Games for Heralds and Non-Heralds Alike

(many of these are suitable for children, or a mixed audience, and some are slanted towards heralds specifically)

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Heraldo (Heraldic Bingo)

(This version perfected in An Tir by Cedric Swaddlingcote.)

Cards are standard Bingo-style with 5x5 squares and a free space in the middle. I like to put the branch arms in the free space, or a blank shield shape. Each square has either pictures of heraldic charges or specific words in herald-speak. Text-only squares might be "Per Chevron (any tinctures)", "Shakefork (any tinctures)", "Any Lion", "Azure (anywhere)", "(anything) Statant", "Nebuly (anywhere), "(anything) Nowed", etc.

The caller either reads a blazon or holds up a flashcard and the players get to cover any elements on their card that appear on the emblazon or in the blazon. Beginners usually do best with flashcards and pictorial representations on the playing cards while the advanced players tend to need blazons and cards with text descriptions and obscure charges.

When you have covered a complete row, column, or diagonal (as in Bingo) you shout "Heraldo!" and, after your card is checked to make sure you didn't make any mistakes, you win!

The greatest time expenditure is in the creation of suitable cards. Cedric uses colored cards which seem to have been hand-drawn and are randomly situated as to what goes where. Color is really a must to round out the game; coloring cards would make a great project for a group of artistically oriented or heralically curious people. I plan on making template squares and then laying them out to create unique cards. I think I'll also sort types in columns (ordinaries, beasts and monsters, tinctures and furs, lines - division or edging, and other charges). Note that a single item can cover more than one square: a lion rampant azure can get 2 or three squares depending on what elements are on the cards. For caller cards, copies of submission forms work quite well, but you'll have to create others in order to round out your game.

This game practically demands play-testing before unleashing it on players.

The childrens' variant is simply to use ordinaries, basic common beasties, and escutcheon shapes in single tinctures on the player cards and to always show an emblazon while reading the blazon to let the youngsters have time to pick out the elements which fit. Even non-readers can play, so the game is pretty fair all around, and Nigel the Byzantine says it can become an obsession with the children...

Herald Sez

Herald as caller, everyone needs to listen and respond. Example: "Herald Sez, Rampant!" (everyone pretend to be rampant lions). "Herald Sez, Dormant!" (etc...) Most ordinaries are possible as well, a local can do a saltire, pall, pale and cross quite nicely. Note from Nigel the Byzantine: "I've successfully played this with adults, as well. There's nothing funnier than a bunch of adults in Court garb attempting to pose themselves in Rampant, Passant, Couchant, etc!! :) Just try to get them to do Coward!" I've also dropped good players out of the game by calling a posture without prefacing it with "Herald Sez". Works rather well.

Heraldic Charades

This one is chaotic, and requires space to make plenty of noise. Players are divided into teams if you have more than about ten people. Otherwise, don't bother with scoring and go for the free-for-all, if you dare. One person is handed a card with a blazon on it. (I pre-screen these so as to not make the game impossible, and often sort them so easy ones come first and more difficult ones come up as the game progresses.) Now, without using words, the card-holder must mime the blazon so that the other players get it. Close counts, as judged by the referee.

Usually, we either have teams who rotate the poor sot with the card and scoring is done either as a point for each successful blazon or a time limit is set and the winning teams have the least amount of time in properly saying the blazon. In free-for-all if scoring is used it's by time and the winner is the person who got the other players to call out the blazon in the least amount of time.

Speed Blazon

Another loud game. A coloured emblazon is held up and players yell out the blazon with the point going to the first person who gets it correct. The referee has to have sharp eyes and quick ears and be able to make decisions on the fly.

Speed Emblazon

Supply players with paper and pencils. Markers if you're really crazy. Then read a blazon and the first person to hold up a recognizable emblazon gets the pojnt. This is best in a small group, and the non-artistically inclined can act as judges of recognizability for ties. Color is optional here.

