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How to Play Marbles

(Click here for rules to specific marble games!)


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How To Play the Classic Marble Game of Ringer

Most children understand the game of marbles the first time it is explained, but to make it easier, these drawings show the most common plays.

Figure 1 - LaggingFIG. 1: To start a game of Ringer the children lag from a line, drawn tangent to the ring, to a parallel line across the ring, which would be 10 feet away. The child whose shooter comes nearest the line has the first shot. Players must lag before each game. Practice lagging, as the first shot may mean the winning of the game before your opponent gets a shot. In lagging, a child may toss his or her shooter to the other line, or he or she may knuckle down and shoot it.
Fig. 2 - The game begins.
FIG. 2: This shows child No. 1 who won the lag, preparing to knuckle down. His knuckle has not quite reached the ground, which is necessary before shooting. He can take any position about the ring he chooses. (The process of picking the best possible position for starting is referred to as "taking rounders.") The 13 marbles in the ring are arranged as in tournament play. For casual games, a one foot ring is drawn inside of the ten foot ring and each player puts in some 5/8" marbles, so that there is about a dozen marbles in the smaller ring.
Fig. 3 - Success!

FIG. 3: Child No. 1 knocks a marble from the ring on his first shot and his shooter stays in the ring. He picks up the marble. As he has knocked one from the ring, he is entitled to another try. Players are not permitted to walk inside the ring unless their shooter comes to a stop inside the ring. Penalty is a fine of one marble.

Fig. 4 - Preparing for his next shot...
FIG. 4: Here we see child No. 1 continuing play. He "knuckles down" inside the ring where his shooter stopped on the last shot. This gives him the advantage of being nearer to the big group of marbles in the center of the ring for his next shot. Expert marble shots try to hit a marble, knock it out of ring and make their shooter "stick" in the spot. "Sticking" or shooting seven consecutive marbles out of the ring and winning the game without giving an opponent a turn is usually good for two days of playground bragging rights.
Fig. 5 - Oh darn!
FIG 5: On this play, No. 1 hit a marble, but did not knock it from the ring. At the same time his shooter, too, stays inside the ring. He can not pick up the marble, and whether he is allowed to pick up his shooter depends on the type of play - in tournament play, if your shooter is in the ring at the end of your turn, you must remove it. In casual games, if your shooter is in the ring at the end of your turn, it becomes a legitimate target and any player who hits it out collects a forfeit from you, or even your shooter! (Players should agree in advance whether to use this rule.)
Fig 6 - Now it's my turn!

FIG. 6: Child No. 2 may start by "knuckling down" anywhere at the ring edge. In this case he may shoot at the 11 marbles in the center or if he wishes, he may go to the other side and try for the marble that No.1 almost knocked from the ring. In a casual game he might also try to knock the other player's shooter from the ring.

Fig. 7 - I win!

FIG. 7: Child No. 2 chooses to try for No. 1 child's shooter and knocks it out of ring, winning all the marbles No. 1 has taken (and his shooter, if that rule is being followed) and putting No. 1 out of that game. Or he could shoot as shown in Fig. 8.

Fig. 8 - Turn over!

FIG. 8: Child No. 2 hits a marble but does not knock it out of the ring, yet his shooter goes thru the ring and stops outside where he may pick it up. The target marble remains where it stopped in the ring, and as No. 2 did not score, it is now the turn of No. 1 to shoot again.

Fig. 9 - The game goes on

FIG. 9: No. 1 "knuckles down" inside the ring where his shooter stopped (Fig. 5). he is going to shoot at the marble nearest his shooter. By hitting it at the proper angle and knocking it from the ring he can get his shooter near the center of the ring for his next shot. Play alternates until one player has knocked a majority of the marbles out of the ring.

| Ringer Rules - printer-friendly version | Marble Tournament Rules |
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MORE MARBLE GAMES

Click a game name below to view or print rules!

Bear in mind that rules vary wildly from region to region and making up a game on the spot is not at all unusual. Players should also agree in advance whether they are playing 'for fair' (all marbles returned to owner) or 'for keeps' (winners keep, losers weep).

BOSS-OUT

This is one of the oldest marble games, described by the Roman poet Ovid, and played by Augustus, who founded the Roman Empire. The first player shoots one marble onto the playing field, which can be any area. The second player tries to hit the first player's marble. If they hit it, they collect both marbles. If the two marbles are close enough, he or she can attempt to 'span' them. He places his or her thumb on his or her own marble and his or her index finger on his or her opponent's marble. He then draws his or her hand up while bringing his or her fingers together. If the two marbles hit, he or she collects both marbles. If he or she misses, the first player may shoot at either marble on the field. If a player collects the last marble on the field, he or she must shoot a marble for the next player to shoot at.

CHASIES

The American version of Boss-Out is called "Chasies" (pronounced "chase-eeze"). In the American version, the player who hits or spans to his opponent's marble takes that marble. Then, as the winner, he tosses his own marble ahead. However, if the distance between the marbles is less than a step but more than a span, the shooter has the option (always exercised because of the variety it offers) of picking his marble up and dropping it straight down from face level in an attempt to hit his opponent's marble. This is called "Bombsies," and a successful strike wins the bomber one or more marbles, as the players have previously agreed upon.

