Drinking games are probably about as old as drinking itself. Once human beings learned how to ferment things, it couldn’t have taken very long for someone to decide that this new invention could be put to great use in a game. They probably regretted it the next morning, but it must have been enough fun that they wanted to do it again – and again, and again, and again.One of the oldest recorded drinking games is kottabos, which was played in Ancient Greece, and which was surprisingly challenging, complex, and formalized for a drinking game. The game involved throwing the “lees” from the bottom of your wine glass at a target, either knocking it off its stand or sinking it into a large bowl of water. It was probably more difficult than it sounds, because you had to do it with one hand, from the customary reclining position at the drinking table, and you had to keep to a number of other rules as well. The Ancient Chinese had their own drinking games too, and took them seriously enough to have game referees at these parties. Another indicator of how seriously the Chinese took their drinking games is the fact that if you dropped out of a game mid-session, you could be blacklisted and never invited back.
The ancients clearly knew how to have a good time, but of course we have our own share of drinking games today. People around the world are still at it, and beer pong isn’t the only one around. Here are some fun drinking games from around the world.
Australia – Goon of Fortune
Australians are known to love their slang as much as their booze, as this game – and its name – remind us of this. A goon is Australian slang for a bag or box of wine, and Goon of Fortune is a sort of spoof of the television game show Wheel of Fortune, with a bag of wine and one of those wheel-shaped clotheslines as your game apparatus, and, quite likely, a hangover as your prize. The clothesline is set up, the players sit in a circle under it, and a goon bag is affixed to one of its pegs. The wheel is spun (usually to shouts of “Goon of fortune!”), and when it stops, the person who finds the goon bag over their head must take a sip. Keep repeating until the bag is empty. Although boxed wine used to be known as cheap and nasty, it is now possible to find some fairly decent wines in this type of affordable and environment-friendly packaging, so don’t look down on it too much.
China – Jiuling
The Ancient Chinese may have loved to drink, but compared to them and compared to many other parts of the world, contemporary Chinese people don’t seem to drink very much. Nonetheless, they do have a few drinking games. Jiuling is probably the most popular, and is said to be at least a couple of thousand years old. This is how it works: Everyone at the table holds up a certain number of fingers behind their backs, and then each player tries to guess the sum of all the numbers. Everyone then reveals their hands, and the person whose guess is the closest to the real total wins. Everyone else has to drink up. It’s not particularly complicated, except that adding up the numbers gets more and more difficult as the evening progresses.
Germany – Bierkastenlauf
Germany of course has a drinking game that combines large amounts of beer with impressive physical endurance and has a name that isn’t translatable in a single word. Bierkastenlauf could be translated as “beer crate running”. It is sometimes also called bier-rallye, and involves drinking an entire crate of beer while running a sort of marathon. Two people carry a crate of beer for anything from five to twelve kilometers, and between the two of them, they need to drink the entire crate before they reach the finish line. The team that finishes first is the winner. This isn’t just some spontaneous silliness that college students come up with after a few steins of beer – there are actual, official bierkastenlauf events that are held in Munich and other cities each year, and hundreds of people turn up to participate.
Japan – Ping Pong Pang
This game will probably sound somewhat familiar to people across the world, because there are several like it, and not all of them are drinking games. Ping Pong Pang relies on quick reflexes, presence of mind, and the ability to get words out of your mouth, all of which tend to deteriorate after a few drinks – which is of course why the game is fun. Someone shouts “Ping,” the next person shouts “Pong,” and the third person shouts “Pang” while pointing at a fourth person, who must promptly start the entire cycle again. Anyone who hesitates or says the wrong word loses, and must chug their drink. Each time someone messes up, the entire drinking party starts chanting, “Iki, iki, iki!” (Drink, drink, drink!) For a bit of authenticity, you should play this game with Japanese shōchū, but of course any spirit will do.
United Kingdom – Pence (Pennying)
People who have studied in the UK will probably be familiar with this simple, prank-like game that is popular among college students. Any time a group of them assembles at a pub, a bit of pennying is highly likely to occur. According to the rules of the game, if someone drops a penny into your glass of beer, you need to down the glass in one shot. If you can successfully do this, you can then ask the person who dropped the coin to state the year that was stamped on it. If they don’t know or can’t remember the year (which is highly likely), they need to down their own glass. Other drinking games in the UK include Withnail and I, based on the cult British comedy, and the rather unbelievable Yachtsman Stuntman Slam, which is supposedly a tradition in the British Royal Marines.
