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The Rules of Marbles


The Rules of Marbles

Marbles are a traditional children's pastime and, of course there are dozens of informal games that can be played with them including games where marbles are aimed at holes, at arches and at a target "jack". One of the marbles games, Ring Taw, has been turned into an adult pub game, albeit a rare one. For that purpose, this game has been given a set of official rules and these are played at the annual World Marbles Championship at The Greyhound Inn, Tinsley Green, Sussex as sanctioned by the British Marbles Board of Control. The game listed here is based upon these rules although this is by no means that only version of Ring Taw that is played around the world.

Note: 1 yard = 3 feet = 36 inches = 0.9144 metres.


Description of equipment

Forty nine ordinary marbles are used, at a standard size of half an inch in diameter. In addition, each player has a "tolley", a larger marble which may be no greater than three quarters of an inch in diameter.

Play is within a marbles "ring", six feet in diameter. Any dusty or sandy surface will suffice but for official games, rough damp sand is sprinkled across a stone or concrete slab. A formal ring is a stone slab raised 2 or 3 inches off the ground. In this way, there is never any debate as to whether or not a marble has been knocked out of the ring. Normally, however, a ring will be drawn on the available surface and judgements are made by looking at a marble from directly overhead. A marble whose middle point lies exactly on the line is still in the ring but if the midpoint lies any further away from the middle of the ring, the marble is out.

Start and Objective

Marbles is played by two opposing teams. Official games are played with six people per team. Singles is fine - just follow the same rules with one player per team. The objective for the team is to knock more marbles outside the ring than the opposing team.

To begin, the forty nine marbles are compressed into a circular "pack" at the middle of the ring.

To decide who starts, the captain of each team "tolleys off" by holding their tolley to the tip of their nose and letting it drop into the ring. The captain of the tolley that finishes closest to the edge of the ring without going outside the ring plays first.

The Play

Players from the two teams take turns to shoot at the marbles in the ring. Each shot must be taken with a knuckle touching the ring surface. The tolley is placed in the crook of the index finger and the thumb then used to flick it in the appropriate direction. Each turn starts with the tolley shot from the edge of the ring inwards. Each marble that is knocked out of the ring scores for the team concerned. If one or more marbles are knocked out of the ring and the tolley finishes within the ring, the player is entitled to another shot, the continuation shot being taken from wherever the tolley came to rest. The turn continues until a shot fails to knock a marble outside the ring or the tolley finishes outside the ring.

If a shot fails to knock a marble outside the ring and the players tolley finishes inside the ring, then the tolley remains within the ring until that player's turn comes around again. This is to be avoided since it renders the tolley vulnerable to attack by the opposing team.

If a tolley is knocked out of the ring by the opposing team, it is "killed". A dead tolley is not removed from the game; instead the player is handicapped thereafter by having to "knuckle down". This means each shot must be played in a more awkward position with the back of the hand touching the ground.


The game ends when the last marble is knocked outside the ring. At that point the team that collected the most marbles, wins.


Differing sizes of playing area and numbers of marbles are used. One variant states that the ring must be 2 metres (7 feet) in diameter and that the marbles start by being placed anywhere with an inner ring 30cm (1 foot) in diameter.

Some games do not use the knuckle down rule and state that when a player's tolley is knocked out of the ring, that player is immediately eliminated from the game.

Children will often play for the marbles themselves. In this case, marbles are quite literally won when they are knocked outside the ring. In some variants, instead of the knuckle down rule, a marble is paid to any player who strikes an opposing tolley during the game by the player who owns the tolley.



These rules are provided by Masters Traditional Games, an Internet shop selling quality traditional games, pub games and unusual games. For general information or for copying and copyright, see our Rules Information page.

Our rules are comprehensive instructions for friendly play. If in doubt, always abide by locally-played or house rules.

Copyright Masters Traditional Games © 2019. All rights reserved.

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