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Underground Fun

London Underground roundel logo

It's a whole lot of fun, there's prizes to be won (there are no prizes, that part was a lie)

For hundreds and indeed thousands of us, public transport, and in particular the London Underground, aka the tube, aka a moving metal armpit, is our primary means of transport and this can be arduous, to say the least. Well, no more!

If you don’t have a Kindle on which to read the latest formulaic Dan Brown, fear not, you won’t be bored on your tedious commute any more with this exciting set of tube games. You can not only have a blast while you travel but you can involve fellow passengers and brighten their day too.

Don’t worry if you’re not local to London, you can play these games on most trains and even on some buses. You also won’t need expensive equipment, just a few simple household items that should be readily at hand. All games are for a minimum of 1 player and can even be played in teams of up to 30 or 40. How exciting!

1. Ticket Gate Conga
See how many people you can get to form a cheery early morning conga line behind you at the ticket gate by waiting until you are stood directly at the barrier before starting the search through the entire depths of your pockets and cluttered bag for your ticket. Extra points gained for trying to use an invalid ticket and a bonus point for each time you repeatedly try inserting this ticket before an official assistant ruins play. Don’t start reaching for your ticket on the approach to the ticket gate, this ruins the element of surprise for everyone involved and cuts playing time.

2. Tube Rugby
This fun and physical game sees you trying to rugby tackle your way onto a crowded carriage before any of the other ‘players’ have got off. Lose a point for letting anyone else get on before you do as well as for anyone getting off. Gain bonus points for every foot you step on while in the scrum. It is recommended that you sharpen your elbows for this game and a Junior version can also be played by using your children as small battering rams to force your way through the train doors and the human wall formed by the opposing team.

3. Paper Peeper
You no longer need to take up valuable room in your briefcase by carrying your own book or newspaper when travelling, simply play this literary game whereby player one has to try to read as much of player two’s book or paper before player two turns the page. Don’t be self-conscious here, get a good lean in towards your fellow gamesman. If they perform an evasive manoeuvre such as tilting the reading material away from you, simply lean in further. Traditional Kensington rules dictate that actually holding the edge of your opponent’s page is frowned upon, however, reading out loud is perfectly acceptable.

4. Name That Tube Tune
This game requires an MP3 player or mobile phone with tinny loud speaker. Crank the volume on your music playing device to ‘oh-dear-god-my-teeth-are-rattling’ and sit back, nodding your head with all the attitude of one who has Snoop Dogg round to iron their underpants. Your opponents at the other end of the carriage have to guess from the metallic “tink, tink, tink, ticka-ticka, tink, tink, tink” what you’re listening to. Bonus points for styling it out when Justin Bieber comes on due to shuffle mode being active.

5. Handbag Chicken
See how long you can keep your handbag on an empty seat before being asked to remove it. This game has been played since the days of Queen Victoria and in fact, it was because of her fondness for the game that the Victoria Line was named after her. Don’t worry that you only purchased one ticket, this automatically entitles you to another free seat for your hand luggage and the reason for the other players standing there looking at you like you just poked a kitten in the eye is because they’re envious of your steely nerves and regal determination in this game if wits.

6. Arm Rest Wrestling
This game requires a minimum of 2 players who must be seated next to each other. The aim of the game is to gain sole control of the arm rest without acknowledging the other player. Brute force can be applied here but don’t worry if you’re not overly blessed in the arm muscle department, stealth can be called upon too and a common technique from the Paddington School of Arm Rest Wrestling is to flick your newspaper open as wide as possible, right into your opponent’s face and, with each turn of the page, gain an extra few millimetres of arm rest territory. If you find this version too easy, why not see how far you can get your elbows into your neighbour’s seating area. Don’t worry if they start fidgeting, they’re just getting excited because they’ve started playing the same game with their neighbour on the other side.

