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Aske the "Groom Porter"*
of MacGregor Games About a Game

Games Timeline: dating documentation for various games since ancient times.

For information about commercial, or trademarked games
from the 20th century, such as Monopoly try these links

*The "Groom Porter" was a title granted by the king of England to the official in charge of organizing gambling in the Tudor court, he later also regulated Englsih gambling halls. Eventually it also became used for the owner, or operator of a gaming hall.

Submit a question about the history of games,
and we'll E-mail you an answer, if we can find one, as well as post it here for other people to read.

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Check out the "history of games and toys" section of my MacGregor Historic Games Amazon Store
for suggested books on the subject.

Old questions

Hi. I am looking for information/history on the game of Krokeno. A board game where you shoot checkers into the middle of the circular board ( 8 sides), while dispersing your opponent's checkers. Similar concepts as curling/shuffleboard.... I have the board, and grew up with the game in Canada. I have friends who have boards as well - I can't find any information on-line about the history. Can you help me out? Thanks,
Colleen 05/11/2004

Groomporter's Reply:
It sounds like it may be a variation of the game "crokinole" See this website for more information: There is also a related game "Carrom"

question: Did People play with wooden tops and/or yo-yos in 1904?
Taz 04/19/2004

Groomporter's Reply:
Yes. Tops are one of those toys that almost every culture in the world has had some version of going back to Ancient Greece and probably further. People sometimes claim that the yo-yo was invented in the 1920's, however yo-yos actually were known in Europe in the late 1700's and became so popular in France there are cartoons from the time making fun of soldiers and noblemen playing with them. They have had several different names such a "jo-jos," "bandelores," "return wheels." The earliest patent application in the U.S. seems to be for an "improved return wheel" about 1868. They seem have dropped in popularity for a while so they weren't as well known during the early 1900's until the Duncan Yo-yo company made them a craze in the 1920's by sending "yo-yo men" around the country to demonstrate tricks with them. In fact the craze for yo-yos in the 1920's might be one of the first big fads for a new toy that was created by advertising the way Pokemon and other games or toys become popular with kids today.

Parcheesi: What is the country and date of origin of this popular board game??
Beverly Richards 7/26/03

Groomporter's Reply:
Parcheesi is basically a westernized and simplified version of the Indian games of Chaupar, or Pachisi the golden era of Chaupar was about l526 - 1857 during the reign of the Mogul dynasty when the Mogul rulers played on life-size boards marked with inlaid marble on the palace courtyards at Agra and Allahabad. The Emperor Akbar (1542-1605) played the game on this scale from a central dais where he directed the movements of sixteen slave-girls from the harem, who were dressed in the four colors as the various pieces. The westernized version "Ludo" appeared in England about 1863, and Parcheesi appeared in the U.S. sometime after that. The original versions were more involved more strategy since they were played with partners

I wanted to know when did the original game of Dominos? originate.

Groomporter's Reply:
The earliest dominos appear in China around 1120 A.D. but these are different from western dominos in that the pips on Oriental dominos reflect the possible throws from rolling 2 six-sided dice. Domino games do not seem to have become popular Europe until the 1700's. However, there is a 28-tile set carved from ivory which is in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam and is said to date to the 17th century (We sell a reproduction of that set Click to see them) so it appears they were at least known in Europe by the 1600's although were not widespread until the 18th century.

Where did the casino game of craps originate from?
Bud C. 6/24/03

Groomporter's Reply:
The game Hazard is the ancestor of the modern game of Craps. In fact, it has been suggested that the name "craps" may come from "crabs" a term for the worst possible roll in Hazard, a 1-1. Hazard, in some form dates at least to the Medieval era, and it continued to be the most popular dice game in England until the mid-1800¹s. An Englishman, William of Tyre claimed that Hazard was invented by English crusaders in the 12th century at the siege of the Arabian castle of Asart. A three-dice variation was described in Alphonso X's Book of Games circa 1280 A.D., and references to it are also made by Chaucer in the late 1300¹s. Craps itself seems to start appearing in the US sometime during the 1800's.

