Chinese Checkers: How did I forget about this game?

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While I wait for my new box of games to come in from BGE, I was trying to think of some board games that I used to play when I was younger. The results of that brainstorm can be found in one of my posts, 5 Board Games That Take You Back to Childhood– but I keep realizing I didn’t cover ALL the bases.

I’m sure most of my readers are familiar with Chinese checkers (or else, why are you even on this post?) but did you know it actually is of German origin (called “Sternhalma”)? Kind of odd right? It’s not even a true variation of checkers, but rather of an old American game called Halma. The name Chinese Checkers originated in the US as a marketing scheme in 1928.

It’s a very simple game where 2-6 players of all ages can participate. The objective is to get all the marbles of your color across the hexagram shaped board to your “home” – which is really just a pocket in the board diagonal to where you started- before anyone else. You can only use single-step moves or moves that jump over other marbles.

Players take turns moving their pieces, either by moving one step in any direction to an adjacent empty space, or by jumping in one or any number of available consecutive hops over other single pieces. A player cannot hop over a piece and then make a single-step move- they must choose one or the other. Also, you cannot capture your opponents pieces- so anything that is hopped over remains on the board, active and in play.

Despite the simplicity, you actually really want to develop a strategy when playing this game. There are several “established” methods out there, my favorite being the “chain hop”. This is where you create a line with all of your pieces and each turn, hop over them- to further advance your position in relation to your “home”. Sometimes you may find your opponent has blocked your access to your home which can be a serious frustration- but eventually they will realize that they can’t win without moving either. An effective stall tactic perhaps, but not the end of your chances as long as you plan accordingly.

I’m always a fan of games that don’t require a lot of rules – maybe I’m lazy, or maybe it will just take a little longer for me to build the patience of a seasoned gamer. Either way I recommend Chinese Checkers to any group looking for a semi fast pace, competitive but extremely easy game. It’s hard to come up with anything wrong with the game, though if you’re into layers and more of a challenge this may not be for you.

 

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