Night Games




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The fun and value to be had from night games is enormous. Many a Scout has had his fear of the dark overcome through gradual training in "Night Scouting." It may be easy to make a sketch map of a strange village in broad daylight, but try it in the pitch dark and complete silence-no questions to be asked.

This section allows for full use of the Scouter's imagination :-Bank Robberies, Fifth Columnists, Rockets, etc.

Good training in Night Scouting can well be given in the daylight, using masks. These masks should not be blindfolds but should be so made that the wearer can dimly distinguish objects, so that he gets somewhere near night game conditions.

In planning night games it is always as well to consult the weather pundits and study the state of the moon. The game that can be a success on a really dark night may be quite impossible when the moon is at the full, and vice versa. It is essential to go over the ground in daylight before the game is played, so that the boundaries are known and understood and the area over which the game is played is reasonably familiar to most of those taking part, and especially the Patrol Leaders.

Good night games are grand Scouting, but experience shows that there are few forms of Scouting that can so easily flop if the planning and previous reconnaisance leave anything to be desired.

Generally speaking, a night game should be of shorter duration than an ordinary Wide Game. Forty-five to sixty minutes is about right, but it depends a great deal on the area to be used and the number taking part. All these points do need to be thought out and made clear before the game takes place. There is nothing quite so depressing for a boy as to be taking part in a game which he does not understand and in which, so far as he is concerned, nothing ever happens. Spending an hour under a hawthorn bush on a wet night may possibly be good for the soul, although that is arguable, but it is certainly not the kind of picture the average boy has of what he expects Scouting to give him. A night game, above all else, does need real action if it is to be a success.

As a Wide Game, the background story can make or mar a night game. If the story is too long or too complex no one will understand it or take any notice of it, and yet if it is not there at all the romance of Scouting suffers a jolt. In any case, a background story does need translating into terms of realism, both in the written instructions and in the action that takes place. For example, in relation to one boy the story may well be that he is the High Priest of the Hittite Fire- Worshippers and must guard a collection of idols which have been gathered together as a result of exploration in the Lower Reaches of the Amazon. That is all very well, but the Scout also needs to know that he, Bill Smith, upon pain of a severe grilling from his Patrol Leader, has to guard the area bounded by four oak trees which contains fourteen old signalling flags.

We so often fail by taking insufficient trouble before starting, and once the game starts it is quite futile to try to issue supplementary instructions or to make clear things that should have been made clear when the Troop met to plan the game.


86. Spies in Camp

Three or more Patrols needed. One Patrol, distinguished by white bands on arms, act as Spies. Each is given a piece of firewood (not as a weapon). Other Patrols are Guards. The Camp Fire is burning briskly. All Spies leave Camp and take up positions at an agreed distance from Camp.

Guards then encircle the Camp, at least 50 yards from fire. At "Go" Spies try to creep into Camp and put wood on fire; anyone who does so remains by fire. Guards can capture by taking away wood.


87. Overnight Raid

This is a simple raid. It will be described as actually played as part of an overnight scheme, but it could easily be done as a straight game.

Two Troops of six Patrols were doing overnight hike camps at points nearly a mile apart. They reached the sites in the afternoon, and while setting up Camp, etc., small parties in relays scoured the given area of 3 square miles on bikes to find their opponents. This was a Wide Game in itself with an independent force of "gremlins" to make it more difficult; but that's another story. Each side set up a base 5 yards square in the open, the corners marked by sheets of paper pegged to the ground. In each base was a candle in a jam-jar, and a bottle tied to a stake to support a rocket.

At half an hour before H hour, lamp signals were made to each camp (with previous warning to keep a look out) giving particulars of opponents' base just in case. Umpires, two to each camp, issued lives, in the form of a foot length of 1-inch paper gumstrip. It is put through the back of the belt and gummed to itself to form a ring. It shows up well at night.

Each Troop was divided into three parties of two Patrols each-attack wave 1, wave 2, and defenders. At H hour the candles were lit and the first rockets put in. Wave 1 was free to go. Wave 2 was free to go at H+%2. At H+ 1 hour, assuming the first rocket had been let off, another is put in the bottle. (This ensured that the game didn't peter out-an important point in Wide Games.) At H+ 11/4 hours the game ended, and at H+1%2, cocoa, made by the umpires, was served-to home forces only!

