People love games. Video games. Board games. Professional sports. Games on our phones.
Games are also a great way of showing more about the personality of the characters we write or learning more about the people we meet. Are they a poker ace? Perhaps chess is more to their tastes. Do they run off and leave their party all the time, or do they hide behind the tank? Do they mark the cards in Candy Land (looking at DD1 here)?
Perhaps they throw the chessboard to the ground if they’re losing. Maybe they never flinch even when they’re bluffing. The fact that they are bluffing also tells us something about them.
There are a couple of tried and true games Regency fiction uses to get characters together, usually croquet or lawn bowling. Archery contests are occasionally used, usually to showcase a character’s skills.
Yes, bowling. The sport of kings. In 1511, King Henry VIII banned bowling for the lower classes and imposed a levy on bowling so only the wealthy could afford to it. Another law passed in 1541 (and not repealed until 1845) prohibited workers from bowling except on Christmas, and only in their master’s home and in his presence. So, yes, pretty exclusive stuff if you’re reading or writing historical fiction.
In Regency romance novels, croquet is usually depicted as a light-hearted sport used as an excuse for the hero and heroine to be together. The characters are never shown as competitive, and frequently may not even finish the game.
So not my experience.
The only time I ever played croquet was with my in-laws, and to them, it’s a competitive sport (not quite as bad as Heathers). They even have an annual competition that is pretty serious business, although they also like to play “camp” croquet. Imagine setting up a croquet obstacle course over uneven terrain, rocks, sticks, twigs and sand. Fun to watch, but it has nothing in common with the Regency depiction of croquet.
Again, another sport used to keep the hero and heroine together. You see this a lot less often than croquet in what I’ve been reading, and I’ve never read of actual bowling in a novel despite its popularity with royalty. Not sure why it’s so much less popular unless the authors are concerned most readers don’t know what an elite sport it was.
I’ve never lawn bowled. Seems like a lot of work to go out and set-up the pins after each roll of the ball. Granted, those that would be playing during the Regency period would have servants to do the unpleasant work. I am not sure if modern-day bowling would have much in common with lawn bowling in England, and the few experiences I have with modern bowling make for funny stories. Not sure those would translate well to historical fiction.
You see archery a lot in Regency fiction. Gives a reason for the gentlemen to take off their coats, and allows the hero to demonstrate his skill at the manly art. Sadly, I see few heroines bringing it in archery competitions.
As for archery, I’ve never even held a bow. The closest I’ve come to one is seeing them at the sporting goods store. Of course, modern bows are nothing like what someone in the Regency period would be using.
Don’t believe me? Go take a look at a compound bow. Not much like the ones we think of from the tales of Robin Hood.
So, while I don’t have a lot of experience in Regency games, what I do have a lot of experience in is board games. And not the Milton Bradley ones of my childhood. DH loves games and has collected quite a lot of them. From easy games we can play with DD1 like Stone Soup to games like Twilight Imperium (classified as an epic board game) that comes with a rule book longer than the novel I’m working on.
Not sure if board games will ever come into play in Fantasy Romance, but you never know. I need to do more research and learn about the different games people played.
How about you? What games do you like? Do you like bowling, croquet or archery? How about board games? Do you use them to show more about your characters?
More importantly do your children cheat at Candyland?