- Tag (game)
Children playing a version of tag
Players 2 or more Age range 3+ Setup time 1 minute or less Playing time No limit Random chance Low Skill(s) required Running, stalking, hiding, observation
Tag (also known as tip, tick, tig, tiggy, dobby, it chasey, and many other names) is a playground game played worldwide that involves one or more players chasing other players in an attempt to tag or touch them, usually with their fingers. There are many variations. Most forms have no teams, scores, or equipment.
A group of players (two or more) decide who is going to be 'it', often using a counting-out game such as Eeny, meeny, miny, moe. The player selected to be 'it' then chases the others, attempting to get close enough to tag them—a touch with the hand—while the others try to escape. A tag makes the tagged player 'it' (in some variations, the previous 'it' is no longer 'it', while in others, both players are still 'it', and the game ends when all players are 'it'). The game can continue indefinitely.
There are many variants which modify the rules for team play, or place restrictions on tagged players' behaviour. A simple variation makes tag an elimination game, so those tagged drop out of play. A no tag-backs, no returns, or can't tag your master rule prevents a player from tagging the person who has just tagged them.
Players may be safe from being tagged under certain circumstances: if they are within a pre-determined area, off the ground, or when touching a particular structure. Traditional variants are Wood Tag, Iron Tag, and Stone Tag, when a player is safe when touching the named material. This safe zone has been called a "gool", probably a corruption of "goal". The term "gool" was first recorded in print in Massachusetts in the 1870s, and is common in the northern states of the US. Variants include gould, goul, and ghoul, and alternatives include base and home. In Australia it is also can be referred to as bar, and in Wales it can be referred to as cree.
Bans and restrictions
Tag and other chasing games have been banned in some schools in the US and UK due to concerns about injuries and complaints from children of harassment. In 2008, a 10-year-old boy in Omaha, Nebraska died while playing tag when he suffered brain injuries from falling onto a metal pole, and a school dinner lady in Dorset was left partially paralyzed after a 13-year-old boy playing tag ran into her in 2004. She failed in her attempt to sue him for compensation.
A principal who banned tag in their school said that "In this game, there is a victim or It, which creates a self-esteem issue. The oldest or biggest child usually dominates." A dislike of elimination games is another reason for banning tag. In some schools only supervised tag is allowed, sometimes with a type of tagging called butterfly tagging—a light tap on the shoulders, arms or upper back.
The president of the US National Association for Sport and Physical Education said that "Tag games are not inherently bad ... teachers must modify rules, select appropriate boundaries and equipment, and make sure pupils are safe. Teachers should emphasize tag games that develop self-improvement, participation, fair play, and cooperation." The UK Local Government Association encouraged the playing of tag in 2008, saying that children are 'wrapped in cotton wool'.
Build Ups (also known as Hide-and-seek Tips, Zombie Tag, Army Tag, Pandemic Tag, Virus, Spider, Gang up, Minion Tag, Manhunt and Wildfire) is a variant where players do not lose their 'it' status when they tag another player. 'It' players work together to tag players. The last person tagged wins. The winner and the player who started as 'it' may not be chosen as the starting 'it' for the next game. In other variations, the last person tagged becomes "It" in the next game. This game is extremely popular on the outer banks and is called Infection.
A variation on tag that must be played on a playground where the players can only stay on the equipment and can not touch the ground, if a 'runner' is caught on the ground the tagger can yell "BUSTED" and that person goes back to where they last touched some equipment and becomes 'it'. If the person who is 'it' touches the ground a 'Runner' can yell "busted" and the person who is it must return to where they touched equipment last and depending on the variation the tagger may have to tag two people but it might still be one tag.
The game, "British bulldogs" is mainly played in the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada and other Commonwealth countries, and banned from many schools. One or two players start as the "bulldogs" who stand in the middle of the play area, while the other players stand at one end of the area. The aim is to run from one end of the area to the other without being caught by the bulldogs. When a player is caught they become a bulldog themselves. The winner is the last player or players 'free'.
Sharks and Minnows is a water-bound variation of this game.
This is a variant of Build Ups in which each person to be caught joins hands with 'it' and the chain thus formed must chase the others as a pair. As more people are caught they too join hands with the 'it' players, forming a lengthening chain. Only those at the ends of the chain are able to catch someone, as they are the only ones with a free hand. A variant has chains of four splitting in two.
Octopus tag is a mix between Red Rover and tag. 'It', or 'Octopus', attempts to tag the other players. The playing field is known as the ocean. The players, or 'fish', line up along one side of the ocean and when the Octopus calls out, "Come fishies come!", they try to run to the other side without getting tagged. In a variation, once the fish run to the other side without getting tagged the game pauses until the octopus starts it again. Upon getting tagged the fish become 'seaweed' and must freeze or sit where they were tagged, but can wave their arms around and assist the Octopus in tagging other fish within their reach. The last fish to be tagged becomes the next Octopus.