Further points: (1) tents and cocoa fire are out of bounds except to dead men, who will always find an umpire warming himself there ! After due delay new lives are given; (2) the base is taboo to defenders; (3) each side has 50 yards of stout string to make triplines-to be examined by umpires before game starts: this took the place of the stockades which are sometimes built in night-raid games and make attack extremely difficult; (4) if rocket score is 1-1, the earlier wins; if 2-2, the earlier to put up second rocket wins.


88. Lighting the Beacon

This is just a raiding game to be played at night over 300 to 400 yards of rough country. At each end of the course an electric torch is tied to a tree in the centre of a well-defined area of about 50 yards radius. If the trees are fairly easy to climb the torches may be put on the higher boughs. Two umpires must take up positions on the edge of these bases so that they can see the torch if it is switched on. Each of two opposing sides endeavours to light one beacon and prevent the other side from lighting the other. Each side must be divided equally into attack and defence, and some system of "lives" is used- bracelets of gummed paper is quite a good one, one side wearing them on the left wrist, the other the right. Defenders may not go within 50 yards of their own torch except to extinguish it when it has been lit. When an attacker has succeeded in lighting the beacon he must at once return and change places with a defender, and all defenders must confine themselves to defence until so relieved. New lives may be obtained from the umpire at the home base.

The umpires will count the number of seconds that the torch remains lit. The game is played for half an hour, and the winning side is the one that has had their beacon burning for the longest time at the least cost in lives-deduct three from the "time" score for each life lost.


89. Laying the Ghosts

Best played in Camp. The necessary information and instructions should be given on the night previous to the playing of the game, in the form of a Campfire yarn. Here is a bare outline of the yarn (place-names should be made to fit the locality of the camp and descriptive details added, ad lib):

Some three hundred years ago the young Sir Marmaduke Penman of Nibthwaite Grange fell in love with the lovely Lady Lucy Lamplight of Lowick Hall. They used to meet at the bridge above the sawmill, half-way from Lowick to Nibthwaite. (This is where the camp is situated.) Although the lady was attracted by Sir Marmaduke she preferred a more adventurous type, and compared him unfavourably with Sir Rudolph Restless of Abbot Park, who at that time was away on a voyage of exploration. At last she promised that if Sir M. would follow Sir R.'s example, she would marry him on his return. M. departed to discover new lands. Some years later he returned and, on a moonlit night, he made his way across the fields to claim his lady. By the bridge he saw two figures, and stopping in the shadow of a hedge he recognised his lady and Sir R. R. Jumping to the wrong conclusion that his lady had tired of waiting for him, he waited till Sir R. departed, followed the lady and strangled her. Later, finding that he had misjudged her, he threw himself into the river and was drowned.

And every year on the same date the ghosts of Sir Marmaduke and the lady re-enact the tragedy.

Now the local Council, thinking that visitors are deterred from visiting the place by these ghostly disturbances, have approached the Council of Psychical Research to find a remedy. They have been informed that if at the moment when the ghosts re-enact the tragedy, they can be encircled in a ring of human sympathy (symbolised by the linking of hands in a circle round the ghosts by living people) they will disappear for ever. But the ghosts are shy of living people, and if disturbed will seek some other place for their performance.

The date for the appearance of the ghosts is August __th (i.e. the next night). It is a good plan to send the Scouts to bed early the next night, and let them get up for the ghost hunt when they hear the sound of a horn which is Sir Marmaduke's way of announcing that he is on the move. Patrol Leaders should have a concerted plan of action, and should discuss with their Patrols how to maintain contact in the dark. The make-up and acting of the ghosts will contribute to the success of the game, and add spice to what can be good practice in silent and organised movement by night. The game has been played with success, and one "ghost" will never forget the consternation and panic flight of one Patrol when he made an unexpected appearance in a moonlit glade.


90. Time-bomb

A time-bomb is required for this game, which can take the form of a cooking timer or an alarm clock. Two teams are chosen, one represents the saboteurs and the other the guards. The leader of the saboteurs is briefed. He has to get the time-bomb placed- under a water trough, in a culvert, drain, etc.-and is told the bomb will go off in twenty minutes from the word "Go." (The alarm is set for twenty minutes duration.) The two teams are stationed so that they can just see each other. On the word "Go" the saboteurs move off to accomplish their task. The guards' duty is to keep the saboteurs under observation without being seen themselves, watch for the placing of the bomb, then rush in and render it harmless. This is purely a game of stalking; there is no scrapping or taking of lives, and it has the advantage that the guards must keep out of sight, or, of course, the bomb will not be placed. A system of points can be applied, but it is not essential.