Stump the Herald

This one requires savvy on the players' part. A panel of heralds is presented with blazons from the audience and must explain obscure terms found within the blazons. It's a good symposium or collegium game. Points are awarded for having documented stuff the heralds didn't know about.

Heraldic Scavenger Hunt

This one takes a lot of prep by an experienced herald. It's great for one-day events or for a portion of longer events. Copier or printer access is practically required, as is good handwriting or a word processor. You can do it with friends if they write legibly and accurately. (I've let players copy the sheets and mistakes abounded, unfortunately.)

The site is patrolled, once or several times. Heraldic display is noted down by blazon, location and owner (if possible). Then you go compile the hunt sheet. The simple version has full blazons and general elements (lion, gules, etc.); the more advanced uses armorial elements specific to a particular emblazon (three annulets in fess argent). I use 10 items for an hourlong game, 20-25 for an afternoon on a small site, and up to 50 over two days at the War.

Points can be decided upon a number of ways. Same number of points for each item, more points for harder-to-find or identify items and less for tinctures and other generalities, etc. I've had 5 points for the checky field of the kingdom banner, 10 points for Duke Dak's surcote charge (a goat's head erased Or), 15 points for the garlic bulb on Ollomo Esugenas' banner, 20 points for an annulet voided on 15 people's belt favours, and 25 points for Aurnia's badge repeated around the hem of her skirt (6" high - "A trefoil purpure within and conjoined to a massacre sable."). Other things, like "a jambe" might be 20-30 points depending on the obviousness of the display.

My thumbnail guidelines are something like this: visible from more than 15 feet away, 5 points. On more than a quarter of the fighters *and* visible with their armor on - 5 or 10 points. Somewhat obscure charges (the curragh, for one) 10 or 15 points depending on size. Stationary chair - 10 points, chair which will be moving all over the site, 15 points. Belt favor on several people - 15 points. Belt favor on one person - 20 points. Merchant sign - 10 points. Jewelry (I use my personal 10-foot rule here, I have to be able to see it 10' away from the wearer and at least recognize it as heraldic, else I don't use it) - 15 to 20 points.

Players/teams locate items, note their location and owner (or do the best they can, I keep detailed notes so that I can decipher "surcote on the tall guy wielding the bardiche with the wings on his helmet") and turn the sheets in by a specified time. It takes awhile to score the sheets, so I give myself an hour or two.

This is great to pre-publicize before an event and tends to encourage heraldic display; in conjunction with a heraldic display contest it works delightfully well. People are flattered that their heraldry is under consideration and participants unintentionally learn some heraldry and an appreciation of the whole concept of showing their device and badges off to the world. I've even gotten it to be worth a War Point once.

Name That Charge

This one is good for teaching, and children like it. Hold up an emblazon and point to a charge. Players either take turns identifying charges or the first person who calls out the correct term gets the point.

Heraldic Memory Test

Guess who owns what arms. For adults, hold up banners or other emblazons to let people guess the owners. The slightly advanced version is without visual reference - players need to identify a device's owner simply from the blazon.

This one can be good for children. Make flashcards using local members' armory and show them, naming each owner. Give the children a few minutes to forget everything, then hold up each emblazon and see who can remember the owner's name. This works well at a fighting event where fighters will be wearing surcotes. Children really like to point out armory to one another (and friends and parents) and say, "I know who that is!"

Sometimes, you can even get people in heraldic clothing to come and present themselves to the children and introduce themselves, then later take the children near the fighting and play "Spot Sir So-and-so" from the sidelines.

What's Wrong With This Emblazon?

Create near-misses in armory with the emblazon and blazon not quite matching. Then display the emblazon and recite the blazon; players must find the inconsistencies.

Find the Differences (children)

This one requires the help of a decent heraldic artist or a good computer drawing program. Two identical emblazons are done, then slight changes are made between the two. Just like the "find the differences" pictures in children's activity books. For advanced children, have the blazon written out on both sheets and have the children figure out which is the correct emblazon, too.

