Carnival Games and Prizes

Continuing ever onward with regards to the creation of my carnival I have now moved on to thinking about the kinds of games we might be able to offer. Of course this starts, as always, with research into the kinds of games that might have been played at a medieval carnival/festival and that brings one, inevitably, to Bruegel.

His paintings “Children’s Games” and “The Fight Between Carnival and Lent” provide a wide variety of opportunities.


But what are the qualities of Carnival Games that need to be particularly paid attention to and exploited for our SCA context? I came up with the following list:

  • Easily Understood
  • Quickly Played
  • Deceptively Challenging
  • High Replay Interest
  • Requires Mimimal to Moderate Setup
  • Easily Constructed
  • Easily Transported

I’d ideally like to have a large variety of games that can be rotated in and out at any given event. Perhaps bring three for any particular carnival night but by rotation we can keep people interested and returning over multiple events. It would also allow for the opportunity to discover which games are more interesting and workable.

Of course with a large number of games we could even, at some point set the whole carnival to be nothing but games at some events eventually. This could be a lot of fun and it keeps the ever changing nature of the carnival as a feature of this project.

There is however one particular quality of carnival games I have not touched on as yet — prizes.

After all, that is a part of the context of such games when you visit a carnival. You generally don’t play a ring toss just to play it. You play it to win a stuffed animal or some other prize. I’m really not interested in trying to provide a large quantity of stuffed animals, especially with the kids who are already a part of our camp group who would likely want to adopt them all!

But I wonder what might make good prizes and therefore create the kind of temptation/challenge that a carnival game truly represents. And of course, in the interest of full disclosure it should be noted that I do have a great deal of information already in my possession on how to rig a wide variety of carnival and sideshow games. I’ve loved Carny Culture since I was a kid so this should come as no particular shock to anyone.

What may be a shock is that I will not *actually* rig any of my games. Maybe. Probably.

But it does seem to me that there needs to be something to bring in the marks, er, customers. And that’s going to be interesting.

So, dear reader, what interests you?  What kinds of carnival games would draw you in?  And no need to worry about their historical accuracy.  Just tell me what you liked playing at the carnival or amusement park.

What kinds of prizes would you like to see?  What would tempt you to step right up and win a prize?

And, as usual, some useful starting links:

About santiagosgrimoire

Magician, Entertainer, Actor, Cook, Leather Worker, Artist and generally very busy.

Posted on August 27, 2012, in Carnival and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. Not necessarily a carnival game, but certain an indoor game from the 15th century. Billiards of all things, but not the modern understanding of it.

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