91. Guarding the Lighthouse

This game requires a tree which is fairly easy to climb and an electric torch. The torch is suspended in a tree and switched on; the game is then a question of attack and defence with defenders stationed at a reasonable distance from the tree; it can be played in silence, for stalking, or the rules can be altered to enable a rough-house to develop.


92. Arson

A game similar to the previous one except that the object of the attackers is to set fire to a pile of dry bracken, straw, paper, or similar material, placed in the middle of a field. To "kill," the defenders have to shout the name of the attacker when they spot him: he then goes back to make another attempt. A misty night is very good for this game, but in this case the object of the attack should be rag or paper soaked in paraffin: a good blaze improves things.


93. Star Trail

Patrols sent off at intervals on a given route which brings them back to H.Q. Their object is to record every change of direction, using the stars as their compass.


94. Night Obstacle Race

A Patrol competition on a timing basis and run on the lines of an assault course. The obstacles must vary according to the terrain available and might include such things as scaling a wall, squeezing under a gate (hard luck, Tubby!); walking a scaffold pole, swinging over an obstacle on a rope; recognising from a set distance a black scale-model 'plane; crossing a stream dry shod with the aid of a pole and length of rope, and so on, with endless variations.


95. Will o' the Wisps

Each of the members of one Patrol is provided with a torch. They are given two or three minutes (depending on Camp site and surroundings) to scatter and hide. At the end of this time the Scouter (or whoever is in charge of the game) blows a whistle or koodoo. Each torch-bearer must then flash his light in a complete circle and at the same time the other Patrols set out to locate and capture them. The torch-bearers can hide anywhere but must flash their lights in a circle whenever the whistle or koodoo sounds. It is well to have a time limit to a round of the game so that on a given signal all uncaptured torch-bearers and all searchers may return. The Patrol with most captures becomes the torch-bearers for the next round. It is well to decide on an exact definition of "capture"


96. Night Scavenger Hunt

The Troop Scavenger Hunt means always a thrilling, ingenious and hilarious evening, especially if the items are chosen with malice aforethought. A Night Scavenger Hunt in Camp might be equally successful. Some of the items might have to be "prepared," but some serious items of nature study could be included as well as those which need thought and imagination to obtain. To those who have never played this sort of game the following items may give you ideas of others, to make up about a score or two dozen: a baked potato, a pound of pebbles in a paper bag; a beggarman's knot; a white maple leaf; the signature of the village policeman (whom they will probably not know but whose cooperation you have previously obtained-don't forget to invite him to a Camp Fire afterwards as an honoured guest); one of the S.M.'s shoes (he has only two-so this item calls for incisive leadership); a member of another Patrol, kidnapped, bound and gagged; a whittled doll; a moth; five named wild flowers; a feather over 3 inches long; some items from a notice board outside the camp; something borrowed from a non-Scout, and so on. There is much more real training in leadership and followership in such a game as this than is superficially apparent.


97. The Missing Man

The Scoutmaster gives out a notice something like the following

"You have read in the papers this week about the police wanting to interview Edward Stiles. Message came through half an hour ago that he is within the area bounded by High Street, South Street, Wallace Avenue, Penhill Road, and he will not cross these roads.

"The police description is as follows: Age, 45-50. Height, 5 feet 10 inches. Build, stocky. Eyes, brown. Complexion, sallow. Hair, wavy black. No visual deformity. Dress, sports jacket. Collar, white. Tie, blue and white striped. Shirt, brown. Trousers, grey flannel. No overcoat or mackintosh. Shoes, brown with criss-cross laces. No hat.

"We shall help by searching the streets. Smith and his Second will be the 'nerve centre' at the corner of Lime Crescent and Orange Grove. Ginger and Shorty with their bicycles will act as messengers."

(Detail remainder of Scouts to go in pairs and search certain roads).

"Stiles is armed with a weapon which says, 'Go back to the Hall' - this has the effect of striking you dumb and you must return immediately. The weapon can only be used against Scouts in pairs or by themselves. It cannot be used against three or more Scouts together.

"If you spot the suspect, summon help without being seen. He is caught when a cordon is thrown round him. A cordon is formed by Scouts holding hands. Maybe three Scouts can pin him against a wall or seven or eight surround him. Neither Scouts nor suspect are allowed to touch each other.

"I will repeat the description."

This game takes usually from twenty to thirty minutes. The object is (1) to get Scouts used to the police method of describing people; (2) training in night stalking and "Scouting" under conditions of darkness; (3) training in team-work.

