‘Guns’ (sometimes called ‘sticks’) is a game I played at my prep school nearly every day, and I confess that I still occasionally play it even now. I’ll go into detail in a moment, but basically, Guns is lots of children running around with big sticks, pretending to be soldiers. I know that similar versions are played around schools in Britain, and probably all over the world. I was sort of the guy in chare of Guns at my school, which was nice because I could decide on the period we would play and the different scenarios.
Being British, we had three main periods to play, Medieval, Napoleonic Wars and WW II. What we played would vary on how badly we would want to beat each other, or what we were currently studying in history lessons. I’ll tell you the basic rules which applied to all of the periods, then go into detail with the different periods.

Firstly, and most importantly, all of the weapons used are, in fact, sticks. Sometimes we would have liked to have used real ones, but the damned Health and Safety officials wouldn’t let it happen. Usually the sticks were pulled out of fences, only because they were pointy and hurt more. The stick could be whatever you wanted (within reason), i.e. rifles, RPG’s, bazookas, pistols. The way to fire your weapon was to make the appropriate noises for that weapon. For example a pump action shotgun would be ‘Shick-Shick BLAM!’ Heavy Machine gun- ‘DAKA-DAKA-DAKA-DAKA!’ Sub- Machine Gun Drrrrra-Drrrrra-Drrrrrrrrrrra!! And so on. All noises, of course, were accompanied by the appropriate actions on the weapon (i.e. cocking). Simple, but you had to be creative.

Dying- This game does partly rely on honesty (not that common among British prep school boys). If you are shot at a couple of times then it is likely that you have been hit (being stabbed is more obvious (obviously)). If you are hit, then you die, but only for 10 seconds. When you do die it has to be as over the top as possible- with much screaming and weird gurgling noises, spinning around and crawling before completely collapsing, is good.

Teams- obviously more than one team is needed to play, it really depends on how many people are playing, but you can have as many teams as you want. Teams aren’t chosen, that wouldn’t be fair, so people can join or leave teams whenever they want.

Each team would have a certain area in the playground, and this would be their base. Each team would then build forts and outposts around an in their bases. These forts would be made of whatever our grabby little hands could get- leaves, twigs, wire, vines, bricks, stones, anything. I became quite a master at these, and eventually was able to build fort large enough to stand in, with a roof, gun slits, and walls thick enough to stop small stones. Cool huh?

Extras- We really let our imaginations run wild when we played these games, to the extent that I would be drawing up battle plans in maths rather than doing simultaneous equations. I brought in flags and fixed them to poles so that we could have standard bearers, one of my mates brought in a drum to beat out the marching rhythm. It was fantastic, one week everyone brought in plastic replica guns and literally hundreds of people joined in, it was so cool!
Now I’ll tell you in some detail a bit about the different periods that we used to play:

Medieval- this was the most simple form of guns, oddly enough there weren’t any guns involved. Basically you would get the biggest, heaviest stick that you could find, and hit people with it- called ‘sword fighting’. Pretty simple. Occasionally we would introduce archers, but that was a tad too complicated, so we scrapped it. In all of our games we would do our research, so we ended up re-enacting battles, using original tactics, the team leaders would be different Kings (i.e. Henry V). Like I said it was a very simple game, with not many rules, but if you wanted a quick game, the medieval one was the one to go for, very quick to set up an get organised.

Napoleonic- This was probably the most complex form of guns. There would usually be only two teams, the British and French. I, and several of my friends had a small obsession on the Napoleonic Wars, so we really knew our stuff. We knew all of the battle formations for the different sides (Thin Red Line for the British, Large Blue Column for the French). We knew the battle chants, we made replica flags, had drummers, and knew all of the tactics. With enough people this was a fantastic game. Some of the different rules were, ordinary soldiers obeyed orders only from their superiors (yes we had a proper command structure). Because we would be using ‘muskets’ there was a ten second re-loading period between shots, and they would only have a limited effective range. There were other rules of course, but they were petty and unimportant.

WW II- Probably the most common form of guns that we played- simply because there was the biggest selection of weaponry (yes, we were all destructive little buggers). When I call it WWII, I just mean a general term for all forms of modern (ish) warfare from around WWI and WWII. Any form of modern weaponry was acceptable, except for thing like nukes, etc. so this really was a very cool game. The average ‘soldier’ was armed with a machine gun or rifle, a pistol, several grenades and a bayonet or dagger. Grenades were simply rocks hurled at each other, whilst shouting ‘GRENADE!’ and everyone in it’s surrounding area would fling themselves to the ground in a burning death. Occasionally, the more imaginative of us (or the ones wishing to re-enact ‘Saving Private Ryan’) would run out of ammo from our main guns, then our pistols and roll around trying to stab each other (which would usually just develop into a fist fight). Obviously the tactics were completely different than the tactics of the other versions of guns. We would skulk around in bushes, climb trees and did a lot of crawling around, no walking around with banners and pendants flying.

One of the oddest things about guns was how much the popularity of it wavered, sometimes we would have literally hundreds of people playing, sometimes only nine or ten, but it didn’t matter it was still a brilliant game.

We did also get into a lot of trouble playing it. The amount of times that people tried to bludgeon each other to death over weather or not they had been ‘shot’ never ceased to astound me. One day, when we were a bit tired of the same old scenery, we turned on a tap near one of the lower playing fields, so by the afternoon, we had our own little river and marsh landscape. I had to see the headmaster with the other ringleaders and we go into so much trouble! Luckily it was winter and so didn’t matter that much as the playing fields would occasionally flood anyway. We would also leave the school grounds and venture into the village to participate in some ‘Urban Warfare’, thankfully we were never busted doing that though.

So now you know what guns is, go and give it a go! Especially if you are still at school, or if you have kids at school, expand their violent nature their historical knowledge and introduce them to this princely sport.

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