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How to play marbles

Updated August 10, 2017

Although most of us think of marbles as an old-fashioned pastime, the game is still fun for kids of all ages and is played around the globe.

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  1. Draw a circle 2 to 3 feet (90cm) wide. Use chalk on asphalt or concrete, a stick in dirt, or a string on carpet or tile.

  2. Select your shooter and place any marbles you wish to play with as targets inside the circle; the other players do the same. Shooters are designated marbles used to knock targets out of the ring. Your shooter should be larger than the other marbles so it's powerful enough to do its job. It should also look different from other marbles so you can distinguish it from them easily.

  3. Take your turn when the time comes by shooting your marble from outside the ring at any marble or marbles inside the ring. Shoot by kneeling on the ground and flicking your marble out of your fist with your thumb.

  4. Gather any marbles you've knocked out of the ring.

  5. Shoot again if you knocked any marbles out of the ring. Let the next player shoot if you haven't knocked any marbles out and/or your shooter remains in the ring.

  6. Continue shooting in turn until the ring is empty.

  7. Count your marbles at the end of the game. The winner is the player with the most marbles.

  8. Return the marbles to their original owners unless you're playing 'keepsies.' In that case, each player keeps the marbles he or she won during the game.

  9. Tip

    These are the rules for a version of 'ring taw' marbles, an older, more common variant. There are many other ways to play. One way to decide playing order is called 'lagging.' The players line up opposite a line 10 feet (3 metres) away (the 'lag line') and shoot their marbles at it. The player whose marble ends up closest to the line goes first, the next closest goes second and so on.

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Things You'll Need

  • Chalk
  • 6 to 10 feet of string

About the Author

Dr James Holloway has been writing about games, geek culture and whisky since 1995. A former editor of "Archaeological Review from Cambridge," he has also written for Fortean Times, Fantasy Flight Games and The Unspeakable Oath. A graduate of Cambridge University, Holloway runs the blog Gonzo History Gaming.

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