The gradual forming of a silent cordon unknown to the Scout or Rover Scout playing the part of "Edward Stiles" is, apart from its training value, a most exciting time.


98. Treasure by Subtraction

In this night game a variation on the old treasure hunt theme is introduced by making the clues subtractive rather than additive. At the outset the Scouts are presented with an apparently meaningless jumble of letters, and the trail consists of a chain of clues which enable the hunt to winnow the wheat from the chaff and so make sense of nonsense.

A typical clue would read thus:

"Subtract from the following the first four lines of the last hymn sung at evensong at St. Christopher's last Sunday-RWHINOWGOUMALDRTRLUENEV67378 ...(etc.)"

On inquiry in the right quarters, the Scouts will discover that the hymn in question was "Who would true valour see," and the process of elimination will leave them with the instruction, "Ring Marine 67378. The password is "the name of the author of the famous play which the Founder referred to in his last message." On ringing up this number, and satisfying the "Voice" of their bona fides, the Scouts will be guided to the second clue and told how to solve it. For instance: "Look at the highest point at the 6th H.Q. Subtract the names of the proprietors at 27 High Street, 8 The Grove, the White Shop in Pamerston Avenue...."(etc.)

The highest point, of course, is the top of the flagpole, and here the clue will be found caught in the lay of the halyard and run right up to the truck.

It will be seen that the hunt provides scope for a variety of activities as well as the exercise of memory, path-finding, and intelligence. Nor is there any reason why a little physical adventure should not be included, though this will depend largely upon the terrain.

Here a few suggestions for additional clues:

(1) A message contained in a sealed tin moored to a sinker in the middle of a duck pond or pool, from which the titles, etc., represented by the following abbreviations must be subtracted:

D.L., O.B.E., O.M., Q.V., etc.

(2) A typed notice in a shop window. Take away the name and address of the printer of the cloak-room tickets at the Marine Hotel.

(3) A message suspended from a tree. Subtract the gauge of the tramlines expressed in inches.

(4) A buried message sign-posted by the appropriate tenderfoot signs. Subtract the last line of Rupert Brooke's poem The Soldier.

Provided your Scouts can be depended upon not to make a nuisance of themselves, it is generally an easy matter to enlist the co-operation of outsiders in a hunt of this sort. The night-watchman at the cross-roads, the sergeant on duty at the Police Station, the commissionaire at the Regal, the warden of the Youth Club, the ticket collector at the ferry landing, the curator of the Municipal Museum, the librarian, the receptionist at the Hotel Metropole. You will, of course, avoid bothering busy people at times when they are at their busiest. On the other hand, there can be no doubt that many of the worlds' night-workers are not averse to having the tedium of their common round broken by the spasmodic arrival of keen-faced youngsters all avid for information. This may be one way in which we can share the fun of Scouting.


99. Alarm Clock

A loud-ticking alarm clock, placed on an empty metal box somewhere in a field at night, will serve as the target for Scouts to find within a stipulated time. Space them out around the perimeter and, even though they have crossed the field scores of times by daylight, very few can estimate distance accurately at night to venture on such a quest at a swinging stride. Didn't we all suffer from such delusions during the black-out? The usual progress is on all fours to commence with, and there is a reasonable chance that the Scouts will find the cutting properties of many forms of vegetation, besides the anguish of nettled or thistled skins, before they have crawled far. The rattle or burr of the exaggerated alarm, if unchecked by a successful finder, is startling enough to cause momentary creepy feelings down the spine even when it is expected. When adept, take the Scouts into the next field, and either set them loose separately or as a Patrol.


100. Prisoner

A prisoner is firmly secured by his Guardian (or Guardians) to a tree in woodland as securely as possible within a limited time (say five minutes). The Guardian then moves five to ten paces away to as comfortable a spot as he can find to watch over the captive. The umpire may well allow a few moments for the latter to express his feelings about the uncomfortableness of his position, and the tight constriction of his bonds. After the Guardian has revealed the probable fate of the prisoner if his mates do not release him within a given period (for he could not hope to unravel the knots perpetrated in the dark), silence is imposed. The umpire then releases from hiding, some convenient distance away, the prisoner's friends, one or more at a time; their task is to find their friend and release him without detection. The Guardian's means of slaying intruders can be left to choice, though a torch beam hitting the unwary fair and square is probably the best at night. Restrict the number of times the Guardian can press the switch. A cracking twig, the fall of loosened earth, a swishing branch and even deep breathing can be heard, and the critical moments come when the cordage is being loosened. The Guardian should not move from his perch and the prisoner should maintain an honest silence. As a point of honour the loosened bonds should be neatly coiled and the precincts of the dungeon left before the Guardian is made aware of the escape-if that result is attained. Scouts" killed" by the torch should return to the base and be given a new place in the queue seeking the release of their friend. Not more than three boys should be on the move at once. As the Scouts get expert, alter the conditions to make the release more difficult, e.g. work in a more constricted area, and ultimately it can be developed into an inter-Patrol game on the lines of a single flag raid with a human flag. Good umpiring is necessary for success.