POISON

For 2 or more players, alone or in teams. The playing field is a dirt area with a small hole one to two inches across in the middle and a starting line on one end.

The playing order is determined by a practice shot from the line towards the hole. Whoever is closest or makes it into the hole is first. One at a time, each player shoots their marble toward the hole. The first shot is from the line. All other shots are taken from where the marble lands. The goal is to get it into the hole so the the player that makes it in can become "Poisoned." Only one player can be Poisoned at a time (or more if playing in teams). The Poisoned player gets another turn and tries to hit other player's marbles. If he hits someone, they are out and he shoots again until he misses. If someone else gets a marble in the hole, they become the new Poisoned player.

Other players may hit each other as a part of their strategy. You do get to go again but no one is out. If somehow their marble hits the other marble two times (if it hits and rolls up a hill and hits the same marble while going down) it's called "Double Shots" and you get to shoot your marble two more times. If a non-poisoned player hits the poisoned marble, he is out. The last marble (or team) in play is the winner. They get to keep all the marbles that were in play from the beginning (Except at my school we are not supposed to play for keeps).

BLACK SNAKE

Dig a series of 7 holes at different distances from one another to make the course. The holes shouldn't be in a line and can be different sizes and depths. Imagine the holes mark out a snake from head to tail. Players take turns shooting at the holes in order from the head to the tail. If a player gets a marble into the proper hole, he earns another shot and continues his turn by shooting from any spot within a span of the hole. Players who miss shoot from wherever their marble ends up.

When he's shot his marble into all seven holes, a player shoots at all seven in reverse order, going backwards through the course. Once a player has made it through all seven holes twice, he becomes a "black snake"vand shoots at other players' marbles. There is no limit to the number of black snakes in a game.

If a black snake hits another player's shooter, that player is eliminated from the game. However, if a black snake shoots his shooter into a hole, he himself is eliminated. The winner is the last player to remain in the game.

If you're playing on a hard surface or just want a different kind if game, use everyday objects like shoes, cups, trash cans. or book instead of holes. A marble is considered in as long as it hits that object, and players continue shooting from wherever the marble stops rolling.

NEWARK KILLER

Make a circle on the ground with a shoelace - you can tie the ends or just leave them touching. Draw a taw line about 10 feet away.

Each player gets 10 marbles and takes turns shooting or rolling his marbles at the circle behind the taw line.Some marbles will get knocked into the ring by other marbles and others will get knocked out of it.

The player who ends up with the most marbles in the ring becomes the "killer." They can shoot from behind the taw line at any marbles outside the loop. If they hit one, they keep it and continue shooting from where their shooter ended up. Once they miss, the game is over. All unclaimed marbles go back to their owners.

OFF THE WALL

Mark off a taw line five to ten feet away from a wall. The first player throws a marble against the wall to serve as a target. On each first shot, players shoot from behind the taw line, aiming to hit the mib after rebounding against the wall first. The shooter must hit the wall before it hits the target marble. If a player misses the mib, she leaves her marble where it lands. If a player hits the mib, she collects it along with all the marbles on the ground. She then throws out a new mib, and the game continues.

If all the players have taken their first shot and none have hit the mib, the game continues, but each player shoots her marble from wherever it landed on the last turn. The game is over when one player wins 10 marbles, or a previously determined namuber of marbles.

Variation: When all the players have shot and missed, any marble between the wall and the line is a target. Players still shoot in order, from where their marbles lie, but hitting a mib only wins that player that one marble. The game continues until all the marbles are gone. Whoever won the most marbles wins.

PUGGY

First, a hole is dug with the heel of a shoe to the depth of that heel. Then the players stand upright about six inches from the hole and, at random, drop whatever stake of marbles is decided upon, usually three. The players then shoot from a shooting line about ten feet away and attempt to propel these target marbles into the hole or "puggy," and winning any marbles they shot in. A player continues shooting until he misses; an expert shooter could conceivably run all of the marbles.

In a variation called "Killer," if one's shooter also makes it into the hole, he becomes a "killer," eligible to go after the other players shooters in addition to the target marbles. In "Newark Killer" the other player is not only out of the game, but also pays a bounty of one or more marbles.

SKELLY

Skelly is played in a square about 1 foot across. Each player randomly places a few targets inside the square. Lag from a starting line to see who comes closest to the square. The one closest shoots first, and plays until he misses one of the targets. Players can shoot from elevated positions and can shoot at any of the marbles. For a marble to be counted and kept it has to go out of the square on the fly, without rolling. This game works best when dense aggies (or steelies, if all players agree to it) are used to hit lighter target marbles.

FORT

Draw four concentric circles on the ground, one inside the other. The largest circle should be about 8 feet across, and each smaller circle should be about two feet narrower than the last, so that there is a 2" circle in the center (the fort), surrounded by a 4 foot circle, a 6 foot circle, and then the outer 8 foot circle. Each player puts 3 marbles in the fort, 2 marbles in the next circle, and one marble in the 3rd circle. The outer ring remains empty.

