Cyningstan

Traditional Board Games

Halma

Halma, in a modern Spears edition.
Halma, in a modern Spears edition.

The game of halma, whose name means "jump" in Greek, is an entertaining product of the Victorian era. An 18th century gaming board marked out like a halma board suggests it may have earlier origins, but it was not until the 1880s that it was published and came to the attention of the wider world. The object of the game is to get your pieces to the opposite corner of the board before your opponent(s) can do the same. Pieces may jump over each other to speed up their progress, though there are no captures in the game.

Featured in A Book of Historic Board Games

This game is featured in A Book of Historic Board Games, by Damian Gareth Walker.  That volume, available as a hardback or paperback, covers twelve games in depth.  For each game there is an entertaining history, full rules, and a discussion of strategy, all in more detail than you'll see on this site.

History of Halma, Grasshopper and Chinese Checkers

The game of halma, whose name means "jump" in Greek, is an entertaining product of the Victorian era. An 18th century gaming board marked out like a halma board suggests it may have earlier origins, but it was not until the 1880s that it was published and came to the attention of the wider world. In 1948 a variant called grasshopper was published, allowing play with a standard draughts set.

In 1892 another variant was published in Germany, called Stern-Halma. This had a star-shaped board, rather than the square board of halma, but the rules were largely unchanged. In the United States this game became Chinese checkers. As the game is neither a variant of checkers nor is it Chinese, this is a fine example of the irony of commercial marketing!

Rules for Halma

Rules for Halma
1 . Halma is played on a square board with sixteen rows of sixteen squares. The cor­ners are marked out to aid placement of the pieces, as shown in the diagram.

2 . Two players can take part, with 19 pieces each, starting in the larger marked areas in opposite corners of the board.

3 . Alternatively, four players each have 13 pieces in the smaller marked areas in each corner of the board.

4 . Players decide, at random or by agreement, who takes the first turn. Play then moves clockwise around the board.

5 . A player takes his turn by moving one of his pieces in one of the following ways:

(i) . a piece may be moved to an adjacent square, horizontally, vertically or diagonally;

(ii) . a piece may jump over a single adjacent piece of any colour, horizontally, vertically or diagonally, into the empty square beyond. Further jumps may optionally be made by this piece in the same turn, to whatever number the player pleases, while the piece is in a position to do so.

6 . Jumping over an opponent's piece does not capture it. All pieces stay on the board throughout the game.

7 . The game is over when a player has moved all of his pieces into his opponent's marked starting positions, at the opposite corner of the board. He is then declared the winner.

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