Game: Span Counter
(Detail from Brueghel's Painting)

Span counter

Alternative names for this game are Hit and Span, Boss and Span, and Boss Out according to P.G. Brewster in "Games and Sports in Shakespeare", reprinted in Elliott Avedon & Brian Sutton-Smith, The Study of Games, NY: John Wiley & Sons, 1971, pp. 44-45.

How The Game Is Played

Brewster explained:

"This is a marble game, usually played by two. The first shoots a marble to any distance he desires. The second then shoots in an attempt to hit the first player's marble or to get close enough to span the distance between them. If he succeeds in doing so, he wins. If he fails, he must let his marble lie where it stopped, where it becomes a target for the first player."

The two figures in the foreground in the detail of the painting are playing this game. The third figure (in black) may be observing, or may indeed just be twirling his hat!

Last update February 9, 2010