The History

Aunt Sally is a traditional pub game largely played in and around Oxfordshire and parts of Buckinghamshire. The aim of the game is to knock a small skittle called a doll off a metal pole located 30 feet away. The game has roots back as far as the 17th Century; however the earliest references to the game called Aunt Sally dates to around the early 1800's. According to various historical records the game began as a blood sport whereby a chicken was tied up to a stake in the ground and people took turns to throw sticks at it until it died. The winner was the person who killed the bird and as a prize was entitled to take the bird home to eat.

Over time the game changed and a less blood-thirsty version evolved where the chicken was replaced by a wooden doll called the Aunt Sally. People would pay to play the game at fairgrounds and would win prizes for knocking the doll off the post.

The Rules

The rules of Aunt Sally are generally the same wherever the game is played. Minor regional variations exist in the small number of regions where the game is played. The rules defined below are the standard rules as accepted by the Bicester & District Aunt Sally League. The official rules for 2009 are here.

The basic premise of the game is to knock the Aunt Sally off the post by throwing sticks at it. This is the most simplistic aim of the game. The doll is a skittle about 6 inches tall and about 4 inches wide and shaped roughly like a skittle and is painted white. It is placed on a pole on top of which is a small platform. The base of the platform is 2 feet 6 inches off the ground. The sticks are 18 inches long and 2 inches in diameter and are made of wood. They come in various weights.

A player stands 30 feet away from the post at an ochee and throws the sticks underarm with the intention of knocking the doll off the platform with a clean strike against the doll. The stick must strike the doll first and not the post or the metal platform. Should the stick hit the metal or post the callers will call “iron”. Each player throws 6 sticks in a given turn.

A team will consists of 8 players each side. A game will consist of 3 legs and an optional 4th leg called the beer leg. Each player from one team will throw six and the score of successful hits against the doll are noted on the scoreboard. The team with the highest score wins the leg. In the event of a draw, each player in the team must throw 3 sticks each. These points do not count in the player’s score that is recorded but are purely to determine the winning side. In the rare event of a draw after the “3 sticker”, each team will go again with a “1 sticker round”. Again the scores from this are not recorded for the player, they are purely to determine a winner for the leg. Should the result after the 1 sticker remain as a draw, the game goes to a 6 sticker again, then a 3 sticker followed by a 1 sticker until a winner is determined.

After the 3 legs have been played, the team that won the most legs is the winner. Play then continues into the all-important beer leg. The beer leg is a friendly game whereby each player in the losing team buys a drink for the opposite player in the other team.