Category Archives: Classic Parlor games

Classic charades parlor game


The game of charades was a popular Victorian parlor game and is one of the many ‘private theater’ types of activities that enabled people to ‘make their own amusement’. This style of game, where the guests entertain each other by performing skits, songs, magic tricks etc. pre-dates radio (let alone TV). In order to ‘make their own amusement’ the Victorians would have some skills in mime, recitation and dancing, Also the party guests would typically all ‘join in’ as the success of these type of parties is based on active participation.

The classic charades parlor game is one of the simplest forms of a ‘mime’ style game. It is an ideal game to be played today, by kids of all ages, as it will encourage all to participate in a highly entertaining and innovative form of communication using just gestures.

The basic game of Charades is played as follows.

The game is essentially a guessing game, in that members of the party have to guess a word or phrase that is being ‘acted out’ by another party guest. The party guest acting out the word or phrase cannot speak or utter a sound, only using gestures to convey the meaning of the word; also they cannot point to objects in the room.

The party is divided into two teams, it doesn’t matter about the size of these teams unless you are hosting a ball or very large party, as this game works well with teams up to 12 in number.

One team begins by secretly meeting and coming up with a phrase or word that will be the subject to be guessed. It is important, especially for younger guests, to limit the type of words or phrases that can be used. The simplest version would be to only select words from animal names (dog, cat, rabbit etc.) but book, movies, song titles will also make good categories from which to choose a word or phrase.

Having selected a suitable word or phrase the first team writes this on a small piece of paper. A member of the opposite team then joins the first team and he (or she) is handed the paper. The person with the paper then has to ‘act out’ the word or phrase to his own team so that they can correctly guess the word or phrase.

The person acting out cannot speak or point to objects in the room but they can make certain ‘agreed’ gestures to assist the guessing team. The team guessing is able to shout out questions, such as ‘Is it an item found in the bathroom?’ and the actor can nod his head. The team guessing can shout out any question at any time but it is better to have the word conveyed by ‘acting out’ and then leading the direction of the questions with other gestures. If you have a younger guest that gets stuck for ideas you might help them out with some suggestions of suitable gestures they can make.

There is a time limit placed on how long the guessing team has to guess the word, if the team guesses the word within the time allowed they get a ‘point’ otherwise the opposite team gets the point.

At the end of this ‘round’ the team that was trying to guess becomes the team that comes up with a word and the other team selects a player to go and get the word then act it out for them.

The idea is that the word is acted out to your fellow team members (with a word selected from the opposing team) and each takes turns in acting out. 

The game usually concludes when everyone in the party has had a chance to play the ‘acting out’ role. 

If you are hosting a young kids party you should consider having all the party guests guessing (that is everyone is on the same team) and taking one guest out, in turn, and giving them a word to act out to the group. The advantage of this is that you can have prepared lists of suitable words and you can assist the performers as required.  Also, with this variation, all of the party guests are actively ‘guessing’ whereas in the previous version one team is always looking on.

Some twists on the Victorian parlor game of Shadows


Shadow images, such as the ones in the above picture, were a popular form of amusement in Victorian times. The set up is simple; all you need is a sheet, a back-light and the images are displayed on the sheet when the room is darkened and an object (or person’s hand) is placed between the back-light and the sheet.

A Victorian parlor game called ‘shadows’ can also be played using the above set up. The shadows parlor game is played by having some of your party guests on one side of the sheet and having the other guests ‘guess’ whose silhouette (shadow) is being displayed.  The teams are split; depending on the size of the party but teams of about 6 behind the sheet with the rest of the party ‘guessing’ is a good number. Each guest (that is behind the sheet casting a shadow) walks across the sheet in turn. The other guests then guess who has just walked across the sheet. To make the game more interesting (amusing) have each guest dress up with a hat or large costume that hides their basic shape. The guests, casting the shadows, can also do dance moves or other movements so as to put on a small ‘performance’ for the other guests.

