Parlour Games to play over Christmas that don’t require a board

December 18, 2020

This article was written for Annabel & Grace, which is now part of Rest Less.

parlour or parlor game is a group game played indoors. They were often played in a parlour. These games were extremely popular among the upper and middle classes in Great Britain and in the United States during the Victorian era.

Here are a few that I thought you might enjoy this Christmas and New Year.

This is the Parlour game played at Balmoral that was featured in The Crown TV series. I have no idea if the royal family do indeed play this but it could be fun to imaging them doing so.

Gather everyone who wants to play and get them to sit in a circle. Before you start, burn the end of your cork so that it turns black. Each game player then gets an Ibble-Dibble based name with a number – i.e. One Ibble-Dibble, Two Ibble-Dibble and so on…

The game starts with bare faces, and one person must reciting the specific tongue-twister to kick things off. 

For instance the rhyme for One Ibble Dibble would go something like this:

One Ibble Dibble with zero Ibble Dibbles calls five Dibble Ibble with zero Dibble Ibbles.”

Then player five has to recite the rhyme replacing the numbers with the order they were given it, for example, “Five Ibble Dibble with zero Dibble Ibbles calls two Ibble Dibble with zero Dibble Ibbles.”

Player two would then have a go and replacing the numbers with their order, for instance, “Two Ibble Dibble with zero Dibble Ibbles calls three Ibble Dibble with zero Dibble Ibbles.”

But any player who messes up – pauses, stutters, gets their Dibble and their Ibbles the wrong way around, or says the number of Dibble Ibbles someone has on their face wrong, not only do they have to take a drink, but they get a black dot on their face. (The burnt cork is a good way to apply the black spot.)

And the game continues… 


Whether they’re played in the form of board games or mobile apps, word games are incredibly popular. They were also a hit with Victorian audiences, though the options they had back then were severely limited. Instead of pulling up a game on their phone, players would pull out a dictionary. To play Fictionary, one person reads an obscure word from the dictionary while everyone else jots down their made-up definitions. After the person with the dictionary reads the fake definitions out loud along with the real one, players vote on whichever definition they think is true. Fake submissions earn points for each vote they receive and players earn points for guessing the right answer. If no one guesses correctly, whoever is holding the dictionary gets a point. 


The Minister’s Cat follows the formula of many classic word games: Players sit around in a circle and take turns describing the Minister’s cat with a different adjective. Each adjective must start with a different letter of the alphabet, starting with “A.” For example, the first player might say, “The Minister’s cat is an angry cat,” followed next by, “The Minister’s cat is a brilliant cat.” Players are eliminated if they repeat an adjective or fail to come up with a new one.


Nothing spices up a holiday party like a good murder mystery. To play this game, one participant acts as the “murderer,” while another plays the detective whose job it is to identify him or her. The murderer covertly winks at the other players in the circle, causing them to drop dead. Using his or her deductive reasoning skills the detective has three shots to guess which of the players left alive is the murderer. 

Maybe this is to be played when we are allowed more than 6 to socialise together.


Elephant’s foot umbrella stands may not be as common as they were in the Victorian era, but the parlour game named after them is still fun to play. The leader starts the game by saying “I went to the store and bought…” followed by an object. Whatever object the leader names has to fit a secret rule they’ve decided to follow throughout the game. For example, if the rule is that every object must end with the letter “E,” the leader might say “I went to the store and bought an orange.” Players then taking turns guessing the rule by naming objects they think apply. If a player says “I went to the store and bought a boat” the leader would say something like “They’re all out of boats.” But if they said they bought a kite instead, the leader would approve their purchase without sharing why. The game becomes more fun the longer you play, assuming you’re not the last player to catch on. 


This is not exactly a parlour game in keeping with social distancing rules so maybe save this one for Christmas 2021.

Also known as Oink Piggy Oink or Grunt Piggy Grunt, Squeak Piggy Squeak is a spin off Blind Man’s Bluff. One player chosen to be the “farmer” gets blindfolded and sits on a pillow in the center of a circle of “piggies.” After spinning around a few times, the farmer stumbles over to a random piggy and places the pillow on their lap. When he sits down and says “Squeak Piggy Squeak” the piggy must make a squeaking sound: If the farmer can guess who he’s sitting on based on the noise alone the piggy becomes the new farmer. This game hasn’t proven to be as timeless as Blind Man’s Bluff, but we bet it would still make for a successful icebreaker with modern party guests. 

Hope these parlour games will give you some entertainment this Christmas and New Year.

If you are still looking for last minute Christmas gifts have a read of Grace’s post – click HERE

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