Capture the Flag Variations

The ultimate list of capture the flag variations

Capture the Flag is one of the games most identified as belonging at camp.  Many campers look forward to playing some variation as the high point of their time at camp. Camps are also one of the few places capture the flag can actually be played on the kind of large scale it was intended for (gym classes come close, but are too limited with time and space to be really ideal).  And capture the flag in its traditional form is a pretty good game for camps, especially because of its flexibility and the emphasis on teamwork.

But it does have a few flaws.

First,  when played on a field, it is largely athletic.  This isn’t necessarily completely negative, but certain pockets of campers will not enjoy the game as much as they could if the game were played in a different setting.  Some campers may even feel as if the game wasn’t chosen with them in mind.  This is not good.

Second, jails are boring.  Traditionally, campers who have their flags pulled are either out of the game or sent to jail.  It’s boring.  And for those campers who aren’t especially good at the game (these are likely the same ones who are less athletic and less likely to like the game to begin with), their time in jail can be quite long.  Every camp professional knows that bored campers are not good.

Third, the game only ends with the capture of the flag.  It cannot be shortened or lengthened. Your game needs to continue until one team captures the other’s flag, or you need to end the game with a tie.  Ties are not good.

So, to make the game even better, several capture the flag variations have been created.  Each campsite puts these variations together in different forms, so feel free to mix and match these ideas until a game is created that suits your camp well.

Extend the playing area.

Fields are good for running games because, theoretically, they prevent some injuries from happening.  But playing capture the flag exclusively on a field emphasizes athleticism and alienates some campers.  Think about other areas of your campsite that could be included in the playing area to make the game exciting for more campers.  Could you include space around the cabins, along a beach, or in a small piece of woods?  Adding spaces like this would add a strategy element to the game, allowing less athletic campers another way to be involved.

Why “theoretically” in italics?  In my personal camping experience, we’ve experienced exponentially more injuries (and serious ones) playing capture the flag on a traditional field than in pretty much any other playing area. Ask the insurance company your camp employs and they will likely agree with this. Field game injuries are some of the most common claims they have to deal with.

Add additional flags.

This variation keeps one flag as the ultimate flag, but adds several additional flags that are worth various points as well.  This way, several different campers have the chance to add points to their team.  It also allows camps to end the game based on time allowances, rather than having to wait for one team to capture the other’s flag.  If the ultimate flag isn’t captured by the end of the planned time, whichever side has the most points from other flags is the winning team.

Have ways to get out of jail.

Some camps have obstacle courses to go through, others have activities to complete, some have staff members randomly asking campers to do obscure actions before they can leave (singing children’s songs, reciting movie quotes, etc.).  Any number of different options exist, but the point of this variation is to allow campers the opportunity to get back into the game and have more fun.

Have multiple objects acting as flags.

Add a giant ball that is worth points, or is the flag.  Maybe a hula hoop, a greased watermelon, a pool noodle, or even a piece of fruit (it’ll get squishy and gross as the game goes on).  This adds a silly element to the game so that people don’t take it as seriously, and you will likely see a lot more laughs, even when people fail.

Create additional teams.

Instead of sticking with the two-team tradition, have four or more teams battling to win.  Maybe you even have cabins or cabin groups as individual teams.  In this variation, multiple teams have the opportunity to feel like winners and you lose some of the bitterness that can come with being the losing half.  It also adds much more confusion to the game, which can be more exciting for your campers.

Include costumes.

Adding weird clothing, characters, or accents to any game automatically changes the campers’ perception of it.  Particularly amusing is a capture the flag game played by people in those big animal suits you see at fairs.  Since there won’t be enough of those for everyone, consider asking people to dress as clowns, cowboys, aliens, or even princesses.  This will make the teams more obvious, and everyone will have even more fun.

Do you have capture the flag variations you think should be included in this list?  Add them to the comments!

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  1. Ciaran Hagen says:

    One thing I have found that players like is if you make capturing THEM more interesting. If you are using lives in the game, make it a piece of duct-tape on their backs that the enemy has to reach to put them in jail. It’ll be slightly more rough, but they’ll love it.

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