The Best Traditional Pub & Tavern Games – Part 2

Our second visit to the pubs and taverns across the world to study the most popular bar games and sports. Many of these games have stood the test of time and have been developed into newer versions played on a computer or phone for personal use.

Shove Ha’penny

Versions of this game have been played for centuries all over the world, either throwing stones or coins at a wall to see which one ended closest. But the actual tavern game of Shove Ha’penny was probably first played around the fifteenth century when it was named Shoffe-grote, Slype Groat and Slide-thrift, the same game but using different coins. Shovel Board is the larger version of Shove Ha’penny but played in the same manner. Players take turn to push coins on a course which is lined horizontally, the gap between the lines are called beds. The coins have to land squarely in the middle of the beds and not touch the lines. The shoving is traditionally done with the palm of the hand, although in the larger formats of the game a stick was used.


For thousands of years the seems to have been a weapon called a dart used all over the globe, but this does not actually refer directly to the actual game. The first reference to the game of darts was around 1820 in something called Puff & Dart. This used a sort of blowpipe to shoot darts at a target hanging on the wall.



The tavern version probably did not originate till fifty years later in 1870, and was the founder of the game that is known today all over the world. A description of the missile was recorded at the time, “The dart is a straight piece of stick, about six inches long, with a pin stuck in at one end, and a paper guide at the other” the narrative further goes on to describe the target as a round, soft piece of wood, with three or four concentric circles painted on it. Most historians seem to think that the modern game came from the fairground dartboard, which would explain the numbering and the segmentation.

Board Games

Tavern board games have always been popular and the most popular of all were backgammon, draughts and nine men’s Morris. Gaming boards of three x ten squares have been used since the ancient Egyptians, and many games have used this format to play on. In 2004 the earliest backgammon board was thought to have been unearthed dating back to 3,000BC.

Draughts were thought to have been developed from a game called Alquerque, and many years later this game was developed in France onto a Chess board, and had twenty-four pieces. Draughts is called by many names across the world, Checkers, Dama, and Warcaby. That concludes our second edition of the best traditional pub or tavern games, and in our concluding piece in Part 3, we look at cards, dice and tiles games as well as the most popular ball games.