The Rules for Marbles
AKA “Killer” Marbles
Cheating for family fun and friendship
The Lund family game of “Marbles” is based on the Indian game of Pachisi, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pachisi, dating back to at least the 15th or 16th century and may date back to the 3rd century Anno Domini.
The rules listed here are the game as I learned to play it as a teen age boy with family friends (George and Sally Lund) in San Antonio, TX, during high school. One variant has been added, the “short cut”.
The game is played on a board for 4, 6, or 8 players, though any lesser number may play. For 4, the layout is as follows:
1. The HOME row is the goal. The winner is the first player to move all his marbles around the board and into the HOME row.
2. Each player selects 4 like marbles, or other token, and places them in the PARKING row.
3. The outermost row of 4 is a PARKING row, where the player’s marbles sit until they are entered into play.
4. Play begins when each player rolls one die. The player with the highest roll begins the game, with each player to the left following.
5. To move out of the PARKING row, a player must roll a 1 or a 6, and moves onto the OUT spot.
6. The first spot in from the left FREE TURN is the OUT spot, where a marble enters play from the PARKING row on the roll of a 1 or a 6. Play proceeds to the left around the board.
7. The outside corners are FREE TURNS. Landing directly on an outside corner gives another roll of the die.
8. The inside corners are SAFE spots. A marble sitting in a SAFE spot cannot be killed.
9. The SHORT CUT is an option that can circumvent much of the distance around the board. The SHORT CUT is landed on by direct count of a roll through a SAFE spot. Leaving a SHORT CUT requires a 1 or a 6; that marble may only move to a SAFE spot of the player’s choosing on that roll.
10. A roll of a 6 gives a free turn. 3 successive 6’s cause the last marble moved to return to PARKING.
11. A player may not pass himself and may not kill himself. If a player is forced to land on his own marble (as when a marble is stuck waiting to get HOME), the marble being moved returns to PARKING. A player may not surrender a turn to avoid an unfavorable outcome.
12. A player must always move the full roll of the die, except when coming out of PARKING or SHORT CUT. If moving the full roll of the die is not possible, the player does not move and play continues according to the rules. If that roll was a 6, the player still has a free turn in such a situation.
13. Cheating is allowed, unless caught.
14. The winner should sign and date the back of the board.
I recently opened up my blog to guest authors and I left the subject matter wide open. One of the first comments I got was about “war stories”, so I thought, what the heck, I’ll start.
This actually happened. Every word is true, as best as I can remember nearly 4 decades after the fact. I was, in fact, a passenger in a helicopter that did hit a tree while in flight. This was the kind of stupidity junior officers can get up to when they are left alone with a mission, expensive equipment, and a complete lack of adult supervision. Your tax dollars at work.
So, there we were, in a tight turn at under a hundred feet, probably 80 or 90 miles per hour, eyeing our targets on the ground, when I heard the pilot say “Oh, s**t!”.
Not what you want to hear from the pilot at any point in a flight, let alone in a steep bank below the tree line. In case you hadn’t already picked up on it, the first problem was that “we” were eyeing “our” targets. Since there were only two of us in the aircraft, the pilot was obviously not looking where he was going. Until he was, and wished he wasn’t.
So I looked up in time to see two things at the same time: A large pine tree directly in front of us, and looming over us (we’d ducked below the tree line in order to line up a “bomb run” on the bad guys), and some engine gauges in front of me slam hard over into the red zone. One of them was labeled “Engine Temp” and the numbers under the needle, white on red, were in 4 digits. I also noticed the change in engine tone and felt the bird trying to climb. The pilot was pulling so hard it occurred to me that even if we missed the tree he was probably going to stall out at a little over a hundred feet off the ground. None of this was going well.
As we approached an almost completely vertical climb, I was ecstatic to realize we were almost over the tree to the point it was little more than a small shrub at its very top. Then we hit it. I vividly remember ducking violently as though the top of the tree was about to hit me in the face, and then the aircraft was nosing over, back into level flight. Just about that time, the engine seemed to stop. Some of the gauges in front of me slowly ran down while the engine wheezed to a slow siren-like whine. I feared the pilot had burned up the motor trying to get over the tree and now we were over a hundred feet off the ground with no power.
God loves us. All of this happened immediately next to a steep bluff where we’d caught the bad guys trying to hide from us, and the pilot neatly side-slipped us about 50 feet so that we were no more than ten feet above the top of the hill, in a ground effect bubble as the blades slowly wound down, and the pilot gently set it down.
We both just sat there for a bit. The pilot said something about a fire extinguisher, and a possible fire, but neither of us moved.
Later, I remember removing pine needles from fuselage panels while we waited for pickup. I don’t think they were supposed to be able to penetrate. I got yelled at, and so did the pilot. He had to buy a motor for the aircraft. I understand he’ll be paying for it for a while.