Duck, duck, goose
In Duck, duck, goose, a group of usually young children sit in a circle facing inward. One player, the picker or fox, walks around tapping or pointing to each player in turn, calling each a duck, until finally picking one to be the goose. The goose then rises, runs around the circle in the opposite direction to try and get back into the empty spot before the other player. In some areas in the US, this game is referred to as Duck, Duck, Grey Duck.
When a player is tagged, he doesn't become it, but must hold one of his hands in the place where he was tagged on his body, and continues playing. The second time a person is tagged, he must hold his other hand where he was tagged for the second time, while still holding his hand in the first place he was tagged. The third time he is tagged, he becomes 'it'. Some people refer to this type of tag as "freeze tag", even though there is no actual "freezing" involved.
Kiss chase is a tag variant in which tagging is performed by kissing. All members of one gender are 'it' at once and chase the opposite sex until everyone is caught, when the roles are reversed. A variant is that the player chosen to be 'it' will, with assistance from those of the same gender, chase all members of the opposite sex and kiss one of them, who is then 'it' on behalf of the other gender.
Last tag was played in the early 20th century, when it was a way to say goodbye when leaving school for home. A player tags another and makes them "it" before leaving on their way home. There is no tagging back. It was a point of honor not to be left with the last tag. If a player is unable to tag anyone by the end of the game, they became "it" the next day.
In shadow tag, players try to step on the shadow of another player to tag them, and can be played in schools where games involving physical contact are banned.
Also known as budge, one player is it and tries to tag the other players. There are safe zones, such as circles, but their number is one fewer than the number of the other players. If someone else enters one's safe zone, he must leave it. If one is tagged, he becomes it.
Also known as Stuck in the mud, or ice-and-water in Asian countries, players who are tagged are 'stuck in the mud' or 'frozen' and must stand in place with their arms stretched out until they are unfrozen. An unstuck/unfrozen player performs an action to unfreeze them, such as tagging them, crawling between their legs, or 'flushing' them by hitting their outstretched hand ('Toilet Tag').
Variants exist where to unfreeze someone, the player must also call out a certain TV show ('TV Tag'), sports team or object. Once called, the thing can no longer be used to unfreeze someone.
Cops and Robbers
Cops and Robbers, sometimes called 'Jail Tag', 'Team Tag', 'Chase', 'Police and Thief', 'Prisoner's Base', 'Jailbreak' or 'Manhunt' has players split into two teams: cops (the 'it' team who are in pursuit) and robbers (the team being chased). The cops arrest the robbers by tagging, and put them in jail. Robbers can stage a jailbreak by tagging one of the prisoners without getting tagged themselves. The game ends if all the robbers are in jail. In a variant, the robbers have 5 minutes to hide before being hunted, and only one jailbreak may be allowed per robber.
Manhunt is a mixture of hide and seek and tag, often played at night. One person is it, while the other players have to hide. Then, the person who is it tries to find and tag them. The game is over when all players are out. Manhunt is sometimes played with teams. In one variant there is a home base in which a player is safe. That version ends when all players who aren't safe are out. In another Manhunt variant, called Sardines, one person is selected to hide and the rest of the people wait 5 to 10 minutes while that person hides. The hiding person is usually the best hider of the group, and the game most often takes place at or around dusk. The rest of the group then searches for the hidden person. Each person who finds the hider proceeds to hide with him. The last person who finds the hider becomes the next person to be "it," (the hider).
In Prisoner's Base, each team starts in a chain, holding hands, with one end of the chain touching the base. The end two players on each team break from the chain and try to tag each other, taking them to their base if they do. The end pair progressively break from the chain and join the tagging. As with Cops and Robbers, prisoners can be freed by tagging them in the base. It has been suggested to derive from Bride kidnapping and dates back at least to the Renaissance period.
Played in an area with a wall along one side. Those who are caught must stand with one arm outstretched, touching the wall. Someone who has not yet been caught can release them by running under the 'tunnel' formed by the outstretched arms. The game ends when everyone has been caught.
What's the time, Mr. Wolf?
One player is chosen to be Mr. Wolf and stands facing away from the other players at the opposite end of the playing field. All players except Mr. Wolf chant in unison "What's the time, Mr. Wolf?", and Mr. Wolf will answer in one of two ways: Mr. Wolf may call a time - usually an hour ending in "o'clock". The other players take that many steps towards Mr. Wolf. They then ask the question again. Alternatively Mr. Wolf may call "Dinner time!", and turn and chase the other players back to their starting point. If Mr. Wolf tags a player, that player becomes Mr. Wolf for the next round.