7. Who Nose?
Another guessing game here but this time using the olfactory senses. Get your fellow passengers involved in a classic game of guesswork as you eat a mystery item, selected for its quick-release stench and ability to fill a small metal room in seconds. If it doesn’t fill the entire space then it’s not really very fair on all the players as they don’t get the same amount of time to guess what it is you’re enjoying. Examples of classic consumables that have been used in this game include curry, a hard boiled egg and garlic sausage. If you forget to pack your pongy picnic items, don’t worry, a silently launched cloud of digestive vapours from a discreetly cocked cheek will do just as well and the captive audience always enjoys the trickier task of working out what you had for dinner last night.

8. Tube Skittles
This game can only really be played on a very crowded train as multiple players are required. You will also need a heavy rucksack or handbag and the aim of the game is to launch your bag onto your shoulder, taking out as many fellow players or “skittles” as possible. Mrs Warner-Phlaps of Tooting managed to swing her bag in a full 1.7 meter arc on the 08:20 to Barking in May 2007 and set a new Tube World Record for knocking out 12 of her fellow players.

9. Size Matters
This crazy game can be played as a family or on your own. It is a true test of your mental and physical faculties. You must select the heaviest and bulkiest of objects and carry it across the rail network at rush hour without chickening out and using a taxi. Families often like to play this with a matching set of luggage due the varying sizes enabling the youngsters to join in, tripping up their opponents boarding the train with the smaller items while mum and dad can use the larger cases to start an impromptu conga line at the top and bottom of staircases. Bonus points for creativity here so a full orchestra off for a winter holiday, complete with skis, double bass and kettle drums would win over a couple returning from Ikea with a set of Billy bookcases.

10. Automatic Door Dash
Don’t worry about this game causing a slight delay to your fellow passengers, they will understand once they know that you’re playing a jolly old game of Automatic Door Dash and they will be thrilled that you didn’t wait for the next train that is a whole 2 minutes away, so they could join in the fun. The player must wait until the automatic door has started beeping, which is the signal to run towards the train from 10 meters away. Once the doors have started to close, the player must launch themselves towards the ever narrowing space and attempt to board the train whilst ensuring that some part of their person or belongings are wedged in the door, enabling them to move on to round two, which is to have a tug-of-war with the doors, only winning if they manage to free themselves before the driver intervenes. To play as a group, one of the team must move ahead of the other players and take up position as Forward Wedge and stand holding the doors from the first beep, allowing the team to leisurely access the carriage until the very last player is in position for round two to commence.

I hope that these highly amusing games brighten your commuting and that by playing them, you make many new friends on your travels as you spread joy to all you encounter. I have listed the top ten tube games here but there are many more to be discovered such as the outrageously fun “I’ve Dropped My Coffee, Pull The Alarm”, the ever popular “Sniffle-No-Tissue, Cough-No-Hands” and who can resist sitting firmly in their seat as they indulge in a spot of “Is She Pregnant or Just Fat”.

Feel free to share some of your own family favourites so that other readers can try giving them a go. Oh, and don’t bother trying to sue me if you get punched squarely in the chops whilst mid-play. If this happens then you clearly haven’t been adhering to the Piccadilly Code Of Conduct. Obviously.

About prettyfeetpoptoe

I live in London and have both my own legs so I am fortunate enough to get out and about on occasion. I form many views on the things that I see and do and love nothing better than a session of linguistic gymnastics in order to share these views.

48 responses »

  1. I love games and now I have even more to play!

  2. What about the classic game of people watching?

    For a more advanced version, try NAME THAT MASK. Is it anger or just a digestive emergency? I’m too good to acknowledge you, though not rich enough to drive or get a taxi. Will someone please put a sock in that child’s mouth?

    Lot’s of potential here. Let the games begin!

  3. One such game comes to mind for bored blokes: ‘Sniff that whiff’ played when cheek by jowl with a lady while hanging from a carriage strap. The objective is to detect the lady’s scent on her wrist by smelling her exposed arm without revealing that the game is in progress. Earn bonus points if she smiles back in appreciation that you’ve trumped her efforts to shy away further down the carriage.

    Another time-honoured favourite is ‘Pocket pool’ where fumbles in a trouser pocket is done with the intent of drawing a lady’s attention then a count begins before she looks aware for a breather. Gain bonus points if she stares for more than ten seconds. Triple the score if she asks for a encore performance.