What country did the card game bridge originate from?
Tom M. 6/13/03

Groomporter's Reply:
I believe that Bridge originated in the U.S., it certainly caught on primarily in the US during the 1920's, but it is related to the older game Whist which was very popular in England during 18th & 19th centuries, so there may be some debate where it first appeared.

Do you have the rules for Mexican Train Dominos

Groomporter's Reply:
I'm afraid I've only played Mexican Train once myself and don't remember all the rules. However there is a newsgroup where you should be able to find an answer.

A couple people recently asked about the origin of the game Yahtzee and it's name.

Groomporter's Reply:
Yahtzee® was invented by a wealthy Canadian couple who played it aboard their yacht. When they invited friends aboard, they taught them how to play their game. Their friends enjoyed the "Yacht" game so much that they all wanted copies of their own.
Hasbro's version of the story
The History of Yahtzee®

chris 4/2/03
where did the card game solo originate? Is there any connections between certain religions playing it or communities or cultural backgrounds?

Groomporter's Reply:
There's a German game called solo, but I am not aware of anything significant about it. The rules can be found at

Or, do you mean the family of one-player card games called Solitaire in the U.S. or "Patience" in the UK?
Solitaire games started becoming popular in the late 1700's and some of them had novelty fortune-telling aspects to them, and card game historians believe that modern cartomancy, or fortune telling with cards may have evolved out of these Solitaire games since the first references to cartomancy do not appear until the 1760's.

Sarah 3/28/03
What kind of games did children play during the early 20th century in the USA?

Groomporter's Reply:
Beginning in the 1800's there were dozens and dozens of children's or family board games that started being designed and patented. Many of them were variations on simple race games with various themes. One source to see some is to follow some of the links on the Association of Game & Puzzle Collectors Or you might search the internet for the words: antique American games
Here some examples of board games that became popular, the earliest version of Monopoly was patented in 1904 but did not become popular until a bit later. Snakes and ladders appeared in England in the 1890's and later became "Chutes & ladders" in the U.S. Other examples are Chinese Checkers, and Parcheesi (called Ludo in England).

If you are wondering what games were hugely popular with children the way Pokemon has been, there really weren't as many enormous fads that caught on like that. Without television there was not as much advertising directly aimed at children, so it was harder for things like that to catch on the way Pokemon has. Although one example is the Yo-yo. Although yo-yos had been around for some time, during the 1920's the Duncan Yo-yo company sent "Yo-yo men" around the country to demonstrate fancy yo-yo tricks and succeeded in making them very popular all across the country.

Fred S. 3/14/03
Where can I get easy rules for the American game of Craps?

Groomporter's Reply:
Check the website they have a description of both the casino version as well as the "private" game.

Karl 2/6/03
We are searching for childrens games played outdoors in the 1850's and 1860's. We would like to get them in relation to a pre-civil war celebration we are planning. Thanks

Groomporter's Reply:
cover We're much more focused on board and table games, but a good source I've seen and can recommend is a book called The American Boys Book of Sports & Games it was originally published in 1864, but was reprinted not long ago by Lyons Press ISBN: 1-58574-115-9. It has lots of information on games, sports, hobbies, and even scientific experiments for children (Although some of the experiments would be considered too dangerous these days.) Click on the cover iluustration to see if it is still availabe through

Joan Crowe 3/11/03
As a child my family played a game set up on a card table. The wood square board had pockets on each corner with netting attached to catch quarter sized wood circles. They were red & green with 1 black circle. The shooters were tan. We shot with a pool stick (of course very small). Or we just flicked them with our fingers. That's about all I remembered

Groomporter's Reply:
That sounds like Carrom. Check out this website

Missy 12/32 02
This probably does fit in this category but I do know you are a really good source for questions about games. My 13 year old was wondering if you would know what games were the going thing in the 1880's Minnesota. Of course my answer was cards and checkers...that wasn't as an ideal answer as she would have liked. So think you can help out? thanks! Missy

Groomporter's Reply:
I'm not aware of any hugely popular game fads at the time. (Is that part of what she is wondering?) Certainly there was nothing as hugely popular as the modern fads in gaming like Pokemon, or Magic the Gathering, or role playing games.