This parlor shadows game is ideal for themed parties, for example, pirates, witches, wizards, princesses etc. If a particular theme is to be incorporated into the shadows game then the guests casting shadows simply put on the appropriate costumes. For Halloween a broomstick can also be used to create a “flying” witch (or wizard) silhouette. For pirates a sword or hook can be incorporated, and these objects only need to be made of cardboard so as to cast a “menacing” shadow without being harmful to the performers.

A shadow “charades” game is also an entertaining variation of the basic game. The person casting the shadow also ‘acts out’ an item or action to be guessed, for example “hanging out clothes on a washing line”, or more likely these days, “texting a friend”.  For the charades variation, more than one person could act out the skit (mime) for the others to guess. This variation is similar to “Shadows Theater” under which whole short plays or stories (for example Little Red Riding Hood) could be acted out and incorporated into a themed party if desired.

Whether you plan to incorporate a simple ‘guess who” shadows game, or the more elaborate charades and theater variations, setting up a simple sheet with a back-light in a dark room will surely entertain and delight children of today as it did over 100 years ago in Victorian times.

Funny (Comical) conversations party game


This game, funny conversations, was a poplar Victorian parlor game and can be played and enjoyed today.

The idea of the game is very simple and that is generic questions are asked at random and generic answers are given as the reply to the question. The questions and answers are written on cards so that the questions may be:-

Do you believe all that men tell you?

Have you cut your wisdom teeth yet?

Do you believe in kissing on the ice?

As you can tell the above answers could be simply answered yes or no. The answer, also drawn at random, could be something like:-

You must excuse me from answering you now, although I am aware that “procrastination is the thief of time”.

I frankly answer “yes”

I cannot tell you although it is hard to feel one’s self a fool.

As you can tell from these type of questions and answers the idea of the name is that the various combinations of the questions and answers will prove amusing for your party guests.

These type of conversation cards can be made and used in many party games, as I have used them in a game of formal introductions that I devised for my Victorian Tea Party experience.

If you get the chance to purchase an old copy of this type of game and they can still be found on EBay (an earlier version of this game that dates to the 1900′s is called Komical Konversations) then the questions themselves tell us a lot about those times.

One question I have seen, that pre-dates the right of women to vote, is:-

Do you believe in Woman’s suffrage?

I often wonder if this type of question is put in for strictly amusement or maybe to stimulate a real conversation.

Whether or not you purchase an old copy of this type of game, or create one for yourself, the funny or comical conversations game will prove to be an amusing party activity for a large or small number of guests.


Victorian parlor game of Slander

Yes the Victorians enjoyed parlor games that provoked conversation (to say the least), although good etiquette and manners dictated that one should never embarrass or make any guest feel uncomfortable. All that said, this parlor game of Slander should entertain young ladies of today in the same way it entertained young ladies of the late 19th Century.

The game is extremely easy to play and involves one of the party guests going out of the room whilst the others write down ‘remarks’ about the absent person. These remarks are written separately on a piece of paper and placed in a hat, or similar bowl shaped object. When the absent guest returns a piece of paper is drawn and read out aloud. The person to whom the remark was anonymously made then has to guess which one of the other party guests made the remark. If the guess is incorrect then another remark is drawn and another guess is tried. If the guess is correct then the person who wrote the remark leaves the room and the game continues with remarks being made about the new absent guest. If the guest fails to guess who made the remarks after three attempts then she leaves the room for a second time and the game repeats itself with new remarks. After a second round of guessing if the guest cannot correctly identify who made the remarks then another person takes her place.

The type of remarks made should be in a good spirit but the more intimate knowledge the guests have each other the more precise the remarks can be. Examples of the Slanderous remarks taken for the original description of the game are, “this person is a gossip”, “this person slurps her tea” etc. Some modern examples of suitable remarks would be “this person fell asleep at the cinema”, “this person snores” etc, basically remarks that are not “too” personal but are made from actual observations.

It is clear that, as with a number of Victorian parlor games, there is an element of mischief that the young girls should address with the right party spirit. In fact most, if not all, Victorian parlor games relied on the willingness of all guests to become engaged and participate fully in the spirit of these games. The expression “making our own amusement” really meant something when it pre-dated Radio, TV and the Cinema.

This parlor game will make a great accompaniment to a vintage Victorian tea party, in particular for girls that know each other “really well”.