Great parts of an 18th Century Soldier's time were spent waiting & staving off boredom in camp & garrison. Soldiers were amazingly creative in finding diversions for entertainment. JP Martin describes several incidents during his time in the Continental Army. In 1778 where he & some compatriots found an empty bomb shell & by filling it with water, stoppering it & placing it in the fire, where "the steam would force the plug out with a report as loud as a pistol shot."1 He & his messmates quickly tired of this & took an old wagon wheel to the top a large hill behind the barracks where they "gave the wheel the liberty to shift for itself and find its own way back." Partway down the hill it hit an obstacle & sending it directly towards the old, dilapidated barracks. "When within about fifteen feet of the barracks, and with the motion of a cannon ball, stuck something that gave it an elevation of twenty or thirty feet in the air, and passed over the barracks and several rods beyond them before it struck the ground again."2
Of course less destructive & annoying pastimes were available as well. Card games are perhaps the ideal military camp diversion, a deck of cards is compact & many games can be played with the same deck. While the list of 18th Century card games is long, two of the most popular were Cribbage & Whist. Rules are provided below.
Board games were also popular, including Draughts, Chess, & Backgammon. The playing board for Chess & Draughts were often fashioned on planks, the back of cutting or serving platters, or painted on cloth. While the rules for backgammon & chess have not changed significantly, the rules for draughts are somewhat different modern checkers & detailed below. An excellent source of several additional 18th Century games is "A Brief Discourse on 18th Century Games" by Mark Tulley.
Card & Board Games
Games of Chance
1 Private Yankee Doodle: Being a narrative of some of the adventures, dangers and sufferings of a revolutionary soldier. Joseph Plumb Martin [Ed. by George F. Scheer]. Eastern Acorn Press. 1962. p 161
2 Private Yankee Doodle: Being a narrative of some of the adventures, dangers and sufferings of a revolutionary soldier. Joseph Plumb Martin [Ed. by George F. Scheer]. Eastern Acorn Press. 1962. p 162