As we saw on the first season of Shondaland's hit series on Netflix, Bridgerton, Regency England was characterized by many things: wealth, opulence, balls, and, of course, gossip. But in season two of the Shondaland drama, which premieres on Friday, March 25, viewers will see the ton engaging in another aspect of London’s high society that typified the times: sports and gaming.

While many of the “games” people played during the Regency era were about societal intrigue and gossip, the upper class also enjoyed many real games and sports. After all, they had plenty of spare time to stay amused, which they filled with all sorts of entertainment.

preview for 'Bridgerton' Season Two — Full-Length Trailer

“Compared to us, they had lots of time to play games,” Bridgerton historical consultant Hannah Greig explains of the period. “It’s not that they didn’t do anything with their time, but, yes, they certainly had a lot of control over their time because they weren’t working in a job like we would be doing. Entertainment, pleasure, and leisure were part of the daily life of people, particularly at a country house when you go away for the weekend — when you go to a country house for a party, entertainment and leisure is a part of that.”

While today we often think of games as being for children, historically pastimes like cards and puzzles were more for adults. Many games of the era, like croquet and billiards, were part of parties, often held in country houses like the Bridgerton family’s Aubrey Hall or in gentleman’s clubs, where we see Anthony Bridgerton and the like milling among the lords of the day. Many of these games were also reserved for the higher society, although historical images exist of many types of play throughout all of Regency society.

“This was much more about adults passing the time,” Greig notes. “They weren’t necessarily inviting children to play. Some games were enjoyed by everyone, like skittles played in gardens of taverns or places that would have been available to more people. Other games tended to be more indoor parlor games, so you needed a space to do that, and that would suggest a particular-sized property. Some of the outdoor games, like cricket and pall-mall, were a more elite pastime.”

While Bridgerton fans may not have quite as much spare time as one did in the past, there are still ways to incorporate Regency games into your life today. Whether you want to play a round of pall-mall or test your poker skills, here are some of the favorite games of the ton and how to play them.


simone ashley, jonathan bailey, and charithra chandran in 'bridgerton'
Kate Sharma (Simone Ashley), Anthony Bridgerton (Jonathan Bailey), and Edwina Sharma (Charithra Chandran) playing pall-mall in Bridgerton.

Loyal Bridgerton readers have been waiting for the iconic pall-mall scene from The Viscount Who Loved Me, Julia Quinn’s novel on which season two is based that tracks the complicated courtship between the eldest Bridgerton son, Anthony, and the new-to-the-scene Kate Sharma. The outdoor game has made it to the screen in the new season of the Shondaland and Netflix series, much to fans’ delight.

“If there is one scene (from any of my books) I hear about the most from my readers, it’s the Bridgerton pall-mall game,” Quinn explained on her website. “And indeed, I enjoyed writing it so much, I brought everyone back for a rematch in the second epilogue to The Viscount Who Loved Me. But this famous scene almost never happened. I was about two-thirds into the book when I realized that everything seemed to be happening too fast. Specifically, Kate and Anthony seemed to have gone from dislike to admiration too quickly. I realized I needed to add a scene in which Kate realized that Anthony wasn’t such a bad guy, and the best way to do that would be to show him interacting with his family. And thus, the pall-mall game (and the Mallet of Death!) was born.”

She added, “Speaking of pall-mall, this was indeed the name for croquet at the time, or at least the closest thing I could find to it. I don’t believe that the rules were the same as they are today, but then again, I’ve never played croquet by the official rules.”

Pall-mall, also known as pell-mell, is a real name for a game played during the era of the ton, as well as earlier eras, and according to Greig, it’s a variant of croquet.

“It probably has a very long history but is known to have definitely been played in the French court and elsewhere in Europe from the 16th century on,” notes Greig of the game, which in French was called palle-maille. “It was popular in the court of Charles II in England in the 17th century and thus was an elite game enjoyed by the aristocracy. The street Pall Mall in London — just outside the gates of St James’ Palace — is named after the game, as this was a place where pall-mall was played in the 17th century.”

Given the lack of visual documentation of the game in the Regency period, it’s uncertain exactly what the rules were back then. Which means, should you want to take up the own game, you are free to make up your own rules as you swing your mallet on the lawn.

