Chinese checkers is neither Chinese nor checkers. It is played with pieces (either marbles or pegs) on a six-pointed star board with holes or dimples for the pieces. One group thinks it comes from a British game called “hoppity”. Another thinks is it a descendent of a German-American game call Stern-Halma. Halma followed the rules of Chinese checkers, but was played on a square board. Chinese Checkers was first released in 1928, and was named Hop Ching Checkers. It soon became Chinese Checkers, reflecting the American interest in all things Oriental after the introduction of Mah Jongg and the discovery of King Tut’s tomb. Chinese Checkers is still called Halma in many European counties. The game is a mixture of chess, checkers, and Othello, and can have two, three, four, or six players at a time.
Initial Set Up
The six-pointed star board has small dimples or holes, for marbles and pegs, respectively. Each triangular star point has ten holes (four holes per side) for a player’s pieces. The board’s hexagonal interior has five holes on each side.
Most often the pieces are marbles. Choose ten marbles of one color and place them all on the star point that matches the color of the marbles. Each player must have an opponent opposite, so there can only be two, three, four, or six players. When playing three people, leave a star point between each person, and it’s a free-for-all. When there are 2 players, 19 marbles are put into opposite corners, stacked evenly. Four players use 13 pieces, placed in each corner. For six players, 10 marbles are used.
Beginning the Game
The rules of the game say that a coin toss decides who begins, but the players can decide by themselves.
Play goes clockwise around the board. A player moves one piece one space in any direction. Pieces can jump other pieces occupying adjacent spaces, including the pieces of the player taking a turn. There must be an open space on the other side of the piece you are jumping. If not jumping, only one space per move is permitted. A player may jump as many pieces as are available – the player’s turn ends when there are no more pieces to jump. Jumped pieces are not removed from the board. When a player’s piece moves into the opposite point of the star, it may not leave, but can be moved within the star. Pieces may move into and out of any of the star points not in use or belonging to a non-opponent.
The player who moves all ten pieces into the opposite point of the star is the game winner.
Each player attempts to move pieces into the opposing star point and prevent opponents or other players from doing the same. Sometimes players string pieces across the board to make it possible to jump all the way to your target. Other times players will construct blockades to keep opponents from jumping at all. The official rules do not cover a situation where an opponent leaves one piece in his starting point to prevent filling the point. This will cause a stalemate, and lots of arguing. It is a good idea to decide in advance how to handle this. One way is to consider victory when all the available spaces in an opposing star point are filled. The Master Rules suggest that a player is entitled to swap the opponent’s piece with one of his own.
The “Capture” Version
The capture version of Chinese checkers is played by putting all the pieces in the hexagonal center part of the board. The hole in the center is left empty. The players take turns in the usual way, jumping pieces and removing them. The player who ends up with more pieces than opponents wins the game.