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Miscellaneous Marbles Games

The traditional types of marbles games found around the world are the circle, chase and hole games. But there are many other ways marbles have been used by children for amusement. These games vary from the familiar Chinese Checkers and Aggrevation games in stores today to some lesser known games that children invented over the centuries. Here are just a few tp try.

From the The Great American Marble Book on circle games:


Wall is simply a shooting game where the player bounces his marbles off a wall with the intent of hitting his opponent's marble on the fly.

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War is another shooting game where a player shoots, over a distance of about 14 feet, at an opponent's marble. With each miss, his opponent keeps the marble. If he hits it, he gets his opponent's target marble becoming "keeper of the target." Players switch roles back and forth, thus 30 or 40 marbles can be lost very quickly.

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Ho-Go is a game where marbles are used as tender where a player holds up a hand, presumably with marbles inside, asking, "Ho-Go?" The object is for the other player to guess how many -- if any -- the first player has. A correct guess wins what is in the hand. An incorrect guess results in payment of the difference between the guess and the amount held by the second player. This game is also known as Handy-Dandy.

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This is a game in which marbles are used as a form of tender. To play, two sticks and a button are needed. Draw a circle in the dirt and stand one stick on end within it. Then place the button on top of the upright stick. Roll the second stick lengthwise on the ground from a shooting line about 15 feet away from the first stick. The object is to upset the first stick and have the button land within the circle. The payoff is in marbles, whether successful or not. This game is also known in Great Britain as Stick-On-Scone. In Australia or England, you may here this rhyme:
"Try your luck on the toodlembuck An alley a shot and two if you win."

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Spinner consists of a two- or three-foot-diameter ring drawn in the dirt. Marbles are dropped in at random. A spinning top is used to knock the marbles from the ring, each player taking turns releasing his spinning top into the ring. Marbles knocked from the ring are kept by the player. However, if the player's top remains in the ring, it simply becomes another target. The value of a typical spinner is considered as good as that of an aggie among marbles players, so stiff trading could result.

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Several non-traditional marbles games, including Ho-Go, Toodlembuck and Spinner, led to the creation of this and similar games. Bridgeboard and other varieties are games of chance, most of them were ingeniously designed with carefully computed odds. The materials used for these games are also carefully selected. Bridgeboard is an English game, and probably the predecessor of similar games. The board is about a foot long with notches cut along the base. Nails may be used to make the notches. Numbers are drawn above the notches to indicate a quantity of marbles. With the base placed on the ground, the object is for players to shoot marbles through the holes. The shooter is paid whatever number of marbles was indicated above the hole through which his marble passes. Or if he misses, he loses his marble to the house.

An American version from Connecticut uses a paddle-shaped piece of wood with five holes of varying sizes cut into one end. Numbers are written above these holes indicating a quantity of marbles to be awarded the shooter shouldf his marble pass through. Naturally the smaller the arch the larger the bounty. The Canadians used a mounted board with a different set of numbers.

Another American version comes from Brooklyn, New York, and is called Shoot The Shoe Box. It utilized a Thom McAn shoe box, and had its own set of numbers. And a cigar box was used in East Bronx, with a Garcia Vega Box being the preferred type. The holes were cut along the top edge of the front side of the box which was then used inverted on the ground. Even smaller boxes were used in the West Bronx, where the wooden Kraft chees boxes are favored. This game was called Chickie Needs More Corn, and the house had a better stake. A preference for Philadelphia Brand Cream Cheese boxes can be found in Queens, where the game is aptly called The Creamer. This box is long, thin and as hard to beat as a one-armed bandit. Cigar boxes are used on Long Island, where the house might payoff in candy, nuts, checkers or pennies. This version is called Getting It Into The Box, and most people don't.

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The corona

This is a cigar box game from New England, where a single hole is cut into the top. The houseman or host places the box on the sidewalk. The object of this game is for a contestant to stand upright, straddle the box, and drop a marble straight down from chin level in hopes of getting it through the hole. As with all "house games," all missed marbles become the property of the cigar box owner. If a player gets a marble into the box, the prize may be as many as five to ten marbles, which is dependant on the player's height and the size of the hole. Try "sighting" along your finger.

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In this cigar box game, from the Bronx, the box is placed upright against a curb, top opened back for a ramp. The object is for players to roll marbles up the ramp at just the right speed to drop them into the box. Payoff is five to one. If the marble is rolled too slowly, it may edge off one side or slide back downthe ramp. Also, if the marble rolls too fast, it jumps ski-fashion over the box. The ever-popular Garcia Vega boxes are preferred because their tops were thicker than other cigar box tops, and more often than not the marbles wouldn't make it onto the ramp.

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Prince Henry

This gambling marbles game employs a box, in this case a pyramid made of cardboard. Its apex is cut off to make a hole. From a distance of about three feet, players try to toss marbles into the hole. If successful, they collect a marble from each player.