“It’s pretty much how we play croquet today, with hoops and knocking balls off the green,” Greig says. “Obviously, we have static images of how people played but no moving images, so we’ll never know for sure what the experience was like. I’m sure our version is a combination of historical basis and some fictional imagination on top. So, you can basically get a croquet set and play yourself. It requires time, it requires space, and it requires good weather, which you don’t always get at your country house party.”

Outdoor Sports and Games

bridgerton l to r simone ashley as kate sharma, jonathan bailey as anthony bridgerton in episode 201 of bridgerton cr liam danielnetflix © 2022
Kate and Anthony enjoy a horseback stroll.

When parading the outdoors, horseback riding was a most common pastime of Regency England. But, while some women often knew how to shoot — like Kate does in this season of Bridgerton — few if any were allowed to join the men in regular horseback fox hunts. Side-saddles, which most women used to ride, lacked a leaping horn, so aggressive equestrianism would have been sufficiently dangerous.

When it came to lawn games, so to speak, pall-mall, or croquet, was not the only outdoor game enjoyed at Regency country houses. Skittles, which involves rolling a ball toward a set of pins much like bowling, was a popular amusement on great lawns. The game is played with a wooden or rubber ball and nine wooden pins set up in a diamond shape, with the game having a history in numerous European countries, not just England. Skittles, which can also be played indoors or on a table, is still sold as gaming sets, so it’s an easy one to pick up for your next themed party.

Carrom Carrom 400.01 Skittles Game, Multi, One Size

Carrom 400.01 Skittles Game, Multi, One Size

Carrom Carrom 400.01 Skittles Game, Multi, One Size

$105 at Amazon

Cricket, a game that dates back to about 1550, was also a favorite among the ton. The sport remains beloved in England and the countries that were at one time its colonies — less so in the U.S. — and it’s sort of like baseball, except that a match can last for as long as five days. To play, you’ll need to assemble two teams of 11 players each and read up on the complex set of rules, which are tricky to decipher if you didn’t grow up with the sport. Instead, consider grabbing a cricket bat and ball and trying your hand at batting.

“It’s not something you often see in period dramas, but there was much more sport than we’re used to seeing on-screen,” Greig says of the era’s love for outdoor games. “So, Bridgerton takes us closer to that sense of outdoor games and outdoor entertainment.”

Indoor Games and Leisure

bridgerton l to r claudia jessie as eloise bridgerton, luke thompson as benedict bridgerton in episode 207 of bridgerton cr liam danielnetflix © 2022
Eloise Bridgerton (Claudia Jessie) and Benedict Bridgerton (Luke Thompson) playing chess.

During poor weather or in the evenings, the members of the ton brought their entertainment inside. This involved card games, board games, puzzles, billiards, and even indoor sports, including a version of badminton called battledore and shuttlecock that was played with racquets and no net. Because the upper class had a lot of time on their hands, many games filled the mornings, afternoons, and evenings.

“Gambling was very common, and card games were played all through the day,” Greig says. “Variations of poker and things like that. They played chess, backgammon, board games, dice. There was a game called the New Game of Human Life where you moved around a board through the stages of life — a variation, Life, still exists today. You would roll a dice and move a certain number of spaces forward or backward depending on where you landed. There were quite a lot of jigsaw puzzles as well. Charades were played in the Georgian and Regency country houses as well.”

Gambling, in particular, was popular, both with men and women. In season one of Bridgerton, Lady Danbury’s Den of Iniquity party, as attended by Daphne and other married women, revealed the extent to which the ladies engaged in gambling, while in season two Will’s new gentleman’s club features numerous poker tables.

“The only game, as far as I’m aware, that was men’s only was billiards,” Greig notes. “Billiards was mostly played after dinner. It’s possible that women played as well, but in the images, it’s only ever men, so I can’t really say for sure. But there was a lot of gambling going on. People had roulette wheels. You could set up a miniature casino in your house if you wanted to. Lady Danbury’s [party] is very drawn from history.”

That’s certainly something fans can bring home, whether it’s a casual hand of poker after dinner or a full-on Lady Danbury-esque party. After all, dearest reader, who doesn’t love a good game?

Emily Zemler is a freelance writer and journalist based in London. She regularly contributes to the Los Angeles Times, Rolling Stone, PureWow, and TripSavvy, and is the author of two books. Follow her on Twitter @emilyzemler.

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