speed they dare and see what results. The player that falls over or falls over most spectacularly is the loser. See video of Ball Ball here.
strange games 147 &148
web: face ball on vimeo

High Jimmy Knacker

A playground game of uncertain origin but it was played in playgrounds in the 1960s and 70’s and goes under a variety of names but it is maybe best known as High Jimmy Knacker.
Two teams of players are selected, sizes of 5 to 10 work well. One team is selected to be the ‘horse’. To do this the first player stands upright with his back to a tree. The second team member faces him then bends so that the top of his head is against the leaders stomach and his arms go around his waist. Successive team members then join the line by adopting a similar position: head between the player in front’s thighs, arms around his legs. Like this the human horse is created.
It is now time for the action. One by one the opposing team must run and leapfrog over the tail of the horse trying to land as far up towards the head as possible. Once they land on the backs (with a leg either side, not on knees) they must remain in that position. The aim of the jumping team is to leapfrog all its members onto the horse and then hope the horse will collapse or break at some point. If that occurs then the jumping team has won and it is their turn to jump again. If they fail to get all team members onto the horse then they lose and form the horse themselves next time. If they all get on but the horse remains standing for a set time (20 seconds or so) then they again lose and must form the next horse.
An excellent game that is both stupid and occasionally dangerous but one that has been a source of constant employment for a generation of Osteopaths.

strange games no:146

Strange Jumping: Tiliraginik Qiriqtagtut and Underpants Jumping

Inuit culture has produced many fantastic games (see Seal Racing and Elbow Racing ) but with Tiliraginik Qiriqtagtut, or the slightly easier to say 'Jump Through Stick', they have created one of the great strange games that requires athleticism, jumping ability and the ownership of a good stick.
To play simply get a solid stick (a broom handle works well) and hold it in both hands in front of your body. Hands should be shoulder width apart. Now the objective is to jump both feet off the ground at once and through the stick without releasing your grip and land without toppling over. You should now be in a slightly crouched position with the stick behind your knees. Now, simply, jump both feet backwards over the stick to return to your starting position. Repeat until exhausted.

There is a modern day equivalent of Jump Through Stick, namely Underpants Jumping (or the Sport of Philanderers as it is sometimes known). Keep your clothes on and use a spare pair of underpants - old ones where the elastic has gone may be the best, but avoid the use of the thong. The game is simply to hold the pants then jump both feet simultaneously into them and then pull them up to your waist, take them off and jump again. Players play against the clock to see who can do the most underpants jumps within a set time. See the video in the link below for some pantastic players.
strange games no:144 &145
note: the accompanying picture shoes the German Record Holder (Hans Skidmarx) in action

Onion Eating

Competitive eating is not really an area that Strange Games covers but we make an exception for Onion Eating, especially when it takes place at the annual Newant Onion Fayre.
The Onion Fayre at Newant, Gloucestershire is a modern revival of an event that has been staged possibly since the 13th century and is a joy for agitated Allium addicts the nation over. In fact, so onion obsessed are the organisers that it took concerted pressure in 2002 to allow leeks, chives and spring onions into the event. The fayre stages the usual horticultural competitions, onion sales and onion soup tasting but the highlight is the onion eating competition: contestants vie with each other to eat a raw peeled onion in the fastest time. The competition is open to all except presumably hypnotists and the French and this year is held on the 8th of September.

(The world record time for eating a whole onion is 48 seconds and in a remarkable 3 bites - held by Samuel Grazette)

strange games no:143

Human Slug Racing

Recent news reports about the record numbers of slugs in the country caused by the wet summer (BBC News report on slugs) reminded me of a brilliant game I saw being played at a camp site last year: Human Slug Racing.
Each competitor needs to bring their sleeping bag. They get into the bag, face down and with their arms down by their side. The race organiser now secures the bag tightly around their shoulders – if the bag doesn't have a draw-string at the top then use string or tape to bind it firmly. Now the race begins; players wriggle, writhe and slither to cover the course in the fastest time. To make the game more 'hardcore' simply add slugs' greatest fear 'salt' in the form of some rocks or large stones randomly strewn over the course. Sure to sort out the men from the boys.

strange games no: 142
web: 'real' flesh eating slug attack
web: slug racing video (slightly lame attempt)

Human Boules

My recent posts on ideal, but strange, beach games led to an e-mail from Sky Croeser - the co-creator of Human Boules. Similar in form to Human Croquet this is the perfect game to play on the beach, especially if you want to attract startled looks from other beach dwellers.
Split everyone bar one player into two teams. Each team is formed of one 'thrower' with the rest forming the boules - these players are all blindfolded. The solitary player forms the 'jack' and stands himself a good distance away down the beach.
Now to the bowling. Each thrower takes it in turn to spin one of his blindfolded 'boules' around a set number of times, then holding him by the shoulders faces him in the required direction and tells him the number of steps to take. The 'boule' must obey as best he can. Obviously the thrower must be skilled in judging the length of individual players' steps and also the dizzy curve they will have acquired from spinning around. Points are gained for the player who gets his boules nearest to the 'jack'.

