Shove-ha'penny is based on a game played in British pubs since at least the fifteenth century. It has been known by many names - Shoffe-grote (when the coins used were groats), Slype Groat and Slide-thrift. Played on boards laid out as below, the object is to strike a ha'penny with the heel of the hand, such that it lies between the lines engraved on the board (beds). Each player has five coins, and must get a coin in each bed 3 times to win.

Scoring three coins in one bed in a single turn is known as a sergeant and all five coins scoring in a single turn is a sergeant major or a gold watch. Players may use their turn to nudge the opponent's coins away from beds, and it can become quite a strategic battle.

The coins are traditionally flattened on the reverse ("tails") side of the coin - to flatten the obverse would deface the image of the Monarch, which is a criminal offence. So the face of Britannia sails up the boards, which have been lubricated with French chalk, beer or talcum.

The game is still be taken very seriously, as are many pub games, including dominoes, cribbage and darts, not to mention Aunt Sally. Many areas still have pub leagues, certainly people of the West Country still play regularly.

               Shove ha'penny board

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       |      coins played from here      |
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                     Player 

There are many informal variants on the game, involving chalked or scribed lines on a playing surface. On a personal note, I was once thrown out of a pub for scratching lines on a table for this purpose...

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