The first player shoots their marble from anywhere outside the largest circle, aiming only at the marbles in the 3rd ring. If they hit a mib out of the 3rd circle they keep the mib and their turn is over. (If they hit a marble in any other ring out of its circle, they must return it to its original spot.) If they don't hit a mib out of the third circle, they must pay one marble into the fort and their turn is over. This penalty will continue throughout the game, no matter which ring a player is aiming at.

In any case, they leave their shooter wherever it lands. If it is outside the outer ring, they may shoot on their next turn from anywhere outside the circle. Players may shoot at other players' shooters, but they don't keep them if they hit them. If asked, a player must lift their shooter to allow another player a clear shot at a mib. They must replace the shooter in the same spot after the shot. Players continue until all marbles have been shot out of the third ring.

Play then continues with the next player aiming at the marbles in the 2nd ring. If a player hits a marble in the 2nd ring, they are entitled to one extra shot. Even if the second shot hits another marble, their turn is over after the second shot.

When all the mibs have been cleared from the second ring, players begin shooting at the marbles in the fort. Hitting a mib in the fort can give a player up to two extra turns, as long as they hit another marble out on the second turn. When all the marbles are gone from the fort, the game is over. The player with the most marbles wins.

DROPSIES

A good game when you have to play on a not-so-good surface. It can be played with two, three or four players.

Dropsies is played in a square. Each side of the square should be about one medium step long. Everybody playing scatters five marbles inside the square. Stand up outside the square with your toes just touching the line. You can lean in, but you can't straddle the corners or any part of the square.

The idea is to drop your shooter from above waist height onto the other people's marbles and knock them out of the square. If you can manage that without your shooter rolling out of the square at the same time, you get to keep dropping (and also keep the "victim" of your drop). If your shooter rolls out, you can still keep your victim (or victims) but you lose your turn.

BRIDGE BOARD

A board with nine cutouts along one edge is propped up on that edge to form nine archways. (This is called a bridge board, and also an archboard.)The numbers 6, 2, 3, 1, 5, 8, 7, 9, 4 are painted over the arches, one number over each arch. Players try to shoot through the holes and win the number of marbles indicated by the number above the hole. Any marbles which miss become the property of the board owner. The board may also be used to play Nine Holes.

NINE HOLES

This name is given to two different marble games. The first game is Miniature Golf played with marbles. Players construct a miniature golf course from materials at hand and take turns shooting their marbles around, through, and over the obstacles they've built. First player to complete nine holes wins.

The second version of the game is played with an arch board. Players take turns shooting their marbles through the arches in numerical order. Arches that are shot through out of sequence don't count. A successful shoot through the correct arch entitles the shooter to an additional turn. First player to send his or her marble through all nine holes in the correct order wins.

BUNHOLE

A one-foot wide hole is dug in the center of the playing field. Players attempt to get a marble as close as possible to the hole without going in. Whoevers marble comes closest without going in wins a marble from each player. Knocking in your opponent's marble is permitted - if you can knock the closest marble into the hole, and "stick" your shooter you can win the game (unless the next player succeeds in doing the same to you...in this game, you want to be the last to shoot!)

RING TAW

To play Ring Taw, you first need to make a circle with a 7 foot diameter. Then you need to make a circle with a 1 foot diameter at the center of the outer circle. Players decide how many marbles each will put in the inner circle. The first player can shoot from any spot on the outer circle with his shooter, and tries to knock a marble from the inner circle while keeping his shooter in the outer ring. If he succeeds, he may go again, but if he didn't hit a marble out of the inner circle and stay in the outer circle, the next player may go. If a marble was knocked out of the inner circle but the shooter's marble left the outer circle, the target marble is replaced. If you hit somebody's marble out of the inner circle, you may not hit that person's other marbles again until you hit someone else's marble. You play until all the marbles are out of the inner circle. The player with the most marbles wins.

CHERRY PIT

This is the reverse of Ring Taw. A one-foot wide hole is dug in the center of a ten-foot circle. Each player places a number of marbles around the hole so that there is about a dozen marbles surrounding the hole. Players take turns trying to knock marbles into the hole. Like Ring Taw, as long as marbles are knocked into the hole and the shooter remains in the outer ring, players may continue to shoot. If a taw goes into the hole, the owner must forfeit a number of marbles and place them around the hole to 'buy back' his or her shooter.

HUNDREDS

Both players try to shoot their mibs into a one-foot hole. If both mibs go in, players start over. If one player's marble goes in and the other player's marble doesn't, the player whose marble went in scores ten points. If neither player's marble goes in, the first player now tries to hit the second player's marble. If he or she hits it, he or she earns ten points and another chance to shoot his or her marble into the hole for ten points. If he or she misses his or her opponent's marble, the second player tries to hit the first player's marble for ten points. If they hit it then they can also try shooting his or her marble into the hole for ten extra points. Whenever a marble goes into the hole, both players start over from the starting line, otherwise all shots are made from wherever the marble stopped rolling. First player to reach one hundred points wins.

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