Traditional Board Games

Chinese Checkers

Chinese checkers, made by Jaques of London.
Chinese checkers, made by Jaques of London.

Chinese checkers is a race game for two, three, four or six players. Unlike most race games, performance is dictated completely by skill rather than any luck element. Players race their pieces from their starting positions, across the board to the opposite end. Pieces move to adjacent spaces, but may also jump over one another like in draughts (though without capturing). It is in the construction of long "ladders" of pieces that may be jumped that a player gets ahead in the game.

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 Chinese Checkers

Rules for Chinese Checkers
1. Chinese checkers is played on a star-shaped board, of 121 points.

2. Each player starts with ten pieces, arranged in one of the points of the star.

3. When two play, they start opposite one another; three players occupy alternate points of the star so that no player starts directly opposite another; four players occupy positions in which each player is opposite another. Six players occupy every point of the star.

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 playing space.

(ii). a piece may jump over a single adjacent piece of any colour, in any of the six directions, into the empty space 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 the point opposite where he began. He is then declared the winner.


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