Spinning tops have been around for as long as civilization has. They are among the oldest toys that archaeologists have ever discovered. In fact, what appear to have been wooden tops were found in the tomb of King Tutt. And a clay top unearthed in Iraq has been dated to nearly 6000 years ago. With such a long-standing place in our lives for so many centuries, it’s no surprise that games played with spinning tops have been developed.
Various games played with spinning tops have served several purposes over time. They provide entertainment. They are used for gambling. They stimulate children’s’ coordination skills. They serve as cultural traditions.
Here are some of the many games played with spinning tops.
‘Put & take” games
In their simplest form, ‘put and take’ spinning top games use a sided top that has different markings on each side. Players must take a certain action depending on the side landing face-up when the top tips over. In most cases, this involves putting coins or other objects into a kitty or taking some out. The winner is awarded the contents of the kitty.
There are regional and cultural variations of put and take games.
In Mexico and other parts of Latin America, for example, La Pirinola (also known as Toma Todo) is a popular game played with a six-sided top. Each side of the top contains an instruction on what to do with your chips or coins, such as “take all” or “put two.” Players must drop out if they run out of chips.
Playing the game of Dreidel during Hanukkah is a Jewish custom. A dreidel is a spinning top with four sides, each marked with a different Hebrew letter – nun, gimel, hay, and skin. Players take turns spinning the dreidel and taking an action based on the letter the top lands on. They may have to put a coin or piece candy into the pot, but they might also get to take half or all of the contents of the pot.
Skittles and other target games
Advertised by maker Carrom as “a tornado in a box,” Skittles is a classic dexterity game in which players spin a top to knock down mini three-inch tall bowling pins.
Skittles can be played for a set number of rounds or to a set point limit. Once the top stops spinning, the player scores points for the pins that were knocked over. The more valuable pins are the ones that are harder for the top to reach. Players can develop strategy and use the principles of physics and geometry to position and spin the top just right in order to maximize their score.
See a Skittles game in action in this video.
There are other games played with spinning tops that are similar to Skittles in that the goal is to hit or knock over other objects with the top. The targets can be natural objects like rocks or sticks, or they can be manufactured or specially made to match the play of the game. A few examples of such games include Bull in a China Shop and Crazy Traveler.
Circa 1906 by Milton Bradley, Bull in a China Shop features a top that represents an unruly bull and wooden pins that represent pieces of china. A spinning top is released onto the board in an effort to knock over as many pins as possible. Parker Brothers created Crazy Traveler in the same era. It, too, features wooden pins and a top – the “traveler” – that is spun an effort to knock the pins over.
Skittles and similar games require boards and targets, making them less portable than some other spinning top games. However, they may be more appealing to some kids due to the additional structures and components to interact with.
Spinning top roulette
Spinning top roulette is played on a board with a circular indentation in the middle in which marbles or other small balls are placed. Players spin a top within the circle in effort to push the marbles into various holes on the board’s surface. There are generally a few different colors of balls, each corresponding to a point value. Landing balls in holes can also earn a player an extra turn.
There are different variations of spinning top roulette. The rules related to scoring or taking turns can differ based on the version of the game you’re playing or whom you’re playing with. The part that remains the same, though, is that a spinning top is used to move pieces into holes.
A similar type of game known as battling tops involves two or more tops spinning on the board together instead of one top and several balls. Rather than trying to knock balls into holes, players aim to use their top to knock over the opponent’s top. The player with the last top spinning wins that round.
Create your own games played with spinning tops
A wonderful thing about spin tops is their versatility. There are few limits to the types of games that can be played with them. Like a deck of playing cards, new sets of rules, patterns of use, and ways of winning can easily be determined. Moreover, top games can be fitting for kids or be more geared toward adults. They can be based on either luck or strategy.
So what’s stopping you from making up your own games played with spinning tops?
Grab a set of precision metal spinning tops from the Scovie Precision Turning store and try out some games of your own!