Ah, the memories. Since I attended a fairly typical English, country, primary school, I learned this game young, and played it at least weekly, often daily for seven years. Occasionally up to one hundred children would play at once, sometimes as few as two. It was always exhilarating, always slightly dangerous, and always fun. But we grew out of it.

I hadn’t played it for years, but yesterday a few friends and I were bored. We were sitting on the common, discussing what to do until The Club opened. Someone suggested a game of tag. It seemed silly, but we went for it. We all put our foot in, as was the ritual at our primary school, and recited the ancient rhyme of Eenie Meenie Minie Mo to decide who was to be “on” (it was me) and began. We played a classic game for nearly three hours, it was exhilarating, picking a target, chasing, then spotting another who has become vulnerable and launching at them, running away mere inches from someone’s grappling hand, doubling back, confusing them, scraping your knee for the first time in years, getting up, laughing, lunging at the person who just tagged you. I’d recommend it to anyone as an early start to an evening.

However, at primary school there was more to it. Over the years at least ten versions either developed or were introduced, or were taught to us by the older children. I have attempted to list these below. (One game is the time until you need to choose who is on again.)

Versions of Tag

Classic Tag

Number of players: 2+
Aggression Rating: Medium
Length of Game: Potentially for ever
Complexity: Minimum
Can you play it drunk?: Yes! Yes! Dear God Yes!

How it’s played: Select a person to be on. Use any method you like, the method I prefer is everyone “puts their foot in” which means everyone extends one leg so that everyone’s shoes are touching, then a person taps each foot in turn, one per syllable of a chant. Usually eenie meenie miny mo, but there are others. The person who is landed on last is on. The person who is on then counts to ten and runs after the other players. The aim of the person who is on, it to touch one of the people running away and yell “tag.” When this occurs the tagged becomes on. Repeat until everyone collapses with exhaustion.

Tactics: When you are on, run after the nearest person, but stay to one side of them, hold your arm outstretched, this makes it easier to tag them.. If they are running at full speed, they will soon slow down, and you can get them with a quick swipe. If not, soon you will pass near another player, break off suddenly and lunge at them, if you judge it correctly they will be off guard and you will tag them. When you are not on, run away from the person who is on. If they are slower than you, run at top speed, then slow down to their speed, they will tire of you quickly. If they are faster than you, run towards other players, dodge around them and hope that they do not stick to you.

Base Tag

Number of players: 2+
Aggression Rating: Medium
Length of Game: Potentially for ever
Complexity: Low
Can you play it drunk? Provided you can stay upright and discern objects from eachother.

How it’s played: Exactly the same as Classic Tag, except certain areas of the play area (anything from a town in a country wide game (not advised except for trainee marathon runners), to a manhole in the playground) are designated as bases. These are areas in which you cannot be tagged. However, you are only allowed in these bases for a certain amount of time, generally ten seconds.

Tactics: If you are on, generally you are not allowed to guard the base, but if you are, do so. If not, you will only have limited time to chase people, so you must always sprint. Try to overtake people and cut them off. They will be heading for bases so use that to your advantage, run from the direction of a base and meet them head on. If you are not on, do not leave a base when someone else arrives, odds are the person who is on is in pursuit. Instead wait until they are as far away as possible before leaving the base. Run for half the time limit, then run back using the same tactics as above. Remember you do not need to stay on the base for the maximum time.

Multi Tag

Number of players: 3+
Aggression Rating: High
Length of Game: Generally about one minute per person playing,
Complexity: Medium
Can you play it drunk?: Probably

How it’s played: The same as Classic or Base, except that the person who is on, remains on when they tag someone. The tagged also becomes on. The game ends when everyone has been tagged.

Tactics: If you are on, early in the game basic tactics apply, later, when more people are on your side, work together, head people off, target individuals all at once, ring bases, don’t forget, if you tag someone within a group, they can tag people around them. If you are not on, try to stay away from groups and targeted individuals. When you are the last person left, dodge and weave for as long as possible. Try to stay arm’s length away from anyone else.

Wall Tag

Number of players: 2+
Aggression Rating: Medium
Length of Game: Potentially for ever
Complexity: Low
Can you play it drunk? Yes, definitely, just throw yourself across the pitch and try not to fall over before you reach the other side.

How it’s played: Two opposing walls are selected. They do not have to be walls, they can be bases, or natural objects, or shirts/bags/coats on the ground. Players run between the two walls while the person who is on stays in the middle. Players can run whenever they like, but a time limit is usually imposed.

Tactics: When you are on, stay in the middle, watch players, try to guess when someone is about to run and move in their direction. Do not try to run at them, they will dodge, instead, try to cut them off by running across their path. When you are not on, feign. Pretend to leave the wall, but don’t this enables others to, this distracts the person who is on and you can leave. When running, feign one way, then run another, run backwards, loop around, but make sure you get to the other side. If possible try to leave the wall in groups to provide many moving targets. If all else fails, push someone else off the wall and run behind them.

Chain Tag (another version is described above

Number of players: 5+ to be effective, but could potentially be played with 3 or 4 but would be kind of boring
Aggression Rating: Medium
Length of Game: Between five minutes and forever
Complexity: Low
Can you play it drunk? Yes, but it probably won’t end, or someone will lose an eye, or something.

