Tag, the classic game of chase, is just as thrilling now as it has been throughout the years. If you have a group of people and an open space for running and screaming, here are some variations of the basic game. Try them out. You’re It!
Photo: Bert Hardy/Getty
One player starts as the amoeba. That player tries to catch people, and whoever gets caught must become part of the amoeba by holding hands. To catch more people, the amoeba must form a linked circle around them. The game is played until everyone is part of the amoeba.
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Everyone spreads out on the playing area. A person begins the game by yelling “Everyone’s it!” and then everyone runs and tries to tag each other. Anyone tagged must sit down for the rest of the game. If two people tag each other at the same time, they both must sit. The last player standing wins the game.
Divide the group into several teams and assign each team a different colour. The person who’s It stands in the middle of the field. The rest of the players stand at one end or the other. It calls out a colour. All of the players on that colour team must cross the field to safety on the other side. Any player tagged becomes It.
Dragon Tail Tag
All players form a conga line to become one long dragon. The player at the front is the dragon’s head, and the last player is the dragon’s tail. The dragon’s head must try to catch and swallow its tail. The tail tries to avoid the head by moving away from it, but players can never let go of each other. If the head catches the tail, the head links to the tail and the next person in line becomes the new head.
Torch Tag (AKA Spotlight)
It’s tag at night. Instead of physically tagging players, the person who’s It shines a torch beam on them.
Flip the Bird
In this hybrid of keep-away and tag, one player holds an object such as a ball, frisbee or rubber chicken. The player who’s It can tag anyone as long as that person doesn’t have the object. The group works together to pass the object to the person being chased by It, so it’s harder for people to be tagged.
Whoever is tagged freezes in place. A variation is Cartoon Freeze Tag (players can unfreeze themselves by shouting the name of a cartoon character, as long as no one else has said the same one). You can also play Animal Freeze Tag, Ice Cream Flavour Freeze Tag, and so on.
Stuck In The Mud
One player is It. When a player is tagged, he must remain frozen in place, with his leg spread apart, creating a tunnel. He can be unfrozen if a non-It player crawls under the leg tunnel. When all the players are frozen, a new It is chosen, and play begins again.
Kick the Can
A combination of hide-and-seek and tag. A metal can is placed somewhere in the field. The player who’s It closes their eyes and counts, while everyone else hides. When time is up, It searches for players, and when a player is spotted and called by name, they must run to the can and try to kick it over before It can tag them. The players caught must go to gaol. A player who hasn’t been found can free everyone in gaol by sneaking over to the can and kicking over while yelling, “Kick the can!”
Oonch Neech (AKA Up and Down)
In this variation of tag, popular in Pakistan and India and best played in a playground, players are only safe when they’re above ground — hanging from a tree branch, standing on play equipment, climbing a pole, swinging on a swing, and so on.
Everyone takes off a sock and tucks one end behind their waistbands to make a tail. Players must try to steal other people’s socks without having theirs taken. The player with the most socks (along with their original tail) is the winner.
Sharks and Minnows
One player is the shark, while the rest are minnows. The minnows try to run from the starting point to the finishing point without getting tagged and eaten by the shark. If a player is tagged, they become the shark.
What’s The Time, Mr Wolf?
One player is Mr (or Ms) Wolf, who stands with their back to the rest of the group. The other players stand in a straight line facing Mr Wolf and call out, “What’s the time, Mr Wolf?” Mr Wolf answers with a time such as “Four o’clock!” The players then take four steps toward Mr Wolf. But if Mr Wolf calls out “Dinnertime!” all the players must run back to the starting line without being tagged by Mr Wolf. If a person is tagged, they become Mr Wolf. Players can also become Mr Wolf if they manage to tag Mr Wolf while their back is turned.
Welcome to Retro Week, where we’ll be firing up the flux capacitor and bringing you 1950s know-how on everything from casserole-making to fallout-shelter-building to the joys of letting kids relax and play with trash.