Rules of Capture the Flag

Name: Capture the Flag

Average playing time: The rules of capture the flag don't specify a time limit, but an average game lasts at least 10 mins.

Recommended ages: 8 years old and older though younger children can play supervised.

Number of players: No less than 4 and probably no more than 30.


Anyone who played paintball or outdoor laser tag should be familiar with the goal of capture the flag game. Children will enjoy the sheer adrenaline of being able to roam free, screaming and yelling, while adults tend to enjoy the tactical side to the game, working in groups to out-think their opponents.

How to Play

A capture the flag game requires a large playing area, preferably with as many obstacles and hiding places as possible as it adds to excitement. Suitable playing spaces might be:

  • A playing field – You will be assured of a flat surface with no hidden holes or bumps to trip players up. However, you will need to provide all of the cover and protection for the game. This could be in the form of cardboard boxes, barrels, trashcans and any other assorted items you can bring. Make the game feel a little more special by decorating the objects ahead of time.
  • The woods – While you run the risk of players tripping over branches or losing their footing in leaves, the trees and bushes provide ample places to hide and sneak. Make sure that you get permission from whoever owns the place before hand.
  • An empty parking lot – Ask all the players who are coming to park their cars anywhere in the lot and leave them unlocked. This is to avoid any alarms being set off by players getting too close. You can play the game at night using the headlights of the cars as the only light source.

Each team needs to have a “flag” of some description. The rules of capture the flag don’t specify that it has to be a flag, but it does need to be something that can be carried easily by a player and that is easily identifiable by all players.

The teams then separate and start near their base where their flag is being kept. When the game starts, they have to get to their opponent’s base, steal the flag and return to their own base to win. In most cases, the rules of capture the flag allow any tactics to achieve this. However, if a player is caught, the rules of capture the flag require they must return to their own base immediately, dropping their opponent’s flag if they are carrying it. The variety of ways players could be caught by:

  • Being tagged – Asking players to wear tag belts similar to those found in tag football allows their opponents to rip off their tags and makes it clear if someone has been caught. You could also allow players to be caught by physical touch, but this can lead to arguments.
  • Flashlights – Playing the game at night means that you can arm players with flashlights. If an opponent is caught in the beam, they must return to their base immediately. Again, this requires carefully policing.
  • Water – Allowing players to bring water pistols and water bombs makes the game a whole lot messier but adds to the thrill of being caught. It also makes it harder to deny if you have been caught when you are soaking wet.

Play Tips

1. Divide your team up into 2 parts, those guarding your flag and those searching for the enemy’s flag.

2. Make a limit to how close you can stand to your flag. If you have 3 people guarding your flag and each of those 3 people are standing 1 inch away from the flag, that’s cheating. There is no way someone would be able to get that. Instead make sure both teams know that the closest you can get to your flag is 5 feet, unless your other team is within 5 feet to your flag.

3. Keep Look Outs. Make sure you have someone looking in all directions. You don’t want someone to sneak up behind you.

4. Cause a distraction. When you are going for someone else’s flag bring a few people along, one or two to distract the people guarding the flag and another person to grab the flag while they are distracted.

5. When all Else Fails go all out. If you know where your other team’s flag is, but they don’t know where yours is you may want to be a little creative. Get everyone on your team to charge the flag at once. Sure if it fails you pretty much lose the game. But how are you going to stop everyone? It is just intimidating enough to work!!!

Final Thoughts

While the rules of capture the flag will vary slightly from game to game, you should remind the players that the game is for fun. Being caught can upset younger players, and it is usually a good idea to introduce an immediate sin bin penalty for any player arguing with your decisions.

Remember that one of the first rules of Capture the Flag (or any game on this site for that matter) is to have fun! A little rule bending is okay every now and then if it means that the players are enjoying themselves even more.

Have fun!

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