Victorian Parlour Games

Victorian Parlour Games:

steampunk party invitation and cupcake

In the 19th century, American and British upper class people enjoyed playing various entertaining games in groups. Groups of guests were gathered in the Parlour, a room in the home designed for hosting and entertaining, as the living room is today. Some of these games, such as Charades and Fictionary, survive to this day to entertain partygoers. So before the hired entertainment arrives at your party, or after they leave, try lifting your glasses and spirits with some Victorian celebration techniques!


If you are unfamiliar with Charades, the basic concept is to portray a concept with physical gestures (through miming), rather then with speech. A player picks out a common phrase, or perhaps the title of a piece of literature or film, and mimes out each of the words for the rest of the group to guess. Often, these phrases are prepared in advance on strips or slips of paper, which the player pulls randomly from a hat after they are mixed. The guests are divided into two teams, and when a member from one of the teams guesses the phrase correctly, they move on to the next player to mime out the next phrase. A team wins by guessing more phrases than the other, and the game concludes once everybody in the Parlour has had a turn to mime.



There are a number of board games mass-produced today based on Fictionary, with pre-selected words, but at its basis this game can be performed in any Parlour which contains a dictionary. One person serves as a sort of dealer, picking a word from the dictionary that is obscure, so that nobody will assume the definition. The other players then write definitions for this word that they think are correct. The definitions everyone writes are mixed up and dealt out to the players to read aloud, and they pick the one they believe to be correct. Points are awarded by either:

a) Writing down the correct definition

b) Writing down a false definition that others guess is correct.

c) As the dealer, choosing a word with a definition nobody chooses to be correct.

Are you there, Moriarty?:Are you there, Moriarty? A parlour game.

A classic game for any Parlour, entertaining merely in its absurdity. Two players either lay down a about a yard or meter from each other, or can stand holding hands as in a handshake, and blindfolded. Their other hands contain a rolled-up newspaper, pillow, or other soft and harmless object. The first player calls out, “Are you there, Moriarty?” to which the second player replies with an affirmative. At this point the first player swings the newspaper at the second, trying to hit him, after which the players switch roles and repeat. Points are awarded based on how many times each player strikes the other, or as awarded by the group present in the Parlour. There is some strategy involved in the player being able to move to one side or another to avoid a strike, even though this Parlour Game exists mostly for the innocent slapstick humor.


To the right: 1893 depiction of Professor Moriarty, the nemesis of Sherlock Holmes.

For more Steampunk inspired party ideas, please check out our blog.