Marble Games


The game of marbles, sometimes called mibs, has been regaining its popularity in recent years. Much of this is due to the care with which older players have been passing the rules of the game down to the younger generations. If a child wants to know how to play marbles, they usually only have to ask a father, uncle, or grandfather (not that lots of moms, aunts, and grandmas didn't play too!) Most marble games have been around for a long time, although the way they are played can vary from region to region or from generation to generation.

Most games, however, have some things in common. Most of them involve a shooting marble, known as a “shooter,” “boss,” or a “taw.” The shooter marble is aimed at a target marble, usually called a “mib” or a “kimmie.” An important decision that players of any game must decide is what is at stake. If they play “keepsies,” then the winner of the match gets to keep the marbles they have won. If everyone gets their own marbles back in the end then they are playing "friendlies" or "funsies."

Marbles are played in many different parts of the world and there are at least 100 different variations. Here are some of the more popular games.

Ringer

Probably the most popular and widely played of the marble games is Ringer, which has been around since the 19th century. It is the game that most marble tournaments, including the National Marbles Tournament, have adopted as their official game. You might have heard it called Ringo or Ring Taw. When most people think of playing marbles, this is probably what they have in mind.

When playing Ringer, the players usually draw a ring that measures ten feet in diameter. They place 13 mibs in a cross in the center. Each player must stand outside of the ring and use their shooter to try and knock one of the mibs out of the circle while keeping their shooter inside. If you’ve ever played, you know this is a lot harder than it sounds. When the shooter hits a mib and knocks it out of the circle and the shooter stays inside, then the player gets another turn, making the shot from the place where their shooter stopped. They also get to collect the marble they knocked out. If they miss the mib or their shooter goes outside the circle, they lose their turn. The player who collects the most marbles wins the game. When making their shots, the players must keep their knuckles down upon the ground, hence the term “knuckle down.” The penalty for not doing this is losing a turn.

Bridgeboard/Nine Holes

A bridgeboard, or any board with nine archways cut into one side, can be used for two different games. Bridgeboard involves shooting a marble through the archways, which have been numbered 6, 2, 3, 1, 5, 8, 7, 9, 4. When a player shoots their marble into one of the slots, they receive the number of marbles indicated by the number over the hole.

Nine Holes can also be played with the same board. Players try to send their marbles through the holes in numerical order. If they shoot their marble into a hole out of order it does not count at all. If they do make it through the next number in line, they get another turn. The first contestant to send their marble through all nine holes in numerical order wins the game.

Bun-Hole

The object of this marbles game is to shoot your marble as close to a hole as possible without going in. The player who comes the closest collects a marble from the other players. It is acceptable to knock your opponent’s marble into the hole.

Old Bowler

This game was supposedly Abraham Lincoln’s favorite marbles game. It involves drawing a square and putting a marble in each corner. A marble which is called “Old Bowler” is placed in the center. Players will take turns trying to hit the mibs in the corners out of the square. When that has been done, you can go after the “Old Bowler.” If you hit this marble before the corner mibs are out, you are out of the game. The game is not over until the “Old Bowler” has been knocked out, and the winner is the player with the most marbles.

Cherry Pit

In a way, this game is the reverse of the Ringer game. Here, you dig a one-foot-wide hole in the center of a ten-foot circle. Players put several marbles around the perimeter of the hole and take turns trying to knock marbles in the hole. When marbles are knocked in the hole and the taw stays out of the hole, the player gets to keep taking turns. If the taw goes into the hole, the player who shot it there must give up a number of marbles and put them around the hole in order to get the shooter back.

Boss Out/Long Tawl

In this marble game a player shoots a marble. Then, a second player attempts to hit the first marble. If they hit it, they get to keep both marbles. If they miss but are fairly close, the player can try to “span" it by placing their thumb on their own marble and their index finger on the first marble. They then draw their hand up while bringing their fingers together. If the marbles connect, the player can collect both marbles. If they miss, the the first player gets the chance to shoot at either marble.

In the end, the goal of playing marbles is not only to collect the most marbles—it is to have loads of fun! You can learn to play marbles in many different ways, but in the end it is the friends you will make and the memories you will create that will count.