How it’s played: As with classic, select who’s on, then, as with wall tag, select two bases, these must be a fairly significant distance apart, at primary school, they were around fifty metres apart, sometimes more like one hundred. Everyone begins on one base, and, one at a time attempt to run to the other. They then try to from a human chain from the base. When you touch the chain, you are on the base, there is no time limit. The person who is on must try to tag the runner before they reach the chain or base, it gets harder for them as the game continues due to the shorter distance. The game ends when the chain is complete.

Tactics: If you are on, back up as far as possible and run towards your prey, it is easier to run towards someone than to chase, speed is not required either, in fact a lack of it might help. When you are close enough, spread your arms and make yourself as big as possible, if they get past you, pursue them and try to overtake and get between them and the chain. If you are not on, you will need to get past the person who is on, it is much easier to win if you are being chased, rather than running towards a predator. To get past them, try to dodge them, remember if you dodge twice, quickly, (within half a second) they will still be compensating for your last dodge when you make your second.

Stuck in the Mud

Number of players: 3+ but more is preferable, works best with 10+ Aggression Rating: Medium
Length of Game: Around one minute per person playing
Complexity: Medium
Can you play it drunk? Yes, but personal injury and sexual harassment lawsuits may result.

How it’s played: The same as Classic Tag, except, when someone is tagged, they must stand with their legs spread and arms out. They can only be released by someone crawling through their legs (or under their arms, optional rule in case of skirts). They can be tagged whilst crawling, which means neither can be released until the end of the game. Game ends when everyone is stuck in the mud.

Tactics: If you are on, try to get people when they are between someone else’s legs. This eliminates them from the game. Move fast, try to tag a lot of people in a short space of time. If you are not on, try to pair with someone, release them every time if they release you. Only release people if the person who is on is a significant distance away.

Rugby Tag

Number of players: 2+ Aggression Rating: Highest
Length of Game: Potentially forever
Complexity: So incredibly simple
Can you play it drunk? Yes, but it will result in a fight.

How it’s played: Same as Classic Tag, but instead of tagging, you rugby tackle.

Tactics: If you are on, try not to tackle head on, although possible, you are more likely to get landed on. Instead just chase and dive, it doesn’t really matter, it’s fun. If you are not on, try not to injure the person who is on. Try to avoid dives by sidestepping just as the go for it. Try to avoid reflex ball throwing movements since they will put you off.

Sit Down Tag

Number of players: 3+ Aggression Rating: low
Length of Game: potentially forever
Complexity: Medium
Can you play it drunk? Yes, but if you are too drunk you might not get up.

How it’s played: Same as classic tag, except you can create a base anywhere for ten seconds by sitting down and saying a word from a predetermined topic, for instance a TV show, or a make of car, or a type of bird, or a sexual position. You are not allowed to repeat words, (which is interesting because you find out how many sexual positions people know), and if you do, either you are instantly on, or you can be tagged until you think of a new one.


Number of players: 3+ but should be played with more Aggression Rating: higher
Length of Game: potentially forever
Complexity: Medium
Can you play it drunk? Yes, but it becomes a fight quickly.

How it’s played: Select a certain number of bases, at least one less than the number of players who are not on. Everyone, bar x people go to a base, anyone can go on a base, by running up to it and shouting “budge” this forces the person on the base to move to another base. When they are not on a base they can be tagged.

Tactics: If you are on, place yourself between the two most popular bases, spread your arms and run towards your quarry. If they get past you keep running past the base and try to get the next person as they leave it. If you are not on, break the pattern, if everyone is running to the same base, run to a different one, do not run towards the person who is on, when someone is running towards your base, get ready to run as soon as they say budge, or run pre-emptively, this gives you most chance of survival.

Optional Rules

These rules can be added to any of the above games to make them more interesting. Some of them, such as Crusoes, may be standard, and so they must specifically be outlawed.


Yelling “Crusoes” grants you immunity for a short period of time. Usually it is only invoked to tie a shoelace, or nurse an injury, but it can be used to escape the person who is on. “Pax” has the same effect.


Whether or not you add these safe havens to a game is completely up to you. You can set time limits, and maximum populations to further confuse things, multiple small bases can be interesting.

Goose Guarding

This can be a cardinal sin. This refers to the person who is on guarding a base in order to tag anyone leaving the base instantly. Usually this is not allowed and so if the person who is on is caught doing it a cry of “Oi! No goose guarding!” is heard.


In this, each person who is not on must be constantly holding hands, tied to, or have their arms around another person. This makes them move more slowly, but can be amusing as they try to dodge the person who is on, by moving in different directions.

Tag Back

This refers to the ability of the person who is on to tag the person who has just tagged them. No tag back means that they cannot to so, and so, as long as they are on, that person has immunity. Often a time limit is imposed to give them time to get away, five seconds is usually enough, sometimes ten seconds.

Kiss Tag

Instead of tagging, the person who must on, must kiss another person. This was banned at my primary school for some reason.

wertperch says re tag : We used to play a game called "Hot Rice" at prep school. This involved hurling a tennis ball to "tig" someone, who then joined you, to become "it". The last one tagged was then it. Painful, but great fun. Can't say what it was like to play when drunk though :S

Velox says re tag: In the US, the person who's "on" is called "it", and "stuck in the mud" is (or was) called "freeze tag." Otherwise, these are exactly the games I played as a little kid in Washington state. Fun memories! Thanks for the nifty writeup.