strange games no:141

Strange Games for Firemen - Fastest Up the Ladder

When you think about what sort of games firemen get up to in their spare time then the strangest you probably get is shooting pool or a quickest slide down the pole competition.
In Hungary they stage a fantastic speed ladder climbing event. As the video clearly shows these are the firemen you want to come when you are stuck on the top floor of some burning flats. Setting off running carrying a single lightweight ladder they cover 30 yards and then use it to climb a mocked-up 3 storey building in an incredible 18 seconds. They climb a floor at a time then pull up the ladder they just climbed up to use for the next level at jaw-dropping speeds.

Other unusual games played by firemen seem thin on the ground but if you particularly want to see them playing conventional games then head to the World Firefighters' Game which in 2008 are held in Liverpool. A vast array of conventional games and sports will be played by firemen from around the world. The only hint of unconventional play being the Firehouse Cook Off: contestants have to design and cook a three course meal for ten people within a budget of £50, presumably without burning any food and setting off the kitchen smoke detectors.

strange games no:140

Report on the First Welsh Open Stone Skimming Championships

Founder of the Welsh Open Stone Skimming Championships, Mark Davies, writes this report on the inaugural event.

We had a fabulous day at the Wales Open Stone Skimming Championships. We had 193 entries and the event raised over £500 – the majority of which will go to the St. John’s ambulance. It seemed like everyone enjoyed a quirky and different kind of day.
The winner, Mike Camplin, threw a maximum 75m and hit the bridge. No one else came near that distance and we wonder if there’s a potential world record holder here next year. The Cook family from Cheltenham can be singled out as a particularly talented family in that Mr Cook came 3rd in the Seniors, Jack Cook and William Cook came first and second in the Senior boys and George Cook came third in the under 10 boys.
The Strange Games Shield for most number of skips for the under 10's went to George Hancock - a local lad who also threw 32m.

There will be a SkimWales 2008.

Mark Davies
Welsh Stone Skimming 2007

Spectacular Deaths

My recent post about strange games to play in the sand dunes led to friend and correspondent Maurice Tweddle to write in and remind me of a game that we used to play together as callow youths: Spectacular Deaths. Although it can be played anywhere with soft ground the perfect environment is the sand dune.
The premise of the game is simple, one must die in response to the other player's imaginary gunfire, and the death must be as spectacular as possible. This leads to much clutching of chests, cartwheeling through the air, falling backwards off the tops of dunes, jerking your body in response to machine gun fire and perfecting the head snap whiplash response to the superbly accurate hit man hiding behind the pampas grass. And once one has mastered all these spectacular deaths there is the ultimate dune death of the hand-grenade lobbed into the sand bunker: a leap through the air with forward somersault to land triumphant (and dead) on your back.

strange games

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Strange Games on the Beach

At this time of the year Strange Games receives many e-mails like the following: "Montegue, my family are all ready for a beach holiday, we have got wind-shields so that we don't have to gaze upon our beach neighbours, sunscreen in case the sun comes out and garishly coloured Crocs for everyone's feet...but what strange beach games can we play?"
The answer I give is that if you want to avoid the mundanity of beach cricket/volleyball/frisbee you should attempt Headstand Human Skittles or at the very least a bit of Sand Wrestling but if you really want to have fun head for the dunes.

Sand Dune Jumping
The perfect beach sport requiring only bravery, a steep hill of sand and a grassy top to throw yourself off. Sand Dune Jumping is as adventurous as you want to make it. Simply run and abandon yourself to gravity and a soft landing. The person who achieves the furthest distance with the most style wins.
web: sand dune jumping video from You Tube
web: naked sand dune jumping (not for the squeemish)

Sand Dune Skiing
If you
have access to an old pair of skis or even better a snowboard then there is no better way to tackle a steep hill of sand than by skiing down it. If a straight run down is fairly easily achieved then attempt sand slalom and even jumps.
The usual complaint that the greater friction of sand makes skiing too slow can be overcome by liberally spraying your board or skis with WD40.
web: serious sand skiing in Qatari
and Bruneau Sand Dunes, Idaho

strange games no: 137&138

German Splash Diving/ Bombing/ Arschbombe

My previous post advocating Belly Button Battles as a game suitable for all portly, paunchy, porcine people prompted Heinrich Guntergarten (Strange Games' German Correspondent) to recommend another game: German Splash Diving.
At the end of July the second World Splash Diving World Cup was held in Hamburg ('fat city'). This involves competitors jumping into a swimming pool from heights of 10 meters (diving board) and 30 meters (from a crane). Entrants are scored with the highest points being awarded to the biggest splashes as well as supplementary points for style (somersaults, twists etc.) and not letting the pain show. The accompanying picture shows the classic 'bomb' position but the event is freestyle with any entry position allowed as long as the splash is large. As the official website so eloquently puts it:'Splashdiving is to be seen as a community for girls, boys and especially freaks that have lots of fun at diving'

Note: the event used to be called arschbombe (literally arse bombing) but has been changed to the much politer splash diving
web: official arse bombing website
web: bbc news report on German Bombing
web: reuters report on splash diving

strange games no:136

Belly Button Bounce-off/ Stomach Jousting

As the majority of the nation becomes ever more obese and the powers that be cajole them into exercise there is an increasing demand for suitable games for fat people. Belly Button Bounce-off, as witnessed at The Small Festival, could just be the solution.

