Marble solitaire has puzzled and amused generations of players. This traditional game uses a wooden board covered in shallow cups that hold marbles; you have to remove the marbles one by one, leaving just one in the middle. Although you only have to master one move to play, the game stretches your strategic skills to the limit and a few near misses may make you feel like you're losing your own marbles.
Set Up the Game
You set up all traditional marble solitaire games the same way, no matter what shape they are or how many marbles you have. Put a marble in every hole on the board, apart from the one in the center. This hole is your starting point and is always left empty until you make your first move. If your game board doesn't have a groove around it to hold cleared marbles, it's worth having a box or container to store them.
Start Losing Marbles
There is only one move in the game -- one marble jumps over an adjacent marble to land in an empty hole. This is like a checkers move, but you can only jump one marble at a time and you have to move vertically or horizontally, not diagonally. Once you jump a marble, remove it from the board.
Your first move will focus on the two rows around the center of the board, as this is the only area with a hole at the start. You win if you remove all but one of the marbles from the board, leaving the last survivor in the central hole.
Marble Solitaire Strategies
Ideally, your jumps move marbles toward the center of the board, so start working from outside to inside as soon as you can. This gives you a fighting chance of winning. You may find it easier to focus on clearing one area of the board at a time, such as the point of a cross or quadrant of a circle. Try not to leave orphaned marbles at the edge of the board -- you won't be able to clear them.
Marble Solitaire Variations
Marble solitaire games have various designs, including circles, crosses and hexagons. You can also play triangular versions that use the hole at the apex of the triangle as the target and that allow you to use diagonal as well as vertical and horizontal jumps. Peg solitaire is the same as marble solitaire, but with pegs in holes rather than marbles in cups -- this may be a better option for a travel game. You can also play online versions of the game or download mobile apps.
Carol Finch has been writing technology, careers, business and finance articles since 2000, tapping into her experience in sales, marketing and technology consulting. She has a bachelor's degree in Modern Languages, a Chartered Institute of Marketing.certificate and unofficial tech and gaming geek status with her long-suffering friends and family.