No, I’m not referring the great Angry Birds rush of December 2011. I’m talking about old favourites like Bagatelle, Shove Ha’penny, Devil Among the Tailors, and Nine Men’s Morris.

Publicans have used a wide range of distractions to help people lose track of time and keep them in the pub to try and even the score.

Today there are really only a couple of popular pub games left in New Zealand – pool, and darts. Sure, you can play board games or poker in the pub, but you can do that anywhere.

A good pub game is worth going to the pub to play. It should also be easy to learn and difficult to master, simple enough to allow play after a few pints, and combine a delicate balance of luck and skill. It must fit into a busy pub without taking too much space, and encourage repeat play.

For example, heads or tails is too random and repetitive. Pole-vaulting is too skilful and takes up way too much space. We’re looking for something in between.

Many of the traditional games are a compact indoor version of an outdoor sport. Darts became popular as a winter alternative to longbow practice. Devil Among the Tailors is a compact version of skittles, which is an indoor version of bowls.

Bagatelle was related to both bowls and pool, and is the ancient ancestor of pinball. Players used a cue to shoot a ball up a sloped table, where it bounced off pins and scored points by landing in different holes in the board.

Not much to it really, and even today the term ‘a mere bagatelle’ is used to describe something trivial.

Bagatelle’s user interface changed in the 1790s when the cue was replaced by a spring and pin. This saved space, and eventually the billiard balls were replaced with marbles and the game became more compact and became pinball.

The next, and most significant, change came in 1947 when electrically-triggered flippers were added. This was a major shift from game-of-chance to game-of-skill. Pinball was illegal in many parts of the USA because it was basically a gambling game. Flippers and a key legal case changed this in 1976, when a pinball manufacturer demonstrated in a New York courtroom that players had real control over the game and scores reflected skills.

Which links us obviously and directly to the Boneface Party and Pinball Night on Friday 24 May.

Over the past two years Boneface has built a solid reputation for brewing beer that’s assertive, well-crafted and fun. Owners Selena and Matt Dainty have built a popular and successful venue in Upper Hutt’s Brewtown facility, combining their fresh beers with barbecue and other great food.

All breweries have a back story, and all of them are at least partly fictional. This is Boneface’s:

“A short time ago, in a galaxy not so far away… Three friends on the planet Hoptron – Ozzy, Lemmy, and Kurt –were part of a military unit double-crossed and murdered on the battlefield by their own military leader, Captain Darkness. Shazza, the desperate and grieving widow of Ozzy, stole a secret potion from her grandfather, the keeper of the sacred Hop of Eternal Life. Sprinkling the secret potion, known as ‘The Juice’ onto the graves of Ozzy and his team, she began to bring them back to life. But she was interrupted just as they emerged, their faces still bone skulls.”

Seems legit. Just to clarify, Ozzy is a space chimp and Lemmy is an amputee space elephant. I think Kurt is a space goat but I’ll be able to find out next week.

Matt and Selena have a love of science fiction storylines and strong pop art graphics. They also enjoy the classic, analogue, ballistical thrill of traditional pinball and so they are bringing some of their own pinball machines from Upper Hutt to the Malthouse for one night only.  The Boneface crew will be on site and they’ll be bringing fresh Boneface beers with them too.

Come for the beer, stay for the high score.


Martin Craig

Malthouse events

Friday 24 May – Boneface Party and Pinball Night

Saturday 22 June – Darkest Days, our annual celebration of the darkest beers on the longest night

Thursday 4 July – North End tap takeover

Friday 26 July – 12th Annual West Coast IPA Challenge. Yass!