Marble Playing In A Circle

Playing Marbles in a Circle with Shooters and Targets

by R. Renée Bembry

“Grab a marble shooter... Zap targets from the ring!...”

Whether made from glass, clay, or sulphide, intriguing little marbles have been fascinating people since the early nineteenth century, if not before, when marbles, mostly came from Germany. Many of those old German antique marbles adorn collector display cases to this day. With transparencies from clear to opaque, and colors from white to black and all in between, marbles are fun to look at, fun to play with, and fun to collect. Beneath the sunlight marbles shine even when powdery dirt encompasses them. In your hand, marbles feel light, smooth, and cool. It's natural to want to put marbles in your pocket when holding them because like money marbles can be very difficult to let go of!

Marble Playing Basics How To Set Up and Play

Setting up and playing marbles is relatively simple. Skill is required in actual game play, however, and players must learn to master the skill of shooting if they are ever to win marble games.

Things You May Need is Determined by Indoor or Outdoor Marble Play
  • Marbles - Shooters and Targets

  • Tree Twig or other firm etching item (for outdoor play)

  • String and/or tape (for indoor play)

  • Smooth dirt or carpet


1. Purchase Marbles

Marbles are available for purchase at many discount stores, some pharmacies carry them, and you can even buy them online. They often come in netted sacks or tin boxes. Therefore, after use, marbles may be replaced in their sacks or in their boxes. When said storage devices are not available, another good means for storing marbles is in zippered baggies.

2. Decide if the Game Will Be Fun or For Keeps

Playing marbles "for fun" means at the end of a game, all players who donated marbles for the game get their marbles back. Playing marbles "for keeps" means all players who contributed marbles may or may not get their marbles back. This is because for keeps games allow players to keep all marbles they shoot from the marble ring. The only way to get marbles back that you donated to for keeps games is to shoot them from the ring. Of course, a little side trading is an option if players are willing to offer the right pricy marble in an exchange for one they want back.

Marbles Are Not Intended for Children Under 3 Marbles are small objects and should be kept out of reach of children under three years old.

3. Prepare Marble Playing Surface

Shoes smoothing dirt. When playing outdoors try to find an area of smooth firm dirt that is not cluttered with debris. If debris is present however brush or sweep it away with your hands, a leafy twig, or the bottom of your shoe prior to step 4.

4. Etch a Ring in the Dirt or Make One on a Floor

Drawing circle in dirt. For outdoor play, find a thin stick or twig or some other firm tool - even a key - and use it to draw a circle in the dirt. The circle can be as big or as small as the players agree. The best size rings for beginners usually consists of a two to three foot diameter.

For indoor play, get a piece of string and round it into a circle on the floor. Carpeting and rugs that do not have a slew of bumps work best. Linoleum, tile, and wooden floors tend to give too much speed to rolling marbles. Marble play could wind up more of a game of chase the marble than shoot the marble. Avoid playing marbles in kitchens, even if rugs are available in that area. Otherwise marbles may find their way under stoves, refrigerators, dishwashers and other hard to get at places.

Securing string in place using tape will help keep the ring in shape. Using tape to make a circle is also possible but the ring may not be very round.

5. Make Sure All Players Have Shooters

The shooter is the marble players use to shoot at target marbles placed in the ring. Shooters should be distinguishable from all other marbles in play. Each player should have a different looking shooter and shooters should be different from targets. Generally, shooters are larger than targets. In situations where there aren't enough shooter size marbles for each player to get one, the second best thing to do is select marbles from the bunch that look considerably different from the other marbles and use the distinguishable marbles as shooters.

6. Place Marbles in the Ring

Pour marbles into prepared ring. Pour all the marbles to be used as targets into the ring. Spread them out enough so that they aren't touching one another or sitting too far apart. Use as much of the inner ring area as you can.

7. Decide Who Goes First

When children of varying ages play marbles, it is usually a good idea to let younger players go first. Girls may also be given the privilege of going first. When ages and skill levels are similar, however, the best way to begin a game of marbles is to, first draw a horizontal line about four to six feet from the marble ring. Then each player tosses or shoots his or her marble toward the ring. Then determine who goes first using the following criteria:  Anyone who knocks a marble from the ring on their toss or shot toward the circle goes first. If more than one person knocks a marble out, the person whose shooter is closest to a target within the circle goes first. If one or more players knock out more than one marble, they would have priority over anyone who knocked out only one marble. If no one knocks a marble out on the toss or initial shoot, the person whose shooter is closest to a target within the circle goes first. The next closest goes second, et cetera.

8. Knocking Marbles From The Ring

Marbles knocked out the ring are to be picked up by the person who knocked them out with their shooter. Marbles knocked out the ring by accident must be held slightly above the ring and dropped back in.

Shooting marbles from the ring requires players to either flick or hold their shooters in a method that allows them to eject the shooter from their hand at speeds rapid enough to knock shooters into targets causing targets to roll outside the ring. Read about shooting techniques here.

9. Shooting

Holding marble between thumb and forefinger. When shooting marbles from the ring each player in turn must pick up their shooter in a manner that allows him or her to maintain the position the shooter was in prior to picking it up and then shoot from that position. The game does not allow for shooting an inch or any other distance forward or backward or to the left or to the right from the position the shooter is in when the player lifts it from the ground or floor. Players are not to touch other marbles in the ring with their hand, other body part, clothing, or with their shooter. Any player breaking this rule commits a foul that ends his or her turn. Whenever a foul is committed while a shot is in process, the player committing the foul must leave their shooter wherever it is when the foul is committed even if the player has already shot his shooter. Any marbles leaving the ring on a foul shot must be dropped back into the ring as described in step 8. Likewise, any marbles leaving the ring when a player places his or her marble in the incorrect spot prior to shooting it must be dropped back into the ring.

When shooting at marbles, players must aim their marbles in ways that allow their shooter to remain in the ring in order to continue shooting when marbles are knocked out. Whenever shooters leave the ring, the player who shoots it out ends their turn even if they shoot marbles from the ring. In this case, however, any marbles they shoot out are theirs to pick up.

Once one person finishes shooting, the next person goes until he or she is out and the game continues in this fashion until all marbles are shot from the ring.

10. Winning the Game

Once all targets are shot from the ring, players count the marbles they knocked out. The player with the most marbles wins the game. If the game was for keeps, all players keep any marbles they knocked from the ring even if they did not win the game.


from where a version of this article was originally posted.

Kathleen Richardson Jun 14, 09 at 06:38 PM So cool! We didn't have computers when I was a kid in the 50's. We had the outdoors and we had marbles. Loved my "cat's eyes".
Shaheen Darr May 31, 09 at 12:34 AM This zone brought back my childhood days when we used to love playing marbles in groups. Very well done Renee!

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