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A strategic 2-6 player game.
Chinese checkers is a board game that can be played by two to six people. The object of the main game is to place one's pieces in the corner opposite their starting position by moving them through jumps over other pieces. The game does not actually originate from China (nor is it a variation on checkers or Chinese chess), but was given that name in the United States to make it sound more exotic. When it was first released in Germany, it was called Stern-Halma, as it is similar to the older game of Halma except that the board is star ("stern") shaped.
The Chinese checkers board is laid out in a six-pointed star. The game pieces are usually six sets of colored marbles, ten of each color. The ten marbles are arranged as a triangle in the starting position in one of the corners of the star.
Two different variations can be played on the game set, "hop across" and "capture". Each of the games has an original and a fast-paced variant.
In the "hop across" variation, each player puts his or her own colored marbles on one corner of the star, and attempts to relocate them all to the opposite corner. Players take turns moving one marble, either a single step or a chain of one or more hops. A step consists of moving a marble to an adjacent unoccupied space in any of the six directions. In the diagram at right, Green might move the topmost marble one space down and to the left. A hop consists of jumping over a single adjacent marble, either one's own or an opponent's, to an unoccupied space directly opposite. In the diagram at right, Red might advance the indicated marble by a chain of three hops in a single move.
The basic strategy is to find the longest hopping path instead of moving step by step. However, since your opponent or opponents can make use of whatever hopping ladders you create, more advanced strategy requires hindering your opponent as well as helping yourself. Of equal importance is the players' strategy or algorithm for emptying and filling their origin and destination triangles. Games between experts are rarely decided by more than a couple of moves.
In the fast-paced variant, which is played mainly in Hong Kong, game pieces may hop over "non-adjacent" pieces. A hop consists of jumping over a distant marble to a symmetrical position on the opposite side. For example, if there are two empty spaces between the moving marble and the marble over which it is hopping, it lands on the opposite side with a gap of two empty spaces. As before, a single move may be a chain of hops, as shown in the diagram at left.
Usually, in the fast paced version, a marble is allowed to enter into an empty corner in the middle of a series of hops, but must hop out again before the move is over.
Jumping over two marbles in a single hop is not allowed. For example, in the diagram at left, the green marble marked with an X could not hop in the direction of the space marked with an O. Therefore, in this variant even more than in the original version, it is sometimes strategically important to keep one's marbles bunched in order to prevent a long opposing hop.
The game layout varies according to how many players are involved.
In a six player game, each player plays with one set of marbles. The pieces move into one of the opponents' corner. If your opponent refuses to move a piece out of the starting corner, you are out of luck to win the game because if he doesn't come out, you cannot finish.
In a five player game, the situation is same as the six player game except that one player moves the pieces into an empty corner. Because this player is in an advantageous position, usually a weaker player (e.g. a younger child) would take that position.
The four player game is same as the six player game except two opposite corners are unused.
In a three player game, the players can play one set or two sets of marbles each. If one set is used, the game pieces are moved across the field into an empty corner. If two sets are used, each player starts with two color sets at opposite corners.
In a two player game, each player can play one, two or three sets of marbles. If one set is played, the pieces usually go into the opponent's corner. If two sets are played, the pieces can either go into the player's own opposite corners or into an opponent's corner. If three sets are played, the pieces usually go to the opponent's corner.
Each layout takes different game strategy. For example, if your pieces go to your own corner, you can arrange your own pieces to serve as bridges between the two opposite ends. On the contrary, if your opponent occupies your target corner, you might have to play a waiting game until all the pieces are moved out.
Flags: Very Short (0-60 mins), Short (1-3 hours), With a Friend, With a Group, Children, Teens, Adults, Seniors, Indoors, At Home, Morning, Day, Night, Sunny, Snowy, Rainy