During the 1800's there was a large increase in the number of family board games being printed. Many of these were printed on paper and glued to a fabric backing which would allow them to be folded and unfolded many times. Most of these were variations on simple race games where you rolled the dice and the first one around the board wins, usually with potential hazards or rewards like gaining an extra turn if you land on a certain space. These had many different themes, from horse races, to educational ones that tried to teach various lessons.
Here are some games that were popular in general during the 1800s, although not specific to Minnesota: Backgammon, Dominos
Dice games for gambling: The game "Hazard" which is the ancestor to the modern game of craps as played in casinos. Also a dice game called Chuck-a-luck. (For a while some of the family board games I mentioned above were sold with 6-sided tops to use instead of dice, because people thought dice reminded them too much of gambling and therefore weren't appropriate for family games)
Although you never see it in western movies, Faro was a popular card games in gambling halls, and in was not totally replaced by Poker and Blackjack until tbe 20th century. Whist was a popular adult card game and its decendent Bridge was becoming popular.
Various marbles games for children.
Chinese Checkers seems to have been first patented in the US in the 1870's or 80's.

S A Parson 12/22/02
I'm looking for the name and rules of an 1830s and 1840s dice game that resembled chuck-a-luck, which was played in the Northeast of the US at that time. Or, confirmation that it was chuck-a-luck as it was played during the Civil War. Any ideas? Thanks.

william McMurray 1/1/03
can you tell me about the game of "Crown and Anchor" which was played in The Navy around the 1850's-1920's. Many Thanks

Groomporter's Reply:
Crown & Anchor/Chuck-a-luckCrown & Anchor was played with three dice that are each marked with a spade, heart, club, diamond, crown and an anchor. It was once very popular with the Royal Navy of Britain, and can still be found in the USA, India and Australia. The accompanying betting board was typically oilcloth with the same symbols printed, or painted on it. Players place their stake on any of the symbols on the board. If your symbol comes up on a die you get even odds - you lose nothing. If it comes up on of the 2 dice you get paid 2 to 1 odds. If it appears on all three dice you win 3 to 1 odds. Although the odds seem good to the uninitiated, the odds favor the banker by around 8%

An early variation on the game was called "Sweatcloth,' or simply "sweat" which was played with standard dice, and a board marked with the numbers 1 thru 6. This seems to have reached the U.S. by the end of the 1700¹s, and evolved into the game played at casinos amd carnivals and church benefits known as Chuck-a-luck, or ³Bird cage² for the hour-glass-shaped wire cage used to tumble the dice.

ellen 9/16/02
I am setting up a tour guide for an 1820's home in upstate South Carolina. What adult card and board games were popular in this area, between 1830-65. Also, what card and board games would children have played?

Groomporter's Reply:
Whist was a popular card game, and for gambling Faro was also quite popular during that period. For dicing game Hazard (the ancestor to craps) was popular as well as Chuck-a-luck which is also known as Crown & Anchor. The first written record of Poker appears in 1836 so that could be mentioned as a new game during the period. Board games would of course include Checkers and Backgammon. The book "The American Boy's Book of Sports and Games" was originally published in 1864, has been reprinted by The Lyons Press ( ISBN 1585741159 ) and lists a number of activity games and board games being played during the 19th century

robert 9/1/02
How old is the board game Ringo? The few accounts of it on the web seem to be closely based on the account in 'Waddington's Illustrated Encyclopaedia of Games' by the Diagram Group (Pan, 1984, pp. 308-11)which simply describes it as iinvented in Germany' and accompanies the rules with a woodcut of two men playing the game. This illustration looks late C18 or early C19, but I suspect it may be a modern one by the book's illustrators. Unfortunately too, the authors of the book don't source their game rules.

Groomporter's Reply:
I'me afraid I've been having the same trouble trying to track down it's actual age. I did find a book in a library the had a photograph of something the author called a Ringo board from the early 1800's, but it did not have the same number of spaces as the other references I have seen and no "neutral zone" so I had my doubts about it. I suspect that it is not older than the late 1800's / early 1900's for lack of evidence to the contrary.

Nia 7/5/02
question: what is the history of an Elizabethan card game called primero?

