You can play football, basketball, golf, even marbles on the Wii.
But one game you can’t yet replicate on the old Nintendo box is that childhood favourite: conkers.
So, as the autumn leaves start falling, here’s our ultimate guide to the traditional playground game – or, how to find a conker and what to do with it when you’ve got one.
What’s a conker?
A conker is the inedible seed of the horse chestnut tree (different to the sweet chestnut tree where the chestnuts we eat are from). It is a hard brown nut in a prickly casing.
Finding your first conker
The ideal conker is uncracked, firm and symmetrical. On finding the first conker of the autumn season, tradition states that one should say: ‘Oddly oddly onker my first conker’. Apparently this ensures good luck for the coming conkers season.
The ideal conker
According to Roald Dahl, a huge conker fan, “a great conker is one that has been stored in a dry place for at least a year. This matures it and makes it rock hard and therefore formidable”. One good test is to pop a conker in a bucket of water – the good, solid ones sink but the ones with damaged insides will float.
Some people adopt sly tricks to achieve the perfect conker, although officially such tactics are considered cheating.
• Soaking or boiling your conker in vinegar
• Baking your conker briefly in the oven
• As Roald Dahl suggests, using an old conker from previous years
• Painting your conker with clear nail varnish
How to prepare your conker for a game
Pierce a hole through the middle of your conker using a nail or small screwdriver. A clean cylindrical hole is stronger, as it has no chips that can begin to split.
Thread a piece of string around 25cm long through the hole and tie a knot at one end.
How to play conkers
A game of conkers requires two people. Each player has a conker hanging on a string and takes turns hitting their opponent's conker.
Let your conker hang down from the string, which is wrapped once around your hand. Your opponent chooses the height you hold the conker; you must hold it perfectly still. Your opponent holds his conker in the same way, takes hold of his conker in his other hand and swings it back before letting it go for the strike.
A player can have up to three goes if he or she misses their first or second shot. If the strings tangle, the first player to call "strings" gets an extra shot.
If a player hits his or her opponent’s conker in such a way that it completes a whole circle after being hit - known as ‘round the world’ – the player gets another go.
If a player drops his conker, or it is knocked out of his hand, the other player can shout “stamps” and jump on it. But if its owner first cries “no stamps” then the conker gets to live another day!
The game goes on until one of the conkers is destroyed.
Some interesting facts about conkers
• The first recorded game of conkers was on the Isle of Wight in 1848 and was modelled on a 15th century game played with hazelnuts.
• The name may come from the dialect word ‘conker’ meaning ‘hardnut’ and is possibly related to French ‘conque’, meaning ‘conch’. Other theories are that it relates to the verb ‘to conquer’ or is an onomatopoeia, replicating the sound of the two chestnuts ‘conk-ing’ one another.
• The horse chestnut tree was introduced to Britain from the Balkans in the late 16th century and not widely planted until the early 19th century.
• The World Conker Championships were founded in Ashton, Northamptonshire in 1965 and take place in October every year – well, apart from the planned contest on 6 October this year, which was cancelled due to high winds.
Meal times made easy with a delicious fish pie
How to make a mocktail
Can mums have it all?