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This "banker" game comes from Detroit, and it involves a line-up of strategically grouped marbles in some sort of series. The object is for players to bowl shooters at the marbles rather than shoot knuckles style. Marbles hit are won, with greatest value bestowed on single marbles standing alone. Bowlers on single marbles from a predetermined point that depends on the terrain smoothness and marble value. Values are higher for rougher ground and greater distance. Marbles that miss their mark are, of course, kept by the house man.

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This is a gambling game, strictly for shooters, where players shoot at a "sticker" or target marble from a shooting line some 15 or 20 feet away. In this New England vintage game, the sticker is a highly prized carnelian, a superb aggie, or a fine oversized glassie, each worth about five ordinary marbles. If a player hits the sticker, he keeps it. All marbles that miss become the property of the sticker's owner, who has an obvious advantage whereby he/she can often collect several dozen marbles before the sticker is hit. With these marbles, trading five for one can quadruple his/her aggie stock. Since, everbody would want to be the "sticker," the priveledge goes to whoever who yells "Sticker!" first. If you hit the sticker, you then have the option of becoming the houseman.

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This is a New England gambling game from Hartford, Connecticut where a marble is flattened on opposite sides, usually with a file, so it won't roll and so a die will sit flatly on top. The houseman places his/her target on the sidewalk or other flat area and invites contestants to try their luck. Usually shooters are kept behind a line about six feet away at the stationary marble in hopes of jarring it with sufficient force to knock the die off. Successful players are awarded the number of marbles indicated by the fallen die. All marbles which miss became the houseman's property. Most shooters might figure this as a stacked game, but the challenge of a possible 6 to 1 is great.

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This Canadian gambling game (called Rockies in The Great American Marble Book) is among the most difficult, offering a payoff as high as 50 to 1, therefore impossible to resist. Place a single marble, one of your larger ones, in the middle of a concrete sidewalk square. Players shoot at it from a shooting line two squares away. Carfeully pick the target square, ideally not level and not even with the two adjacent squares. One separated by a deep crack or a protruding ribbon of tar also works well, or better yet, try one with a tree root pushing it up at one end, and with its neighbor deeply cracked and pitted. Higher payoffs come with rougher courses.

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This game from Brooklyn, New York, is usually run by a houseman with an extensive collection of large, colorful, often valuable, collectors' marbles to offer as bait. Sit on the sidewalk with an immie in front of you and offer it to whoever could hit with a shooter from two sidewalk cement squares away. Ideally the course for this game should be rough. If the marble is hit, it is won by the shooter. All misses, however, are kept by the houseman. The object of the houseman sitting on the sidewalk is to be a distraction to the shooter.

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It is named in honor of the prized clear glass marbles that are the stake in this Bronx, New York, game. The houseman sist on a curb, a cigar box top in front of him with which to provide a backdrop for a single, prized puree. The object is for players to shoot at the puree from various distances, with higher odds given for longer shots. From six to seven feet, odds of 5:1 are offered; from mid-street, 10:1; and from the opposite curb, 40:1. Anyone who cared to attempt a shot from the roof of a parked car on the other curb, or from a window of an apartment across the street was awarded with 100:1; though I would not recommend doing this from anyone's parked car -- they may not be very happy with you for it. With the heavy traffic today, this would be better played away from the street where some distance can be attained for making shots with greater odds.

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Created in Pittsburgh, this body game involves the house man sitting on the sidewalk, legs spread wide, and an exceptionally beautiful aggie placed near the crotch of his trousers. The object is for playersto roll commies or cheap clay marbles at the aggie. A hit entitles the roller to the aggie, or the option of taking the houseman's place. All missed marbles become the property of the aggie owner. When four or five players roll simultaneously, an element of tension is added, often resulting in discussions over whose commie hit the aggie. Girls are not known to play this game, at least not in Pittsburgh.

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Popular in the 1900's, particularly in New England, Pinball is the predecessor of the modern pinball machine. The marbles version calls for a simple pinball board easily constructed from a cardboard box or wooden crate. This board is propped at a slant, and players hold marbles, then let go. The marbles roll down, striking nails and brads strategically placed within the path. The object is to land the marbles in the holes cut in the board or into a numbered pocket at the bottom of the box. Numbers over the holes and pockets indicate the number of marbles the player receives. With luck, the marbles will not drop out of the way to be collected by the lucky owner of the pinball machine.

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Maurice Steele's game

In Hartford, Connecticut, at the turn of the 20th century, Maurice Steele developed this action game where a marble zips down three levels, emerges through a hole and hopefully hits a bell. There is little skill involved, but players get a lot of action from this forerunner of many modern marbles games.

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Song: "Woofie"