United States of America – Buffalo (Buffalo Club)
This is a drinking game that never ends – it’s not that you don’t stop drinking, but once you’re in, the rules apply for the rest of your life. The rules are simple: you can never drink with your dominant hand, and if another player catches you doing so, they shout “Buffalo!” and you must chug whatever remains of the drink. If you hesitate or make a fuss, the other players will start to thump their fists on the table, turning the shout into a chant until you finish your drink. There’s also the interesting twist of a “false buffalo”, which happens when a player is incorrectly called out while they’re drinking with their non-dominant hand. In this case, the person shouting buffalo must chug their own drink. The game of Buffalo is said to go back all the way to the days of the Wild West, when it was supposedly important to keep your gun hand free at all times (but apparently not as important to stay sober); however, the game is almost certainly a much more recent invention, perhaps something cooked up by fans of Western films and books.
Russia – Tiger is Coming
If it’s a Russian drinking game, it must involve vodka and some rather crazy goings-on. Tiger is Coming (sometimes the creature involved is a dragon instead of a tiger) is usually played at a session of some sort of gambling. Over the course of the evening, as the bets are placed, the game leader will periodically yell, “Tiger is coming!” In response, all the other players duck under the table and have a shot of vodka. When the game leader says the tiger has gone, they all come back out. Eventually, maneuvering yourself under the table and back out again can get understandably difficult. Depending on how strict you want to be, anyone who gets stuck under the table, falls over, moves too slowly, or stumbles is eliminated – perhaps eaten by the tiger or dragon. The last person still playing is the winner, although it seems to us like the real winner is the game leader, who doesn’t need to gulp vodka shots all evening. Another crazy Russian drinking game is Bear Paw, where a glass of beer is passed around the table, to be simultaneously sipped and topped up with vodka, and then beer, and then vodka again…
South America – Dudo
Dudo isn’t exclusively a drinking game but a game of dice that has become popular at drinking sessions. Each player rolls five dice in a cup, concealing the dice from the other players. The first player (the order has already been decided by a previous throw of dice) then announces what they’ve rolled – “five sixes”, for example – and play proceeds around the table. These announcements may be bluffs or they may be truthful, and the other players have the right to “call” a bluff. There are other rules of play too, such as raising or using aces, but the details are best learnt at a game, from other players. For now, what’s important to know is that being caught in a bluff or wrongly calling a bluff means you have to drink. Versions of the game are played in most South American countries, and similar games are played in other parts of the world too, including Europe and Asia, although it isn’t usually a drinking game in these places. You may also remember a similar game being played by the crew of the Flying Dutchman in ‘Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest’. The stakes there were of course much higher, but at your average drinking session, all you have to lose is your sobriety.
South Korea – Napkin, Beer, Cigarette
When you first hear about Napkin, Beer, Cigarette, it can be a rather baffling game, in spite of its simplicity. After all, what’s the point of ruining your beer with cigarette ash and burnt napkin? However, you soon realize that it’s sort of like jenga, but with a napkin, a glass of beer, and cigarettes instead of wooden blocks. A napkin is placed across the top of a glass of beer, and a coin is placed on the napkin. The drinkers at a table take turns burning holes into the napkin until the coin falls into the glass. The person who makes the last move – the one that causes the napkin to finally give way – is the loser, and must drink the entire glass.
Spain – Los Chunguitos
Los Chunguitos is a Spanish-Romani band that plays a mix of flamenco and rumba, and somehow, somewhere along the way, people seem to have developed a drinking game around the band’s music. This can be a pretty confusing game, especially if you don’t have much of a musical sense, in terms of time or melody. This is how it works: you put on a Los Chunguitos song, and then everyone sits in a circle and starts clapping in time with the music. One by one, people then start numbering themselves as Chunguitos number one, two, and so on, until everyone has a number. Chunguitos number one then shouts out his own number and someone else’s, and then this second player must do the same. At each change of player, the person to the right and to the left must start imitating a particular instrument in the song that is playing. Through all of this, the clapping must keep going. If anyone fails to respond when their number is called out, if someone imitates the wrong instrument, fails to imitate an instrument, or fails to keep clapping, they lose and must chug. It’s a crazy game, with a lot of confusion, chaos, and laughter.
by Garreth D'Mello
What are your favourite drinking games? Let us know in the comments!