How to play marbles

Another old-fashioned game that you don’t see much anymore is marbles, although there are still marble tournaments around the U.S. and the world. There are many different marble games that you could play. I’ll just talk about the variation we played as kids on the playground before and after school and during recess, every chance we got!

marbles

Make a small “pot” in the ground with your fingers. It doesn’t have to be very large unless you’re playing with large quantities of marbles. We usually made them approximately the size of a baseball.

Next, decide how many marbles you’ll be playing for. We called them onesies (one marble against one), twosies, threesies, and so on.

Players stand at a distance of 20 feet or so. Taking turns, each player (it’s usually a two-player game) throws all his marbles toward the pot, getting them as close as possible. For example, when playing threesies, Player 1 would throw three marbles, one at a time, toward the pot. Then Player 2 throws his three, one at a time. Player 2 can watch to see whose marble is closest to the pot, but without getting in the way of the flying marbles; they can hurt!

The player with the closest marble then begins flicking the rest of them into the pot, generally working from closest to farthest, but we didn’t have any rules regarding that, and it didn’t matter if the marble belonged to you or not.

Here are a couple of ways you can flick the marbles:

(How these people have a hole in their living room floor, I don’t know. It’s all fun and games until somebody breaks an ankle.)

The goal is to get all the marbles into the pot and be the one to flick the last marble in. It’s sort of like pool, where as long as you keep sinking them you get to keep going. Whoever sinks the last one gets them all.

We played funsies (just for fun, and the players take back their own marbles afterwards) or keepsies (where the winner takes all).

A queenie, not quite as big as a boulder, was worth 5 marbles, so one player might play his queenie against 5 of the other player’s marbles. Boulders were worth 10 marbles. Steelies were worth 20 or more, depending on size. But the value can be whatever the two players decide on.

We also played marbles indoors by making a circle on the carpeting with a piece of string or several short lengths of masking tape. The same goal applied where you want to get all the marbles into the circle.

A common variation is where you try to knock your opponent’s marbles out of the circle. Here’s how to do that:

Check out marblechamp.com for more marble games and information.

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