    These and many more lovable games of hi-jinx are available at most lines across many ticket zones. Best times are rush hour in the morning for ‘Sniff that whiff’ and pub chucking out time for ‘Pocket pool’. Hilarious stuff that won’t bust a lad’s entertainment budget.

  4. Missy Amber

    Oooh – Can’t believe you didn’t give “Is she pregnant or just fat” a proper entry. It’s a genuine classic, and is also played on a regular occurance at many of the toddler groups I attend. Bonus points accumulate week by week, and go to the first lady to steel her nerves and ferret a confirmation of impending maternity out of the lardy matron in question.
    I myself have foxed a whole carriage of Circle Line travellers for over 8 stops while they pondered my girth. To be fair, I was both pregnant and fat, so it was a hard call. They erred on the side of caution, despite my non-verbal cues such as the Slow Belly Rub, Hand In Small Of Back, and Whiff Of Recent Morning Sickness. Game on!

    • They weren’t erring on the side of caution, they were playing by the Marble Arch rules – the first to give up their seat loses 20 points, 30 if she actually is preggers.

  5. I love the line “looking like you just poked a kitten in the eye is because they are envious of your steely nerve and regal determination in this game of wits.” Nice!

    • It seems the kitten-eye-poker look works both ways. Just this morning I trumped a man who was playing Handbag Chicken and took his briefcase-seat using a classic aggressive Kings Cross twist. I swear he looked at me like I had kitten tears on my finger.

        • Damn, PhilospherMouse beat me to it.

          “the other players standing there looking at you like you just poked a kitten in the eye”

          Fantastic stuff. Nice turn of phrase.
          There are very few blogs out there that make me laugh out loud, but yours does.
          (Come to think of it, I can’t think of any others that have that effect).
          Seriously, you should be writing for one of the Sunday papers.

          Then I got to the “discreetly cocked cheek” sentence.

          OMG! What? If this was a TV station I would have been reaching for the remote to change stations, away from this crass personage.
          (I did frantically click the remote at my computer several times, but it seems to be broken).
          So, since it’s a blog, well, I just had to read on, didn’t i?

          Nice work.

          • I made you laugh AND recoil in disgust, all in one post – win.

            There is no TV remote for what I’ve got going on here, just pure words that will burn their way into your brain and haunt you until you leap from a bridge onto the rocky ravine below… or soil yourself laughing like my sister did.

  6. I have played 8 & 9 in unison while boarding a train in Paris. I believe I won because I did not get punched squarely in the chops!

  7. There’s a game I’d like to suggest, but I have no idea if it might be dangerous, or even fatal, so your readers might wish to consult a qualified electrician as part of their pre-game health and safety assessment.
    Equipment needed: a small, sharp, pair of scissors, a nerve of steel and a very crowded carriage.
    Rules of play: identify someone who is already playing number 4, Name that Tube Tune, while standing in a throng of grumpy travellers near the carriage door. Snuggle up as close to them as possible, making sure you are out of their line of sight. When driven to utter insanity by the tinny noise they are emitting, take your scissors and, with a discreet, deft movement, swiftly cut the cable connecting their bloody machine to their headphones. Immediately slip scissors back into pocket and innocently assume the position of someone playing games 3, 7 or 8. Leave at the next stop.
    There could be a certain amount of risk involved, but I think the sense of fulfilment from a job well done would be immense.

    • A fabulous addition! I think the scissors would be required for defensive moves once you have started this game though. I can picture this turning into something akin to Tube Kung Fu – made popular by Tom Cruise or Jean Claude Van Damme in action films.

  8. There’s always “spot the frotteur”. It’s usually the shifty-eyed fellow in the trenchcoat with the pencil-thin moustache. There are no points awarded for playing this game, but not getting violated in a crowded subway is a reward unto itelf. :-/

  9. I always lose ‘Is She Pregnat or Just Fat’… its the way the fat person look at you made me always confused!

    • Whatever you do, don’t give up your seat!

      They could also have that look on their face because they’re caught up in a particularly tough round of ‘Who Nose?’