Zombie activate tag
A play on normal tag where if it tags someone they are frozen until someone else tags them and the freed person is it.
Variants requiring equipment
Some variants of tag use equipment such as balls, paintball guns, or even flashlights to replace tagging by hand.
Elevator tag occurs in a building that has elevators. One person is declared to be it and the other players ride the elevators away from the lobby. The "It" player then rides the elevators to whichever floor he/she prefers. If they arrive and one of the non "it" players is in that elevator lobby, then that player is "it". If multiple people are in the same lobby, then the "it" player must declare the which person is now "it" or tag someone. If no one is in the lobby that the "it" player went to, then they go to another floor and start the process over again. The non "it" players are not allowed to leave the elevator lobby of the floor that they are on and have to wait for another elevator to arrive before going to another floor. They are allowed to hit the elevator button (up or down) to have an elevator arrive. This game is best played in a smaller building with no more than 4 elevators and no more than 10 stories as it would be very hard for the "it" person to tag someone if there are a large number of floors or elevators to escape from detection. Due to the loss of sight by all the players in this game, typically, there is a time limit on the game so that everyone can arrive at one place at a particular time to either leave or start a new game.
A common strategy to avoid detection in buildings that have monitors above the elevator showing where the elevator is located is to hit multiple buttons and get off on one of the floors. That way, the "it" person won't know which floor to go to and it would take time for an elevator to arrive. However, this can be bad for the non "it" player(s) because an elevator might not come in time to escape the tag as the old elevator is still stopping at the floors in which the buttons were pressed prior to them getting off.
Since a lot of this game only has 2 people at a time interacting, trust is needed by all the participants. If they are told they are "it" then they are "it". If there is no trust, then multiple people would eventually become "it" if someone wanted to not abide by the rules.
An element of this game that draws people to play it is the danger associated with using the elevators in a public building - whether a residential building or a commercial building. The tenants typically don't like the elevators going up and down when they may want to use it and an office building does not want their elevators hard to use. Elevator tag is typically done in office buildings on the weekends as there is less traffic. Most players have a plan on how to enter the building and avoid detection in the main lobby. Sometimes, instead of the main lobby being the starting point, it is another floor where security is not a big presence. Children of workers in the building can get into the building without raising suspicion if they are accompanying their parent(s). Their parents on the other hand, might not be too pleased to discover what their children are doing.
Ball tag is a variation of tag and dodgeball. It is generally played with a tennis ball, larger balls such as a dodgeball or soccer ball can be used. The game is played with standard tag rules, except the person who is 'it' uses a ball to tag other players. The ball may not be picked up off the ground by anyone other than the it. Some variation have rules where if a person who is not it intentionally picks up the ball, they are it for two turns, unless they tag the person who was originally it.
Sometimes, dodgeball rules are incorporated. One such rule is that if a person catches the ball thrown at them, the person who threw the ball is still it. The catcher can then throw the ball anywhere on the course, making the it's job more difficult. Another dodgeball rule is that if a ball that is bounced off a tagged person is caught by another player without the ball touching another object, the person who was tagged is it.
In Australia, ball chasey is often referred to as 'brandings' or 'brandy'. The name originates from the variant where the game is played with a tennis ball that has been soaked in water. These leave a mark, or 'brand', when hitting clothing.
Pickle (sometimes referred to as Hot Box, particularly when using a baseball, also called Stolen Bases or Running Bases) is a form of tag that is played with a ball (generally something soft like a tennis ball) and two bases (usually trees). One player guards each base while the others run between them. Players are safe while touching a base; however, while running from one base to another, players are vulnerable to being tagged by balls thrown by the base guards. If a runner is hit by the ball, he replaces the guard who threw it, and that guard becomes a runner.
Spud is a tag variant that is best played in large, open areas. Players begin each round in a central location. 'It' then throws a ball high into the air. The other players run but must stop as soon as 'it' catches the ball and shouts "Spud!" It may then take three large steps toward the player of his choosing before throwing the ball at that player. If the ball hits the target, that player becomes it, and the game starts over.
One variation of Spud requires numbering the participants. 'It' throws the ball in the air and calls out a number. The player whose number is called becomes it, and must catch the ball and shout "Spud" as above.
Blind man's bluff
Blind man's bluff, also known as blind man's buff and Mr. Blind Man, is a version of tag in which one player, designated as 'it', is blindfolded and attempts to tag the other players, while the other players try to avoid them.
Also known as Hot Lava Monster. A game of tag that takes place on a Jungle Gym, Monkey Bar or other large piece of playground equipment that is easily traversed. 'It' cannot get on the equipment and tries to tag players on the climbing equipment while on the ground. It is so named as it acts like an alligator. Variations allow 'It' to touch certain parts of the equipment, such as the supports for the structure.