Groomporter's Reply:
It is also known as Primera, or Primiera (Italian). David Parlett in his book "The Oxford Guide to Card Games" mentions that every country has developed a "vying" or betting card game proper to its design of cards and national temperment, and suggests Primiera as being to Italy, what Poker is to the United States. Primero is mentioned as early as 1534 in Rabelais' "Gargantua". An Italian playboy and scholar wrote a book "Liber de ludo aleae" (Book on Games of Chance) in 1564. It is notable as one of the first books giving technical details of card games rather than just listing game names, and it includes a fairly detailed description of Primero.

researching a game table 6/30/02
I have an antique table with a board game inlayed into the top. It has ten squares across and down. I have been trying to figure out what game this was used for. Checkers and Chess have 8 across and down......I haven't been able to find anyone who knows. Do you have any ideas?

Groomporter's Reply:
There are European variations on Checkers which are played on a 10 x 10 board, the one I'familiar with is "Continental," or "Polish" Checkers. This variation is actually rare in Poland, but is known to have been played in Paris as early as 1723. The game is played with the same rules as German checkers, but is played on a square board with 10 squares on a side. Each player has twenty pieces which are laid in staggered formation as in standard checkers, but on the first -four- rows of opposite sides.

Frédéric 6/28/02
question: I'm looking for the complete rules of the english backgammon variant "Fayles". This variant that was played in the 11th century in England was very similar to the modern backgammon.

Groomporter's Reply:
That'a one of the versions we include with out Backgammon set.Fayles, or Fails also appears in the Alfonso MS circa 1280 AD under the name Fallas, and continued to be played as late as the 1600¹s. Also spelled Faille in French. See illustration for set-up. Three dice were normally used. If there were only two dice, then on each roll the smaller score was counted twice, e.g. a roll of 6-4 is counted as 6-4-4. Blots which are hit are knocked back to end of the beginning of the board rather than off the board. If at any time a player rolled a number which could not be played, he immediately lost, otherwise the first to bear off all of his men wins

Rebecca 6/12/02
Can you tell me where I can get the rules for Mexican Train and is there a place online I can play it?

Groomporter's Reply: I'm not familiar with any site to play it on line but the rules can be found here

Sue Capaldi 5/27/02
question: Does anyone know the rules to the dice game Crown and Anchor. I used to play it with my father, but cannot quite remember the correct rules.

Groomporter's Reply:
The game is usually played with three special dice marked with the faces marked with a heart, club, spade, diamond, crown and an anchor, and a betting board with six paces, each having one of these symbols. (Standard dice can be substituted by marking the spaces with numbers 1-6)
Each player puts a wager on one or more of the spaces on the betting board. The banker then rolls three dice and pays out winnings based on that throw. If one of the dice turns up a symbol you placed a bet on, you get your bet back, and the banker plays you the amount of your bet. If two of the dice show your symbol the back plays 2 to 1, if all three dice show your symbol the bank pays 3 to 1.

Dave 4/20/02
question: Hi , I`m wondering if you can help me, I can`t seem to find a reference to a game board I have. It was given to me by a friend I have since lost touch with, it was hand made by him, on one side is the square tiled game of Kings table, the other side I have tried to find by the name he gave it `Fitchneal` , but get games that look like Kings table with a square board. The game has seven concentric circles on it , linked by broken radiating lines, the object is for on player to make an unbroken line from the centre to the outside and the other player to stop them, taking is the same as kings table, pieces can move around the rings as far as they can before blocked. Do you know the name of this game? if so I can look it up!

Groomporter's Reply: I've had a similar question from "Cle" 1/18/02 (See below) This seems to be a modern game that is being marketed in the UK under the name "Celtic Chess"

L. Boothman 4/19/02
I have an inventory from 1635 (from a large house) which includes several 'groom porter's tables'. These were presumably related to gambling, but what made them different from any other table ... boards for some game inlaid or what ???

