1902 Encyclopedia > Bagatelle


BAGATELLE is an indoor game, probably derived from the old English shovel-board, described by Cotton in bis Compleat Gamester (1674), though many consider that its invention is due to the French. Like billiards, chess, and draughts, its origin is not certainly known; but whatever its genesis, its name is undoubtedly French. Bagatelle games are played on an oblong board, usually from six to ten feet in length, by a foot and a half to three feet in width. The bed of the table, which is ordinarily of slate or mahogany, is covered with fine green cloth; and at the upper end, which is rounded, there are nine holes or cups, numbered from 1 to 9, thus

3 2
8 9 7
4 6 1

Into these holes ivory balls are driven by a cue in all respects similar to the instrument used in BILLIARDS, which see. The sides and circular end of the table are furnished with elastic cushions; and in some of the newer tables there is also a pocket on each side. Nine balls— eight white, and one red or black (sometimes four white, four red, and one black)—are used in the most popular of the several bagatelle games.

The ordinary game is played according to the following rules :—

1. Any number of persons may play, whether singly or in sides. 2. Each player strings for lead, and he who lodges his ball in the highest hole begins. In the case of partners, one only on each side need string for the lead. 3. The player who wins the lead takes the nine balls and plays them one after the other up the table from baulk, first striking at the red ball which is placed on the spot about a foot below the 1 hole. The object of the player is to lodge his own, or the coloured ball, or both balls, in the holes. 4. The red ball counts double when it is played into a hole; and for each white ball lodged or holed, a corresponding in the cup. (Sometimes two coloured balls are used, in which case both count double.) 5 The red ball must be first struck, and the remainder of the balls are played up to the holes—the sum total of the holes made being the striker's score. 6. Any number of rounds may be played for the game, as agreed on at the commencement; and the player (or side) obtaining the highest aggregate score wins. 7. Any ball that rebounds beyond the baulk line, or is forced over the table, is not re-used in that round.

Sans Egal, or the French Game, is the next most gene-rally played game on the bagatelle table. It is governed by the following laws :—1. The player who takes the lead (which is decided as in bagatelle) makes choice of four balls of either colour, and placing the black one on the spot, com-mences by striking it with a ball from baulk. 2. The other player then strikes up one of his balls, and so on alternately, 3, He who holes the black ball counts it towards his game, together with any number made by the white. 4. If either player hole his adversary's ball, the number scored by such ball, or balls, is marked to the other side. 5. The player who makes the greatest number of points in each round wins the game, and takes the lead in the next. The rule as to balls rebounding beyond the baulk line, or being forced off the table, is the same as in the preceding game.

The Cannon Game, sometimes played on a table without holes, consists entirely of cannons, that is to say, two balls struck in succession by the cue-balL This game is played 50,100, or 150 up, and the holed into which the balls fall are sometimes counted in addition to the cannon. Three balls only are used—a white, a spot-white, and a black ball. At start-ing the latter is placed on the spot, and the adversary's ball on a point equi-distant between the first and centre holes, 1 and 9, If the striker make a cannon, he goes on as long as he can score, but no hole can be counted without first making the cannon. To miss the white involves the loss of 1 point; and to miss the black ball, 5 points. The striker's break is ended when he fails to cannon, and then the other player goes on,—he who first gains the required number winning the game. When there are pockets to the table, two points are taken for every white ball pocketed, and three points for the red. Should the player's ball fall into a pocket before he make the cannon, the score is taken by the opponent. In the Irish Cannon Game the holes do not count, except by way of penalty ; all points made by holing the balls being added to the score of the adver-sary. Sometimes, in both the cannon games two points are taken for a cannon from white to white and then to red, and three for a cannon from white to red and then to white; or, when two coloured balls are used, three points are taken for a cannon from the black to the red. Lately, bagatelle tables as much as 14 feet long by 6 feet wide have been made for the cannon game.

Mississippi is a game played on a bagatelle table with a bridge pierced with arches, each arch bearing a certain number—say, from 1 to 10 or 12. The balls are first played from the baulk against the cushion on to the bridge, which is placed just in front of the lowermost hole. The rules are —1. If the ball pass through the bridge, all the points indicated on the arch are counted towards the player's score, in addition to any points made by the ball falling into a hole beyond the bridge. The game may be played by two or more persons, and he who first makes the number of points agreed on—100, 200, 500, &c.—wins. A modifi-cation of this game is called Trou Madame. In this the balls are played from the baulk straight up to the bridge without touching the cushion, and only the points marked upon the arches score,— all points made by the balls dropping into the holes beyond being scored to the opponent. Another variety, called Cockamaroo, or Russian Bagatelle, is played on a table prepared with a number of pins, holes, arches, and bells, up to and through which the ball is played from the baulk end of the table. It is a childish amusement, requiring little skill, and therefore needing only the barest mention.

In playing the bagatelle games a much less degree of force is required for the stroke than is necessary for bil- liards. Some adepts are able to fill all the holes at one essay; first, by striking the red ball on the side, making a double hazard, say, into the 7 and the 8 holes, and then, either by playing direct at the holes or at the cushion, lodging each successive ball till the whole nine are pocketed. In this way, counting double for the red, as many as 54 points can be scored in a single round of the balls. When two coloured balls are used, of course a proportionally larger score is made. The cue should be held lightly between the fingers and thumb, not grasped in the palm of the hand; and much use may be made of the various strokes employed in billiards,—as the side, the screw, the twist, and the drag; for which terms see the article BILLIARDS. (Q. P. P.)

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