Goblin Game

Goblin Game

Goblin is a game first played by miners in Bristol and the surrounding South West regions of England and South Wales. In its most basic form, it consists of a game of three “legs” of four “ends” each. Each “end” consists of the throwing of “pegs” at two target receptacles (the Scuttle and the Souse) over a distance of approximately 5 metres (the “Shaft”). Contestants score points based on both the target hit; the number of the peg thrown and a doubling hand. The person with the most points at the end of each “leg” is awarded that “Leg”, a match usually being the best of five “legs”

Though various different versions have existed in the past, the name 'Goblin' usually now refers to a standardised game involving a specific “Shaft” length and set of rules. The rules for Goblin have not changed in many years. The last major change to the rulebook was undertaken in 1865 (commonly called “The South American Addition”) when Welsh miners settled in the Chubut Province of Patagonia.

Previously a game created to fill the time between working shifts in a mine, Goblin has had mixed popularity over the years and is currently on the rise in the Bristol region, gaining popularity as a pub game. Goblin is a traditional English game, not officially recognised outside of the UK, but has also been played anywhere that mine workers from the region have ended up. This includes (but is not limited to) Australia, The United States of America and Argentina.

Playing Goblin

A match of Goblin usually consists of a series of best of five legs. This can change though, depending on the time of day that the match starts. For example, on a day with good weather, a match may start at midday and so be decided over a best of 9 legs series. This is increasingly common in summer months when Goblin is played in the grounds of a public house.Each Leg is based on four ends per player and in each end a player has three pegs to pitch into the targets.At the start of a match, a single bucket of pegs is used, from which each player will select three at random for use in their end. The player then steps up to the shaft and pitches the pegs at the Scuttle and Souse, either individually, or in one go, throwing all three pegs at once.A score is awarded based on the number of pegs that the player manages to get into the targets.Players take it in turn with three pegs each for three ends and then the final end is played with a single peg, making a total of 10 pegs thrown per player per leg.Pegs are not retrieved between ends only between legs.

cuttle & Souse and Pegs

Originally the two targets were a coal scuttle and a Souse (a type of deep, broad, fire-bucket). The Scuttle, due to its open handle is hung from the line and the souse (with it’s wide base) was placed on top of another, upside down, souse behind and below the scuttle. Whilst these terms are still used today to describe the targets, an actual coal scuttle is rarely if ever used. Instead, modern proponents of the game will use a normal galvanised pail.

Originally dolly pegs were used in Goblin, but as innovations in peg technology have improved, plastic pegs are now allowed in many matches. As the original dolly pegs are somewhat similar in shape to darts, they are considered the easiest to use, due to their slim-line, somewhat aerodynamic shape. It is these pegs that beginners often start with, and introductory Goblin Sets include them more often than not. Plastic pegs are considered the hardest to use due to their light weight. It is generally considered bad luck to draw a mixed hand of both plastic and wooden pegs as different strengths of pitch are required.

Height and distance

In the standard game, the Scuttle is hung so that top of it (lip) hangs approximately 4 feet 6 inches from the floor, the Souse being placed somewhat further away and at a height of around 2 foot 6 inches. It is thought that the (relatively) low heights of these targets originates from the height of the players in the early days, miners being renowned for girth as opposed to height, however research by the current administration of the game has found this to be largely apocryphal. An alternative school of thought says that the height was determined by the low height of pit seams in the originating area.

The heights are listed as being approximate as the measurements originally used were the “claw” which can be thought of as approximately 1.125 Hands. (A Hand being roughly equivalent to 4 inches.) The Scuttle is hung at a height of 12 claws, and the Souse sits at 6 claws.

The players stand approximately 7 ft 9 in (2.36 m) from the front lip of the scuttle, though a few British clubs set it at 8 ft (2.44 m) or 8 ft 6 in (2.59 m). The place the players stand to throw their pegs is a raised area on the ground, called the "lump". For casual play, it is not uncommon to find the lump somewhat further or closer than the tournament standard, either due to rounding of the distance, or to measurement error (such as measuring from the centre of the scuttle, rather than using a plumb line to measure from the lip).


The standard game is scored thus.1 point for a Souse2 points for a ScuttleUnless all three pegs are scoring pegs in which case the total score is double.Or if the first peg is a Souse, the Second a Scuttle and the Third a Souse again, (known as a triple dipsy) then 10 points are scored.Before the first Peg of an end is played a player may chose to double the entire score for that end, in which case, all the above score count twice. The player must formally state his intention to double to all other participants and gain agreement from them for this to count. This last rule was added when Goblin became a popular pub game in the mid 1800s as players were often not to be found at the shaft but in the pub instead and disputes (occasionally bloody) arose.

External links

* [http://members.lycos.co.uk/badgl/ Bristol & District Goblin League] Claimed to be the oldest league in the world

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