Groomporter's Reply:
I haven't heard the term before, but I've very intrigued, and would appreciate any additional information you have. A Groomporter was more of a owner, or management position in a gaming hall, so I suspect that they may have been some form of accountant's, or cashier's table where he may have cashed in chips for the players, or kept the books during the night's gaming. My other thought would be some form of gambling table, perhaps set up for more than one type of game?? I'll keep my eye out for more info, and post it here if I find it.
Update: I mentioned this question to D. Parlett, author of the Oxford History of Board Games, and his thoughts were along the same as mine, but added an extra tidbit: "tables either formerly belonging to the (or a) Groom Porter, or of a kind authorised ...(or)- a sort of 'official' style or design or dimension. The only thing I might add is to remind you that 'tables' means, or also means, a piece of gaming equipment in the form of a hinged box with a checkerboard and a merels board on the two outer sides and a backgammon board on the inside when opened up.

question update: Sorry I have not been back in touch earlier. The inventory in question belongs to Thomas Viscount Savage, who died in 1635. He had held various posts at the court of Charles I, and was Chancellor to Queen Henrietta Maria. His inventory lists the contents of his houses in Rocksavage (Cheshire), Long Melford (Suffolk) and on Tower Hill in London. At Rocksavage there are 12 groom porter's tables listed in various rooms, and at Melford another 3 (and the praisers are different men for the two houses so the term must be relatively common). Here's one quote from Rocksavage:
'Item two high chaires & one lowe stoole of blewe velvett, three groome porters tables & one cupboard £2 6s 8d'
In almost all the instances the gpt are included with other furniture items, which makes it more likely that we are dealing with a table as furniture rather than 'tables' as a board ... Savage came from a long line of Cheshire aristocrats, but I haven't found any indication of any of them having been groom porter to the monarch at any stage. If this one inventory (which is at Cheshire Record Office) has 15 gp tables listed, there must be others in gentry / aristocracy inventories of the period - or are there ??

Groomporter's Reply:I passed the additional information to David Parlett and here was his replay: "I remain baffled but intrigued. I now imagine a groom porter's table to be a piece of furniture, perhaps more like a sideboard, containing all the equipment and accoutrements for games-playing in a given household. Either that, or a table upon which the gaming boards were set and at which play took place, perhaps itself incorporating storage facilities. However, if either were the case, I would have expected more to be known and written about them."

TOYA 4/17/02

Groomporter's Reply:
I'm not sure if you mean activity games, or activity/hobbies in general and for children, or adults. Here's a couple good sources for both: "Victorian Parlour Games" by Patrick Beaver, 1974. this has both grown up and chidlren's indoor games/activities; and "The American Boys Book of Sports & Games" originally published in 1864, It was reprinted by the Lyons Press ISBN: 1-58574-115-9. This is fun because it talks about outdoor games and activities as well as indoor ones including science experiments and magic tricks. E-mail me with more specifics on what you are looking

I am looking for a board game I believe is called Crown and Anchor. We used to play this with my grandfather, who was in the Navy. Is this game still available and where can I buy a copy

Groomporter's Reply: appears to have a Crown & Anchor set for sale

BARB 4/12/02
Trying to find information about a card game known as FARGO, played sometime in the 19th Century?

Groomporter's Reply:
I don't find anything on "Fargo" in the half-dozen books on card games I have in my personal library. I'm wondering if you are looking for "Faro?" (also spelled Pharaoh) It has been described as the most popular gambling game in the late 19th century U.S. until craps replaced it in popularity. It was played with a betting board on which was usually portrayed the full suit of spades

i am looking for a game called CREATURE CASTLE from i believe the late 70's? also where could i find it to purchase?????? thank you

Groomporter's Reply:For information about commercial, or trademarked games from the 20th century, such as Monopoly try these links

Linda Becnel3/18/02
I'm looking for rope and hook games--such as "Ring the Bull" popular in English taverns. Mainly, looking for a history or reference thereof. Thanks.

Groomporter's Reply:
Try this websitefor some info: The Online Guide to Traditional Pub Games

Can someone list the individual letters on each of the seven Word Yahtzee Dice. The game is now "out of print" and I would like to be able to make my own dice using blank dice and letters from the craft store. This is for my own personal use and not for mass sale.

Groomporter's Reply:
It's a bit new for me ;-) Try contacting Dice Maniacs Club, or posting a note on the newsgroup

Manfred Zollinger 3/9/02
Can you tell me more about a game with the name "Queen's Nosegay" as well as "Triomfo Imperiale", both quoted in England in the year 1663?

