The roots of the modern sport of darts started in the Public Houses of the UK (Pubs). Boards of various design and construction were used, yet few survive today.
Each region of England, in particular, had its own dartboard usually made from soft light wood either stained or painted to distinguish scoring areas. However, the nature of wood being hit with a dart could spread the scoring area so in many cases a steel wire or insert was added. Adding the wire prevented disagreement should a dart fall in between two scoring segments. Some of the old-style dartboards are illustrated on this website, however, there have been many more and some also made just for the fairground.
Although there are many games that can be played on a dartboard some dartboards had their own rule. The Manchester log-end dartboard is one of these. No real scoring involved, the game is a variation on around the clock. However, on a Manchester dartboard that is not as easy as it may sound. For starters the boards are much smaller, the numbers are arranged in a different order and at least one double needs to be hit prior to the bull to finish! The doubles are so small many find this game of pure skill very difficult to master.
The standard game we see today is 501. In most cases, a player just needs to score as much as possible and finish on a double segment of a number. Example require 40, the player can hit the double 20 segment. This area is also known as double-top because on a standard dartboard the 20 segment features at the top of the dartboard.
Before 501 became the standard game to play on the Yorkshire and later the London Clock or as some call it now the standard dartboard, games were usually 301, not 501. The game 301 is usually played by the player first having to hit a double segment first before reducing his or her score and then again finishing the game on a double.
Many dart players have wondered where the game 301 came from and why 301, not 300? There are two answers to this that go hand in hand. Firstly, if the starting number didn’t have an odd number at the end then a player could effectively play and win a game or leg as we like to call it in darts, by just hitting even numbers or in the cases of 300 just the 20 segment hence the additional one forces a player to hit an odd number before he or she can finish.
The second and main reason for 301 lends itself to a card game called cribbage. Many terms used in darts come from other games and sports, plus the addition of cockney rhyming slang! But back to cribbage.
Cribbage or ‘crib’ is a game where a player must score points or pips. To keep the score the players use a ‘cribbage’ board which is usually made from wood with space holes in it.
Most cribbage boards have six pairs of five peg holes as shown below. The player moves around the board usually twice and then looks to peg out i.e. an exact score of 121 shorter version of the game is to score 61 i.e. once around the board and then the home peg or also called pegging out!
Cribbage boards were usually to hand in pubs and this made a useful scoring companion. As a player would move five times around the cribbage board and the extra one (the home peg) to win the game.
301,401,501,701 and 1,001 are still popular dart games and are played in dart leagues up and down the country. However, things have moved on a bit since the use of cribbage boards. Chalkboards and Whiteboards seem to be the most popular way to score/mark a match and some pubs have gone the extra mile to install an electronic scoring board. In the case of soft-tip darts, the scoring is automatic.