    • Yeah, worse than losing on the subway is at the beginning of a semester or at the start of a new job is the worst. Needless to say, we feel your pain. That is why we featured your comment on Pewlpit.

  10. LOVE IT!!! My favorite? Right before your stop….you move to pick up your luggage or bag and accidentally elbow someone with the coffee/drink/food or whatever. Your turned in the opposite direction and it drops (slow motion of course…duh!) all over the place…their are mad but you are now gone! WHOPPPS! SORRY OLD CHAP! 🙂

    Not recommended between the hours of 6:30am-12noon. 😉

    • This game is truly for altruists. You don’t get to enjoy your crazy trail of mayhem but you leave the fun for a whole carriage to revel in. You’re too kind.

  11. Another really fun game is Help Me Find My Dropped Contact Lens, or as you Brits call them, packed kebabs. That’s what my friend Gavin told me, anyway. Gavin MacLeod, from the Clan MacLeod, who rides on a horse called Pacific Princess? Maybe you’ve heard of him.

    Oh, another fun game is Help Me Find My Pretend Dropped Name.

    • *Ahem* well, err, a delicate (yet highly amusing) translation to deal with first off, that just serves to highlight that we truly are two nations divided by a common language.

      The only name I know for a contact lens, is “contact lens”. The only “packed kebab” I know of is a “badly packed kebab” which lies several feet further south of the contact lens region and is used exclusively about women. Well, about a part of a woman when it resembles a very poorly assembled doner meat-in-pitta meal. *ahem* 😉

      I think I just found your dropped name under this kebab wrapper on the floor of the train…

  12. The Chicago El trains are perfect for this! I can’t wait to play tube skittles. Jolly good show, to Mrs. Warner-Phlaps! I salute her by having a sit-down as early as this coming Monday morning commute!

  13. Mrs Cholmondely Warner

    My dear thing, whatever were your parents doing to allow you to even think of coming into contact with the dread and dreary unwashed? What’s wrong with a Bentley may I ask. I know there’s the chauffeur, but at least you can keep him behind the glass panel. Unless he’s really just the ticket as in Downton.

    • Ladies and gentlemen, may I present to you, the one, the only, the magnificent, Mrs Cholmondley-Warner AKA my mother!

      Dearest C-W, If I took the Bentley, there would be no games to play other than scoring points for directing the driver into passing cyclists and rogue pedestrians. Actually, that sounds like a blast. Fuel up the motor!

      • Your Mother needs her own blog! Or at least do double-duty with you! A kind of female thinking person’s Abbot and Costello double act! Yeah, bring it on!

  14. Ok. This is awesome. I used to have to ride the NY subway to school and the games work with similar rules here. You might like this piece I posted a couple days ago:

  15. LOfreakenL! This was too funny. I just spent a lot of time in the Russian subways and yes I did partake in many of these games without knowing! 🙂

    • I visited Moscow just last month and they have some fantastic semi-pro teams in their subway. The addition of vodka and cabbage fumes to ‘Who Nose’ is a lovely touch, don’t you think?

  16. Ah, funny. So glad I found your blog after you read my latest post. My daughter lives in London and, because I love to walk, I don’t take the tube very often. I am just now getting the hang of it. My only game so far is “Get to Where You Actually Want to Go.”

    • That’s often the hardest game of all so I applaud a novice for giving it a go. For those who don’t know the rules for this one, it’s a devilish game of strategy and wits. You and your fellow team mates must try to get from A to B and your opponent is the company who runs the rail network. Before the game commences, they place obstacles (track maintenance, faulty trains and broken escalators) along the most popular routes. The winner is the person who makes it to their destination without crying.

  17. You’re full of good ideas, young lady! Awesome posting!

    • I can’t take all the credit for this. I owe a lot of it to the mannerless sacks of aggression who also use public transport. Without them, this would not have been possible… *cue Gwyneth style tears*

  18. …a lot of these games can also be played on airplanes!…just sharing ;)…

  19. Notinaboyband

    A driver recently summarised a game rather well over the tannoy: “To the woman who pushed her way through the closing door: if you want to leave your husband, next time please do it through the courts and NOT the London Underground.”


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