Name that Kingdom/Principality/Region/Barony/Shire/Canton/Port/College

Stock up on stuff that has branch device and badges on them. Show the emblazon and give points to the first person to identify the branch attached to the heraldry. You can throw in fakes if your players are too good, or find some obscure branch in another kingdom. This one's good for teaching arms identification.

I Can Cant - Can You Cant, Too?

Players are shown an emblazon and get to guess who's being referred to by it. The only caveat is to make certain the person in question isn't going to mind being lampooned. Sometimes, they'll help you create the joke emblazon themselves. Alternately, a person can be named and his/her device blazon recited, then players can see who comes up with the best parody for them.

My Awards Go Jingle, Jangle, Jingle

List names of locals in one column, awards in another. Have people match the awards to the names of people they think have them already. This one was created by Wilhelm vonMesser in An Tir who wanted to heighten people's awareness of what awards were deserved by branch members. OPs are to be confiscated when playing this one.

Blazon That Device!

(Ever watch the US television show in the 1970's called "Name that Tune"?)

Players play one-on-one. The winner of each bout faces a new challenger in the next round. An emblazon is shown and players `bid' how many words it'll take to blazon the device. The champion (coin-toss winner in the first round) starts the bidding, then the challenger lowers the bid if possible, then back to the champion. When a player can go no lower, he/she challenges "Blazon that Device!" and the last bidder must do it, in the number or words bid or less. If the blazoner cannot finish the blazon, the challenger wins.

EXAMPLE: Lord X and Lady A are up; Lord X is champion of the round.
An emblazon of a gold field with a red cross throughout between four
fountains is shown.
   Lord X:  I can blazon that device in 16 words.
   Lady Y:  I can blazon that device in 12 words.
   Lord X:  I can blazon that device in 10 words.
   Lady Y:  I can blazon that device in 9 words.
   Lord X:  Blazon that Device!
   Lady Y:  Or, a cross throughout gules between four fountains.  
            (8 words, one less than the bid.)
The round goes to Lady Y.  Next round the emblazon is a blue field with 
three gold deer lying down and two green x's on a white chief with a 
complex line.  The new challenger is Lady Q.
    Lady X:  I can blazon that device in 23 words.
    Lady Q:  I can blazon that device in 20 words.
    Lady X:  I can blazon that device in 19 words.
    Lady Q:  I can blazon that device in 15 words.
    Lady X:  Blazon that Device!
    Lady Q:  Azure, three stags lodged and a chief invected argent 
	     charged with three saltires couped vert.  (15 words, but
	     the blazon is incorrect - deer are Or - so Lady Q loses.)

This is good with either new or experienced heralds, and counting on the fingers is very much allowed. It encourages clean blazons and can be a real hoot when someone messes up. Keep the humor mutual and place something like a 15 second limit on finger-counting time. I've found this to be a good prize game, but beware that experienced blazon heralds can really sweep the game.

Heraldic Pageflip

(Thank Countess Elisabeth de Rossignol, for this one.) I have played in the past a quite delightful game called Heraldic Pageflip. You get an Armorial. You let it fall open randomly. Points are awarded on an increasing scale for:

1. Anyone you know on that page.

2. Anyone you have ever done heraldry for on that page (consulted, done court, etc.)

3. Anyone you can tell a funny story about on that page.

4. Anybody you can tell a really juicy story about on that page.

Weird, possibly sick, but rather fun especially after the champagne's been going around.

Document Something Silly

Get together and see if everyone involved can document something inordinately silly, but legal according to the RfS, etc. This is really a great way to get the people intimidated by all those books involved. Looking up something in de Felice is a lot less scary when it's ridiculous. Don't forget the armory! WARNING: I've spent an entire day doing this with five friends. It's way too fun to stop.

Uses for the results: An April 1st Letter; fliers for the biffies (Did you know this was a documentable name?); fodder for heraldic meetings that need lightening up; newsletter padding.

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This page maintainted by Lady Teceangl Bach (

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