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How to Play Capture the Flag

Get out your army pants and prepare to conquer your backyard.


  • Step 1: Choose teams Divide the players into two teams of equal size.
  • Step 2: Find playing field Find a large outdoor playing field that includes both open and wooded areas.
  • Step 3: Mark territories Divide the playing field in half. Mark the boundaries with large sticks or rocks, or choose part of the landscape – like a street, fence, or stream – as the border.
  • TIP: Each team’s territory should have similar terrain. One side should not be open while the other is wooded.
  • Step 4: Set up your flags Tie the flags to sticks – one for each team. Each team plants its flag near the back of its territory, out of the other team’s sight. The flags should be at eye level and plainly visible at 20 yards from at least one angle.
  • Step 5: Build your jails Using rocks or sticks and string as markers, each team marks a space for its jail.
  • TIP: Don’t place the jails within sight of the flags. You don’t want your prisoners to know where your flag is!
  • Step 6: Organize your team Divide your team into offense and defense. Switch roles occasionally to keep the game interesting.
  • Step 7: Attempt to capture flag The team on offense attempts to steal the other team’s flag and transport it back across the border into their own territory without getting captured.
  • Step 8: Take prisoners The defense team captures players from the other team by tagging them while they’re in defensive territory and putting them in jail. To free captured teammates, the offense team tags them inside the enemy jail and runs back across the border with them.
  • TIP: Hide players near the border and around your flag to catch your opponents as they sneak into your territory.
  • Step 9: Play again Once one team captures the other’s flag, switch teams and play again.
  • FACT: In 1818 Congress declared the U.S. flag would have 13 stripes, for the 13 original colonies, and 1 star for each state.

You Will Need

  • At least 6 people
  • A large outdoor space
  • 2 flags of different colors
  • Large sticks
  • String

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