Darts Can Still Be Fun!
When I was a lot, lot younger than I am now I tended to worry about darts becoming too serious and in this elderly article, written way back when, I suggested a few ways of playing the game for laughs…
Up until the early 1970s darts’ development from a public bar pastime to a major sport had hardly begun even though millions of us had been playing the game for years.
The emergence of the British Darts Organisation and the subsequent T.V. interest suddenly accelerated the evolutionary process until by the mid-to-late 1980s many in darts were calling it a 'sport' and there was even mention of a movement to pursuade the UK Sports Councils to recognise darts and even some that thought darts should become a featured sport in the Olympics. At that time, I opined "Darts is in danger of taking itself too seriously". Darters needed to relax and loosen up more.
Professional players relaxed through the medium of highly lucrative exhibition nights but what about the run-of-the-mill league or club player who wanted nothing more than to play darts? How did he or she relax?
In a late 1980s issue of Darts Worlda writer and cartoonist called, ‘Coach’ had been looking at alternative games but I could not help but feel that, in the main, those suggestions retained the element of serious competition or acted as a continuing aid to practice, encouraging consistency and accuracy. What – I said... What about the masses of casual players who wanted a chance to genuinely RELAX for a short while away from the pressure of match play but not away from the dartboard? So this is what I wrote nearly twenty-five years ago...
I have played darts seemingly all my life. (I must take a rest soon as my arms are beginning to ache!) I take a great interest in the game. I love it. The regular meetings of the darts club to which I subscribe are spent in keen competition with an alternative game such as HALVE ITor KILLER usually rounding off the evening.
Like all clubs we have our star players who do have a tendency to hog the board on occasions and it was as a result of some committee ribbing of these ‘star hoggers’ that the suggestion was made, tongue-in-cheek, that we should arrange just one night of darts where all the players stay on the dartboard all evening.
It was not such a tough order as we first thought.
So we set about ‘inventing’ games of darts each of which involved the participation of every player for only as long as it took each darter to throw his or her three (or in one case four) arrows. A second criterion we set ourselves was that each game should be basically silly. What better way to relax than to make a fool of yourself with your pals?
The games that follow are a selection of those that the club members eventually came up with. In the majority of cases it is the highest (or lowest) score that wins each leg. At my local, the Blue Boar, we prepared a league table, awarding points to darters for coming 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th or 5th (10, 8, 6, 4 and 2 points respectively). The highest total at the end of the evening won whatever trophy of prize the committee had managed to provide from limited Club funds.
It is the very nature of the games themselves that inject the element of fun and which just for one night at least, pulled us away from any thoughts that darts should be forever taken seriously.
Each player throws his or her own darts with the wrong hand, i.e. right-handers throw left-handed, left-handers through right-handed. It is truly fascinating how inaccurate a good player can be with the opposite hand. Highest – or lowest – score (depending on the agreed rules) wins the round.
SOCK IT TO ME
Each player throws three darts wearing an old (clean) woollen sock over his or her throwing hand. Easy? You try it. If no one will risk using a sock, try instead to throw using a glove puppet. (See photo of me practising with Dermot the Frog twenty years ago!)
UP AND UNDER
Each player stands with his or her back to the dartboard, leans over forward and throws the darts between his or her legs at the board. Watch the wallpaper or any on-lookers that may be standing a little too close. It may be wise to have the St. John Ambulance in attendance for this game.
WHERE’S THE BOARD?
Each darter in turn is blindfolded for this one. Once blindfolded it is not a good idea to try and disorientate the player. Who knows where the darts may fly or who might get hurt? It’s no fun playing ‘Where’s the Board?’ if everyone else is out in the car park for each throw. Just turn the player and then point him or her in the direction of the dartboard and keep supporters away from the oche.
Self-explanatory. Not necessarily in this order, perhaps normal hand, other hand and under arm instead. Again a game that is over quickly but gives you time to marvel at how accurate under arm throwing can be.
Each player throws four darts and the highest score wins that round. But it is not as simple as that. The same four darts, selected by the committee, are used by each player, each dart being of a different type and weight. A typical set might comprise an old wooden ‘French dart’, a couple of ancient brass projectiles and a 45grm tungsten ‘bomber’. Watch each player concentrate hard and then see the darts go exactly where they want! Reverse the game for FOUR DART LOW.
HIT THE QUID
The title indicates that this game is not new. A few years ago a £1 (one pound) note would be pinned flat across the bull’s-eye. The players had three darts; the idea being to hit the quid with all three. However, the rules were that the first dart must be thrown from the toe-line, the second from a line one yard in front of the oche and the third from one yard behind it. The winner took the pound note.
It is certainly not an easy game. Nobody should miss the first shot. The second brings back memories of playing fairground darts (so aim low) and the third aim high and throw hard! With pound notes out of circulation and darters reluctant to put a fiver up, I suggest you shoot for bull’s-eyes and score two points for each inner and one point for an outer. Best score wins. Alternatively, pin a photograph of the club secretary on the board and see how accurate darters become!
[Update: Since writing this piece the pound note went out of circulation and the five pound note became the lowest denomination of bank note in the UK. Thus, today and until the £5 coin is introduced, this game should be called HIT THE FIVER.
Ideal for the lazy darter. Each player throws three darts from a sitting position, either on the floor or from a stool. As usual, highest, or lowest, score wins. (That wall needed replastering anyway!)
Three darts each. The idea of this quick fire game is to hit the loops of the numbers around the edge of the dartboard, e.g. the 8, 9, 10, etc. Score one point per loop. This is also a great game to boost flagging sales of darts sharpeners.
As I mentioned earlier, this is only a selection of the games we came up with and I am sure that you can come up with others just as simple, quick and entertaining. I recommend this ‘one-off’ type of evening strongly to you all. Perhaps your club could use them as a basis of your next charity night (Please do!) where every member takes part, every player being sponsored so much per point.
I sometimes think that the game we all love is becoming just a little too serious – and at times too personal – and that we all need to remember the game’s roots; darts played for pleasure. With regular events such as casual or charity fun nights you can take your mind off of the restrictions of league play and simply enjoy your darts.
Failing that, you could always go fishing.
Text © 1988 Patrick Chaplin
Photo © 1988 Ian Hughes
This article first appeared in Darts Player 89.
Historian’s Note (1998):
This 20-year old article was written when I still had a sense of humour and long before my hair went grey. Apart from a few typos, grammatical and other minor amendments this is how this piece looked in 1988. I do not apologise for the ‘aching arm’ joke at the beginning. That joke was a lot younger then too!
The Blue Boar Men’s Darts Club (which included women too) cannot lay claim to have ‘invented’ all the games but each and every one had our ‘spin’ on it. Sadly, although the Blue Boar still stands and still sells good real ale, the Harness Bar where the Club used to meet every Wednesday no longer resounds to the thud of darts on bristle. The Club disbanded in the early 1990s and the dartboard was subsequently removed.
For a few years I edited ‘Out of the Blue’, the club newsletter, subtitled the ‘Official Bullsheet of the BBMDC’. It featured match reports and results and, importantly for me, it was where I first published fragments of darts history and began my research which eventually engulfed my entire life.
Historians supplementary (2012):
In 2010 I introduced my Dr. Darts' Newsletter which, at the time of writing has nearly reached 30 issues. Anyone wishing to join the DDN global family can do so by using the 'subscribe' feature on the home page or by e-mailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
My book The Official Bar Guide to Darts (New York: Puzzlewright, 2010) also includes a chapter on alternative games to be played on a dartboard. The book can be ordered via Amazon.com.
© Patrick Chaplin 2008-2012
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