Parlor Games

Learn about the different types of table and parlor games you can play as a whole family.

Parlor Games

The very word “parlor” evokes images of lush country manors with tapestry-lined walls, silk-covered duvets, ladies and gentlemen lounging with a good book after supper with warm glowing embers flickering in the hearth. Well, this might not exactly be what the average American living room looks like today, but it's in these old-fashioned rooms that some parlor games originated.

It's in the Cards

A parlor game is a game that is meant to be played indoors.

Parlor games are games that are played at a table or in a comfortable room in your home. Some parlor games have their origins in taverns and pubs where friends and family gathered for an evening. Nowadays, parlor games find their niche in a family recreation room, on the kitchen table, or in the den or living room. No matter where you play the games, they are supposed to be played in your leisure time in the room of your choice. The name of the game in this instance is comfort.

It's in the Cards

Board games are any games of strategy—such as Chess, Checkers, Backgammon, or Monopoly—that you play by moving pieces around on a board.

Set the Table

Table games are meant to be played by two or more and consist of games like Chess, Checkers, Backgam­mon, Pick-Up Sticks, and Tic-Tac-Toe. They are slow, leisurely games that involve a certain amount of quiet concentration, strategizing, and patience. There are countless board games on the market to be purchased today, but there are also these timeless classics that have been played for centuries. Chess, Checkers, and Backgammon are perfect examples of parlor table games. They can get intense, but rarely get loud.

Winning Plays

Dice have been found all over the world. Did you know that dice marked with dots were found in Egyptian tombs, and ancient Greek and Roman literature contain many references to dice-playing?

On a Roll

Dice games have been part of human culture since ancient times. They may have originated in Asia and migrated across the globe. Now they can be found in nearly every culture on Earth. Dice are small cubes that are marked with dots on each side; these dots represent numbers from one to six. The small playing pieces are usually made of plastic in most modern games, but in the past have been made of bone, wood, stone, fruit pits, seeds, ivory, and clay.

Dice are thrown from a player's hand or dice cup and the total number showing face-up after the dice have settled determines the value of the throw. Dice are used either on their own in games of chance, such as Yahtzee, or as part of another game, like in various board games.

Ebony and Ivory

Dominoes is a game played by two or more people using small rectangular blocks made of plastic or wood. Older versions of the game contained blocks made of ivory and bone. It is a game that dates back to ancient China, but was not introduced to the western world until the eighteenth century. Historians think that the name of the game originates from the way the blocks looked in its early form: an ivory front backed by ebony, giving it the appearance of a hooded cloak called a “domino.”

Each domino is divided in two by a line or ridge. Above and below the line is a combination of spots. The dominoes are numbered in a specific sequence. There are many derivations of the game.

Three Strikes

Don't play Darts when the little ones are around—save it for the more grown-up crowd. Those heavy darts can be quite sharp and little hands love to get involved in adult fun.


The origin of Darts is a bit of a mystery, but we know that it existed in British folklore. The English apparently played Darts before defeating the French at the Battle of Agincourt in the fifteenth century, and the Pilgrims supposedly played the game as they traveled to America in 1620.

High Score

Skill is needed in order to play Darts successfully. For example, the way the dart is held and thrown and the concentration involved in hitting the target are important factors.

Despite its buried roots, Darts is hugely popular in modern times. It is a game that is played in almost every British pub and American bar. There are clubs, organizations, tournaments, and champion­ships held all over the world. It is so popular that the real enthusiasts consider it a sport to be reckoned with, and not just a game for fun-seekers.

The object of the game is to score as many points as possible by throwing a metal-tipped dart at a round board that is divided into sections representing points. There are many variations on the sport, but this basic premise is the key to most of the games.

Rack 'Em Up

It is believed that Billiards derives from the Croquet family, with its green table-lining representative of the village green. The game is several centuries old and was originally played on a table with six pockets, Croquet-type hoops, and an upright stick. The balls were pushed rather than struck. Over the years the rules have changed and varied drastically, but in 1885 the Billiards Association changed all that by setting standards in the rules of the game.

Common games in the Billiards family are Pool, Pyramid, and Snooker. The general object of the game and its variants is to hit a colored billiard ball into a pocket, clearing the table of all the balls before your opponent. Pool tables can be very expensive and are purchased in specialty shops and sporting goods stores.

Winning Plays

It is believed that the earliest table soccer games date back as far as the late 1800s. The first patented Foosball game was registered in 1901, but it wasn't until the latter half of this century that the game really gained widespread popularity.

Table Games

There are two different types of table games: There are table games that are played on a table, like cards and board games (but they could just as easily be played on the floor) and then there are table games that are the table. Table games like Foosball and Air Hockey are played on a specially designed table and became popular in the United States as coin-operated arcade games in the early 1970s. Foosball originated from the German table soccer game “Fussball” meaning, literally “football.”

In 1976, the first table soccer organization made up of different countries united to form the European Table Soccer Union, which holds an annual championship. The problem with such a union, however, is that each country has its own table size, ball types, and different playing figures. This makes it difficult to switch successfully from table to table. The United States is the only country that holds a tournament with a large cash prize given to the winner. This money tournament has brought many other countries to compete in the United States, thus regulating some of the varying rules and playing variants. Sure is a good example of how money is a motivator!

Air Hockey is another table game with a huge following in North America. Designed for two players, it is a game that requires a fast hand and a quick eye. Played with two Air Hockey paddles, the object is to keep the “puck,” or playing piece, on the board and eventually into the opponent's goal.

The playing surface is glossy and looks like a miniature hockey rink. The goal is usually a slot in the board on either end. Your hand, which holds the paddle that hits the “puck,” should slide backward and forward in an effort to protect the goal. The person who scores the most goals is the winner.

There are several other variations of table games. The games are taken rather seriously by their ardent players and tournaments are played worldwide on an annual basis.

Later on, we'll also take a look at other parlor games such as Ping-Pong, Uno, Rook, Skip-Bo, and many more!

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