Rules for Playing Marbles
By Donna G. Morton
Updated September 22, 2017
The rules for marbles vary widely from region to region and it is not uncommon for games and rules to be made up on the spot. There are, however, general rules for the basic game of Ringer, which is the most classic and popular game in marbles. RInger is also played in many tournaments, including the annual National Marbles Tournament, where kids from across the U.S. compete for prizes and scholarships.
Two to six players compete in the game of Ringer, which uses 13 standard size marbles and one shooter marble per player. The standard marbles are called mibs, crafted from glass and measure five-eighths of an inch. The larger shooter marble measures from one half to three-fourth of an inch and can be made from any material except steel or other metals.
Keepers and Weepers
Before the game begins, players determine how many marbles they will use in the game and if they are playing "for fair" or "for keeps." When playing for fair, all marbles are returned to their owner after the game. When playing for keeps, the winner gets to keep the marbles he or she has won.
A circle is drawn on a smooth, flat surface and measures 3 to 10 feet in diameter. The rule of thumb is that the bigger the circle, the better the players because a wider circle makes for a more challenging game. A straight line is then drawn next to the circle so that the circle just touches the middle of the line. Finally, another line just like the first one is drawn on the opposite side of the circle.
To determine which player shoots first, each player kneels behind one of the lines and shoots or tosses a standard marble towards the other line. This is called lagging. The player whose marble lands closest to the line goes first. The player whose marble rolls second closest to the line goes second and so on.
Thirteen standard marbles, called "targets" in Ringer, are placed in the center of the circle, often 3 inches apart and in the shape of a plus sign. They can also be arranged in the shape of an X, in a circle or scattered about randomly. The goal of Ringer is for players to flick their shooter marbles into the ring and knock out the targets. The shooter marble should not leave the ring.
Playing and Points
To begin, the first player kneels from any spot outside of the circle and "knuckles down," which means at least one knuckle touches the ground as the player holds the shooter marble in one hand and uses their thumb to flick it into the ring. If they knock one or more targets from the ring, they shoot again and continue to do so until they miss. When their turn is over, they leave their shooter in the ring and the next player begins their turn. One point is scored for each marble knocked outside of the ring. The player with the most points wins.
Donna G. Morton lives in Atlanta and has been writing for more than 27 years. She earned a Bachelor of Science in journalism from East Tennessee State University and spent 15 years in radio and corporate advertising, winning 10 Excellence in Advertising Awards for creative writing.