How to Play Ibble-Dibble, the Royals' Wild Drinking Game in 'The Crown'
The bizarre parlor game in 'The Crown' Season 4, Episode 2 is very real and surprisingly easy to learn.
Approximately 16 minutes into the second episode of The Crown Season 4, the royal family plays a wild parlor game that leaves the newly elected prime minister Margaret Thatcher—and viewers—dizzied beyond repair. The difference between the no-nonsense Iron Lady and fans of The Crown, though, is that viewers got a taste of the nonsense and wanted more. Luckily, we don't need to get in touch with the Queen to understand the rules: Ibble-Dibble is a very real drinking game and once you've deciphered the gibberish, it's pretty easy to comprehend.
There are two important terms you should know before you play: "ibble-dibble" and "dibble-ibble." Ibble-dibble is a silly way to say "player." If you're playing the game, you're an ibble-dibble! A dibble-ibble, on the other hand, is a mark you stamp on your face with a blackened cork whenever you mess up the flow of the game. We'll get to that in a second.
When ibble-dibbles are ready to play, they should grab their drinks and gather in a circle so that every person is visible. Someone will go around the circle assigning each person a number. If you're number three, for example, you'll now be referred to as "number three ibble-dibble." It's important that you take mental note of everyone's number.
As soon as ibble-dibbles are numbered off, one will need to blacken the end of a cork by lighting it on fire, letting it burn a bit, and blowing it out. Now the game can begin.
Decide who goes first. Let's say it's number three. They'll begin by identifying themself and stating the number of marks on their face, then they'll call on another player and identify the number of marks on that player's face. It'll sound something like this: "Number three ibble-dibble with no dibble-ibbles calling number six ibble-dibble with no dibble-ibbles." In this case, number three called on number six, which means it's number six's turn to go next. The game isn't too hard at first because nobody has dibble-ibbles, which is easy to keep track of.
The challenging part comes when someone messes up or hesitates too long. If someone makes a mistake on their turn or is called out for pausing to think, they receive a dibble-ibble on an unmarked part of their face. They must then take a drink and try again. As ibble-dibbles start to rack up dibble-ibbles, there's a lot more to keep tabs on—and alcohol-induced brain fog certainly doesn't make it easier. The game ends once everyone's sick of playing.
There are still some unanswered questions about Ibble-Dibble, though, like why a game this dumb was featured on The Crown to begin with. It's all part of the Balmoral Test—an unspoken royal family ritual, dumping a newcomer into the deep end, to see how well they fit into the social climate and adapt to long-held traditions. During the prime minister's stay at Balmoral Castle, a 50,000-acre estate located in northern Scotland that's been owned by the Windsors since 1848, she's being quietly scrutinized by the royals as they decide whether or not she will be accepted into their circle. Ibble-Dibble is fun, no doubt, but there's more than bragging rights at stake: The House of Windsor will be making judgments about Margaret Thatcher's character the whole time they play.
By the time Thatcher is called on in Ibble-Dibble, it appears that they've been playing the game for a while. With no dibble-ibbles on her face, it's strange that the group had avoided calling on her up to that point, but it's even stranger that when Thatcher finally got her chance to prove that she can relax and have a little fun, she treats the game like the most difficult task of her career: "Number one... ibble.. dibble……. with no… dibble.. ibbles…. calling number… 10…………… ibble… dibble.... with………… six…. dibble… ibbles." The whole thing is excruciating to watch as Gillian Anderson, with her disturbingly spot-on Thatcher voice and mannerisms, struggles through her turn while the rest of the room grimaces.
Whether or not the royal family ibble-dibbled with Margaret Thatcher in real life isn't important. The chaotic scene from Episode 2 spotlights the stark differences between the Iron Lady's cold personality and the royal family's, a theme that will bubble up throughout the season, eventually coming to a head when Thatcher and Olivia Colman's Queen Elizabeth butt heads over Apartheid sanctions in Episode 8. Even when the prime minister knows her behavior is being scrutinized, she fails to impress simply because she doesn't care. (In one of her audiences with the Queen, she recites "No Enemies," by Scottish poet Charles Mackay, to demonstrate her comfort with creating adversaries through her intransigent policies that sunk the British economy.) It's through a game of Ibble-Dibble that The Crown begins to portray a socially inept, and eventually cruel, prime minister who is unable and unwilling to connect with other people and, in turn, the nation.