101. Fire ! Fire!

Yet another stunt proved useful in war years. The Patrol is put to bed in a rectangle of ground marked out by ropes which leave a gap on one side, say 5 feet across. The Scouts must be undressed, properly in their beds, and their goods and chattels by them. On the signal" Fire ! "or the wailing of an improvised siren, they must dress correctly before making for the exit gap, contact with the ropes meaning the roasting of the stumbler. At the end of 100 seconds the gap is narrowed by a foot, to represent fallen and burning timber, another foot at 150 seconds, and so on, until the laggards are hemmed in with blazing walls. This simple game calls for cool thinking and a good memory, especially when there is one excitable Scout in the party: he can do a lot of damage!


102. Gnomes

The Gnome's Route calls for more organisation and equipment. The Scouts are placed on a knoll which commands a wide expanse of broken country, each Scout or Patrol with pencil, map and a torch. The Gnome carries a hurricane lamp and follows a circuitous route for a mile or so. He then waves the lamp above his head in a prearranged signal to show he has reached the end of the route before putting out the lamp. The watching Scouts are expected to plot the route on the map, by no means an easy task when the ground is hilly. The game can be varied by chasing the Gnome, who should then be permitted to extinguish his lamp from time to time.


103. Light and Whistle

One Scout with a torch and whistle is given five minutes' start from a clearing in a wood or coppice. The other Scouts wait for the "Go" signal and set off to capture him. He must show his light and blow his whistle at least once every minute. No other Scout may have torch or whistle. The captor takes the place of the captured.


104. Sabotage

Each of four Patrols was given a duplicated copy of the same map of an area of broken country roughly 400 yards each way, containing two very small copses, with a stream running through it and a railway viaduct on one boundary; also an envelope containing sealed instructions. Within the shaded area on the map was a gear store where they could get most things that they wanted (except when Drake Patrol locked the door and pocketed the key), and they could ask their Scouters for anything else they wanted (Livingstone Patrol eventually asked for a sextant, and got one). The ideal time for the game, from start to finish, was found to be one and a half hours (excluding the time taken in digesting instructions and in making verbal reports afterwards). These were the instructions given to the Patrols:

Livingstone Patrol

Within the area shaded on the map:

(1) Build a shelter of natural materials large enough to hold two Scouts.

(2) Observe your latitude by measuring the angle of elevation of the Pole Star.

(3) If you find anyone making a sundial, destroy it.

(4) Do not let any other Patrol know what you are doing.

(5) Be prepared to make verbal report on your activities at 9 p.m.

Scott Patrol

Within the area shaded on the map:

(1) Make on the ground a camp sundial which will enable the Tenderfoot in your Patrol to call you to-morrow morning.

(2) Find the speed of a train travelling along the viaduct.

(3) If you find anyone lighting a fire, put it out.

(4) Do not let any other Patrol know what you are doing.

(5) Be prepared to make a verbal report on your activities at 9 p.m.

Grenfell Patrol

Within the area shaded on the map:

(1) Light a fire at least 10 feet above ground, and devise a method of using it for sending morse in any direction of your choosing.

(2) Find by direct measurement the speed of sound over a distance of at least 400 yards.

(3) If you find anyone building a shelter, destroy it.

(4) Do not let any other Patrol know what you are doing.

(5) Be prepared to make verbal report on your activities at 9 p.m.

Drake Patrol

(1) Herewith are copies of instructions given to the other three Patrols. Do anything you can to make them produce inaccurate results, or to make it difficult for them to carry out their instructions (both constructive and destructive) without letting them know that you are sabotaging them (i.e. very subtly and not by direct assault).

(2) Be prepared to make a verbal report on your activities, after the reports given by the other Patrols at 9 p.m.

See Also:

More Night Games






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