Groomporter's Reply:
The term "Triomfo" (or triomphe, triunfo, triumphus) are the origin of the modern card term "trump" and these all are varitions on early "trick taking" card games that are the ancestors to games like Whist, or Hearts. I don't find the specific game Triomfo Imperiale listed in the sources I own. As for "Queen's Nosegay" the term sounds familiar, but again I don't find it listed in any of the books I own.

Mariah 2/26/02
I'm researching games in history for a school project. I'm looking for information on games that were invented or popular during two different time periods- Gothic and Early Christian (aprox.300-700 A.D.). Any suggestions on what games I should be looking for or where I should look? Thank you!

Groomporter's Reply:
A place to start is our historic of games timeline at
also the Medeival & Renaissance Games Home Page
Here's some books to look for in the library:
Parlett, David Oxford History of Board Games
Botermans, Jack. The World of Games. Facts on File, Inc., NY 1987.
Bell, R. C. Board and Table Games from Many Civilizations. Dover Publications, Inc. NY, 1979.

Matt 2/24/02
For a school report I am researching the game of chess in medieval times. Any suggestions on where to look?

Groomporter's Reply:

Groomporter's Reply:Try the "On the Origins of Chess page at for articlesand links on the origin and history of chess

Jonathan 1/28/02
Any one other than me read the Wheel of Time series you know the game where 5 crowns is a winning role all over what do you know where i could get a set of those dice and learn how to play that game, would you be so kind as to email me at

Groomporter's Reply:: I'm not familiar with the Wheel of Time series could the game be inspired by an old dice game called "Crown & Anchor" -It used special dice marked with the faces marked with a crown, anchor, hear spade, diamond and club. A diagram with the same symbols is on the table and the players place bets on the diagram as to what symbols they hope will come up on the dice. The person rolling the dice is the banker and everyone bets against him. You can still find Crown & Anchor dice on occasion at game stores.

Cle 1/18/02
When I was in UK last year I played a board game with a friend. It was a circular board and used 2 sets of 29 marbles (black & white). The board was set out ina series of circles with a number of axes from the centre hole to the edges. The object is to make a continuos line of marbles from the centre to the edge, removing any opponents marbles either during the initial placement or after placement once all marbles are placed. I believe there is also a more advanced game using a piece in the middle which changes colour per play - but I don't have the rules. The game was decribed as Celtic Chess. Problem is that I can't see anything that fits the board I saw on your web site. Could you enlighten me?????? Maybe you even have the rules???? I have since mad a board and love playing it with my son. Is this game some hybrid Maybe?? It would be nice to know the name!! I believe my friend's board came from you.

Groomporter's Reply: I'm afraid that doesn't sound familiar to me. Without seeing it I think it is a modern hybrid. When game historians talk about "Celtic Chess" they are usually referring to the "tafl" family of games that the Ballinderry Game Board is believed to belong to. Many of the Irish legendary references to these games have been mis-translated into English as being 'chess.' since the translators were unfamiliar with these games pre-dating chess. The only circular game we've done so far is "Ringo" which appears with our fabric games ( ). The rules for that are bit like checkers in a circle and the attacker wins by getting two pieces into the center circle

There is a circular chess variant often refered to as "Byzantine Chess" that seems to date to the 10th century, but this was played with chess pieces and chess-like rules. There's also a 13th century circular game sometimes called "Zodiac," but it's more of a gambling game where players move in orbits around the board.

Dee 1/18/02
I have read that Patience (or Solitaire as we know in the USA) did not become popular in Britain until the 1870's. Is there a single person card game that was played between 1810 and 1820 in England?

Groomporter's Reply: Actually it's about a century earlier than that. According to David Parlett's book "Oxford Guide to Card Games," Patience/Solitaire games started becoming popular after about the 1760's and that fortune telling with cards seems to have evolved out of them about the same time (Some of the early solitaire games included novelty fortune telling aspects.) Mr. Parlett also has written a book specifically on patience games, but I haven't read it yet so I don't know if it includes a history of solo card games