Two players stand facing each other, as close as possible, feet together and stomachs touching. On an agreed signal both players start to push the other using their stomachs only -a solid stomach along with a Shakira-like thrust of the hips make for a winning combination . The first player to take a step backwards is the loser.

strange games no: 135

Chant Intro for Rock Paper Scissors

Grace Jefford, Strange Games' Brighton Correspondent, has described this brilliant chanted intro to Rock Paper Scissors that is currently sweeping the country.
Opponents face each other, hands together and fingertips touching. Both chant,"Tic-Tac-Toe" and on each beat brush the backs of their hands together. Then they chant, "Give me high" - clap their right hands up high, "Give me low" - clap their hands down low. Then each player interlocks their fingers and flexes their hands to the rhythm of the chant, "Give-me-three-in a-row". Now each makes a fist of their right hand and tap it into their left, quickly, to the beat of "Polly-got-shot-by a-U-F-O". This part is performed at double the speed of the previous parts and after the 'O' of UFO each player shows either Rock, Paper or Scissors.
If there is a tie then "Polly got shot..." is repeated and players draw again.

Once a winner has been found a punishment is now given to the loser. The losing player turns around whilst the winner pokes them in the back with the finger of their choice. The loser has one guess at which finger poked them, and if they guess correctly the game ends there. If they guess incorrectly then the winner extracts their punishment: with a fist they bash the loser on the inner arm in time to the chant of "I-win-you-lose-I-give-you-a-big-fat-bruise"

Marvellous. Thank you once again to Grace Jefford for describing this variation on the game.

strange games no:134

Welsh Stone Skimming

Stone Skimming/Skipping has been covered before on Strange Games but Welsh correspondent Mark Davies (or Davies the Stone as he is known locally) has brought to my attention the inaugural Welsh Stone Skimming Championships.

These will be held on 12th August in Castle Pond, Pembroke. Welsh Stone Skimming (carega yn crychneidio?) follows closely the rules of the World Championships that are held in Easdale Island, Scotland: stones, no more than 3 inches in diameter, are skimmed for greatest distance but each must make at least three bounces in the water. Entrants can have up to five skims of the stones which are supplied by the organisers.

As Britain sinks under flood waters maybe the skipping of stones (alongside Swamp Soccer) will become the country's national sport replacing the dullest of games, football.

The accompanying diagram reveals the perfect positioning of stone and water for best results. Just make sure that the base of the stone is vertically z below the water surface, with length S(cm) submerged at an angle to the horizontal of Theta(radians). Throw the stone with velocity V(m/s) at an angle beta into the water. Anyone wanting the optimum numbers for these parameters, email me at

stone skipping world record video

Seal Racing #2

After my previous post on Seal Racing I received an e-mail from Sonia Gund, a Strange Games reader who also does research into Inuit culture, and she kindly pointed out that Seal Racing as she has seen it played on Baffin Island is slightly different. In fact it's a much harder game. She also generously provided a photograph she has taken.

Sonia Gund: The form of seal racing I've seen on Baffin Island differs somewhat from your description. Contestants hoist their entire bodies up into the air like planks (no curving cobra position) that are supported in front by their fists and in back by their toes. They then propel themselves forward in "hops" using (as far as I can tell) just their forearms (toes keep them balanced). They do this as long as their knuckles hold out (not long, in most cases!).

Seal Racing

The greatest childhood chants and games are often based upon real life events and environments. Ring-a-Ring-a-Roses' genesis in the years of the European Plague is well known; less known about is the English chair shortage of 1673 that gave us Musical Chairs.
But, one of the the best strange games inspired by it's environment is the Inuit game of Seal Racing. All players lie stomach down on the floor, then they raise their upper bodies off the ground by placing their hands under their chest and extending their arms. They should now resemble a seal (or be in the Cobra position if you are familiar with yoga). Now, maintaining this position and using only their arms to propel themselves, players race each other to the finishing line. It's not till you've tried it that you realise how much upper body strength you need to be successful at Seal Racing.
Probably best played indoors on a smooth floor, or on ice if you want authenticity, but also good on the beach, Seal Racing deserves to be played much more widely outside of the Arctic Circle.

strange games no:133
The attached photo shows a young Herbert Rowsell, concerned about trailing, in a game at Formby Sand Dunes