Brief History of Marble Games
While marble board games have been around for decades, marbles themselves have been around for centuries. Marble games were around as early as the early 16th century. And they began being mass produced as early as the late 1800’s.
Variations of games involving only marbles exist around the world, including Australia, Uganda (dool), England (taws), and the United States.
Fast forward to today, there are now a wide variety of different types of marble games.
Best Marble Board Games
Potion Explosion is my pick for the best marble board game. While it could be listed under the next section since the listed age range is 8 years old and up, I wanted to be sure to highlight here instead.
Potion Explosion is a lightweight game that one reviewer described as “Splendor meets Candy Crush“, which is a fund and apt description.
In this game, marbles represent potion ingredients that you need to collect in order to complete recipes. You’re tasked with balancing quantity and quality; that is, some potions are worth more than others, but may take more time and ingredients to complete.
The game can be played by 2-4 players, and the average completion time is 30-45 minutes.
- Aesthetics: The game is beautifully designed with good-quality boards and marbles.
- Simplicity: The game is simple to learn, yet offers enough complexity to be enjoyable (though I expect the game may eventually fall out of favor of adults if they are the only ones playing).
In Zertz players attempt to capture multi-colored marbles, generally by jumping other marbles.
The game starts with a hexagonal board comprised of 37 plastic rings and a shared pool of marbles. Each turn players decide whether to make a jump–sometimes this is not a choice!–or placing a colored ball in an empty space.
Zertz, at times, feels like checkers. The difference is the ever-shrinking gameboard and the claim-to-fame claustrophobic endgame. This gives a sense of urgency and appeal that is sometimes lacking in abstract games.
- Easy to understand concept but enough underlying strategy to be enjoyable
- Each game is relatively quick to play
The game can be challenging and/or cumbersome to set up: 37 hexagonal tiles without any gameboard.
Abalone is a game that requires you push your opponent’s marbles off the board, but in a structured manner of course.
Played on a hexagonal board, players have lots to think about as marble columns can move in six different directions on any given turn.
I have included Abalone here because it is a simple, yet fun, game. That said, the replayability is ultimately rather low given it’s simplistic nature and not too much variability between games once players begin to learn the optimal strategy.
If you can find for cheap, then it’s worth it to pick up. Otherwise, feel free to leave this one on the (virtual) shelf.
Marble Games for Kids
Finding marble games for children is not too difficult.
To start you can just pick up a bunch of marbles and kids will find plenty of things to do with them. Or, you can investigate various marble run sets currently available.
But, if you want a more traditional board game, then your options are somewhat limited.
I highly recommend Potion Explosion mentioned above. But, there are a few classic–all available when I was growing up as a child in the 80’s–games that you choose from as well; the great thing is that are they are quite simple marble games for kids that they can quickly pick up and play.
Nothing quite beats a classic game. And Chinese Checkers definitely fits the description of classic!
The versions generally available are smaller and contain wooden marbles, so I would suggest keeping an eye out for a bigger versions with glass marbles (garage sales, thrift stores, eBay, or paying up on Amazon).
Of course, there is nothing wrong with the smaller, wooden marble versions. They make excellent introductions to the game.
Aggravation is about as basic as you can get: roll a die and move your marbles around the board until you reach the destination. It is quite similar to Sorry.
Despite it’s simplicity, it can still provide quite a bit of family fun. And it’s basic mechanics makes the game accessible to younger ages.
Kerplunk is a fun game in the mold of Jenga.
The objective is to carefully remove the sticks from the tube without letting any marbles fall. As the game progresses, it becomes more about minimizing the number of marbles and trying to leave your opponents with little choice but letting the marbles go kerplunk!
I remember enjoying this game as a kid, but recent reviews bring into question component quality. At its price one cannot expect great material, but at the same time it seems to have detracted from a number of people’s enjoyment.
So, if you can, try to find a copy of the original. Also, the game loses it appeal for kids as they grow older (e.g., I wouldn’t expect this to hold the attention of an 8-10 year old very long).
Solitaire Marble Games
Marble solitaire games are played much like peg solitaire games: a central hole is surrounded by the objects (marbles, pegs, etc.).
Marble solitaire games are often played on a wooden board with shallow cups used to hold the marbles.
There is only one move to make: use one marble to jump another into the empty hole. Then, you remove the jumped marble. Play continues until you remove all marbles except one; or you lose!
General strategy is to work to keep marbles towards the center of the board and avoid stranding marbles on the exterior. Marbles left along the outer edges will be difficult, or impossible, to clear later in the game.
Mancala Marble Games
Mancala is the name for a classification of games moreso than the name of a particular game.
Many people use the generic name Mancala to describe a broad number of 2-player turn-based strategy board games that involve small marbles, stones, or other objects.
In this type of game, the objective is to capture your opponent’s objects. The precise method for capturing depends on the type of Mancala game you are playing.
Mancala Games for Kids
If you’re looking for a more kid-friendly aesthetic, then you can try either of the following two games:
Featured Image Credit:CC BY-SA 2.0], By Tim Sackton from Somerville, MA (Game Night [24/366]) via Wikimedia Commons