How To Play Marbles

Marbles is a classic game that hasn’t changed much at all in over a hundred years. In fact, marbles were used for games as far back as Roman times. This old-fashioned pastime is still a great game for kids of all ages. Each player starts with a large shooter marble measuring 3/4” in diameter and a few 5/8” regular marbles. The number needed depends on the number of players in the game. It is possible to play marbles with anywhere from two to about half a dozen players. Here’s how to play marbles:

  1. Agree on the rules. Before starting the game, all players should agree on the rules. The main one is whether they are playing “for keeps,” in which the winner of the game gets to keep all the marbles used, or “for fair,” which requires all marbles to be returned to their owners at the conclusion of the game.
  2. Draw the playing area. The game of marbles is played inside a ring drawn on the ground. This is normally drawn with chalk, although not always. The ring should be about ten feet in diameter, with a one foot ring drawn in the center. Each player puts in the same number of marbles into the smaller ring; there should be about a dozen marbles in total.
  3. The lag. The first step in playing marbles is called ‘lagging.’ The players roll their “shooter” marble towards a line about ten feet away. The player whose shooter lands nearest the line will have the first shot, an advantageous position.
  4. Throwing the marbles. During the game of marbles, the marbles can either be thrown or they can be “knuckled,” which requires a knuckle touching the ground as the marble is rolled. There are various strategies for releasing your shooter into the ring with the most force. The object of the game is to have your shooter knock the other person’s marble from the ring.
  5. The winner of the lag shoots their marble. The first player shoots their shooter toward the marbles already in the ring. If you knock a marble from the ring, you pick up that marble and get another shot from wherever your shooter landed in the ring. It is possible to win the game by shooting all of the marbles out of the ring in consecutive shots, without giving your opponent(s) a shot. If you fail to knock a marble out of the ring, it is the next person’s turn.
  6. Continue shooting. You can shoot your marble from anywhere outside of the ring, similarly to how the game of pool allows play from any side of the table. If your shooter remains inside the ring, you can enter the ring to shoot your shooter from that spot on your next turn.
  7. The end of the game. If your shooter remains inside the ring and someone else knocks it out of the ring before your next turn, you are out of the game. The person who knocked your shooter out of the game gets your marbles. The game continues until either one person has knocked the majority of the marbles out of the ring, or only one person still has their shooter in play.

Although this is the basic way to play marbles, there are many regional games, and new games can be made up on the spot using these simple playthings. This version is usually called ring taw or ringer, although it may also be referred to simply as “marbles.”


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