Also known as dead mummy. Similar to alligator tag and played on playground equipment. 'It'—the dead man—stands in the middle of the caged equipment with their eyes closed. Everybody else is on the equipment. When the people on the equipment are ready to play, they say "Dead man, dead man, come alive, when I count to number five. One, two, three, four, five, come alive." The dead man must then climb the equipment to tag a player. This is played often in a bounce house and the players bounce around the dead man.
Played on large complicated playground sets, the point of this game is to never touch the ground. Normal rules apply while on the set, but if a non-it player touches the ground, 'it' can shout "Grounders" to tag the person. The "it" person can touch the ground, and in some games may have to close their eyes. This is similar to the game Marco Polo played in a pool, however children should have previous experience on the play structure/know the layout of the structure to prevent injuries.
Flashlight tag, also called 'Army Tag', 'Spotlight', and 'German Spotlight', is played at night. Rather than physically tagging, the 'it' player tags by shining a flashlight beam on other players.
In some versions, the 'it' player is required to correctly call out the name of the person being tagged while the light shines on them. In others, the it player must remain motionless while other players roam the field of play. Some versions are played tag style, where a caught player becomes the new it, while others are played cops and robbers style, where a caught player is sent to jail and must be rescued to return to the field of play.
Kick the can
One person is 'it' and a can is placed in an open space. The other players run off and hide, then it tries to find and tag each of them. Tagged players are sent to jail. Any player who has not been caught can kick the can, setting the other players free from jail.
Laser tag is similar to flashlight tag, but using special equipment to avoid the inevitable arguments that arise about whether one was actually tagged. Players carry guns that emit beams of light and wear electronic equipment that can detect the beams and register being hit. The equipment often has built-in scoring systems and various penalties for taking hits. Pay-per-game laser tag facilities are common in North America.
Lines are marked on the ground, usually in chalk if outdoors or with masking tape indoors, and players must stay on the lines when moving. The lines may intersect in random ways. It can also be played in a gym using the pre-existing lines. Popularized by Alan Au in 1998 in the prestigious Australian school, Barker College. Originally played on basketball courts only but it soon was played on other lined courts soon due to its versatile nature.
Fox and geese
A traditional type of line tag, sometimes played in snow, is Fox and geese. The fox starts at the centre of a spoked wheel, and the geese flee from the fox along the spokes and around the wheel. Geese that are tagged become foxes. The intersections of the spokes with the wheel are safe zones.
Muckle (sometimes called 'muckle the man with the ball', 'kill-the-guy-with-the-ball', 'kill the carrier', or 'smear the queer' among other names) is the reverse of regular tag; all of the other players chase 'it'. This player is denoted by carrying a ball (usually a football). When they are caught, they are tackled, or 'muckled'. Whoever retrieves the ball first or whoever attacks the one who is it then becomes it. Sometimes the last player arriving to tackle the former ball carrier is the next person to be it; in other variations the player with the ball throws the ball up in the air, where it is caught by another player who becomes it.
Paintball is a sport in which players use compressed air guns (called paintball markers) to tag other players with paint-filled pellets. Games are usually played on commercial fields with a strict set of safety and gameplay rules.
A tube sock is filled with a small amount of flour in the toe of the sock; the sock is then gripped by the leg hole and wielded as a flail. Striking a player with any part of the sock counts as a tag.
Team tag sports
In South Asia, two sports are variants of tag, played at the team level, sometimes internationally. In Kabaddi, raiders cross a dividing line to try to tag defenders, while continuously chanting "kabbadi" on one breath while over the line. It is included in the Asian Games and even has a world championship, being played throughout India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and Iran, as well as in Indian communities in Canada, Great Britain, the U.S., Australia, New Zealand, and the Netherlands. It was also demonstrated in 1936 Berlin Olympics. The other tag sport is called Kho Kho.
Tag Rugby, also known in the USA as flag rugby or flag rugby league, is a non-contact team game in which each player wears a belt that has two velcro tags attached to it, or shorts with velcro patches. The mode of play is similar to rugby league with attacking players attempting to dodge, evade and pass a rugby ball while defenders attempt to prevent them scoring by tagging - pulling a velcro attached tag from the ball carrier. However, the "tag" in "tag rugby" is derived from the "tags" that the players wear and the children's game of tag more closely resembles touch rugby whereby a touch replaces a tackle.
- Assassin (game)
- Capture the Flag
- Flag football
- Humans vs. Zombies
- Marco Polo
- Sharks and Minnows
- Touch rugby
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- ^ The Gigantic Book of Games for Youth Ministry
- ^ Flour Sock Tag - The Ultimate Camp Resource
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