Classic Toys: Jacks the Game

Retro Staff |  1  Comment

Jacks: The Game with Ancient Origins

The game known as “Jacks”, or a variation of the modern game, has been played for more than 2000 years. In texts left behind by the Greek philosopher, Sophocles, there is mention of the game being played around the time of the Trojan War (roughly 1190 B.C.).


Jacks is a simple game using simple pieces. Children across the world play some variation of the game even today.

Modern Jacks evolved from a game that originally used pebbles or sheep knucklebones. Later, a wooden ball was substituted for one of the rocks or bones and the game became known as Fivestones. Eventually, a rubber ball was used in place of the wooden one. The knucklebones were replaced by small metal “jacks”, whose shape is said to resemble the original sheep knucklebones that were used.

This gradual evolution has resulted in the modern game of jacks that is played today. Today’s game has one rubber ball and five 6-pronged metal jacks.  The simplest version of the game is played by scattering the jacks on a flat surface. The ball is bounced with the right hand, and while the ball is in the air, a jack is picked up, also with the right hand. On the next bounce, two jacks are picked up, and so on. If that player misses, then it’s the other player’s turn.

There are many variations of the game, including clapping the hands before picking up a jack. It’s a game you can have fun with and how it is played can be modified depending on the players. There are long lists of varying rules available on the Internet (here’s a lengthy set).

One thing is for sure, this game has been around for a very long time, and it’s easy to see why. It’s a lot of fun, as well as challenging. And since the game pieces can be carried in a small pouch, you can be ready to play anywhere.

Last updated: Oct 24, 2009
Filed under: Classic Toys Tagged with: classic games, Jacks, Jax