How to Play Chinese Checkers

By James Holloway
You, Chinese checkers, pegs, pawns
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Chinese checkers doesn't have much in common with checkers except that both of them are strategy games with jump-based movement. Unlike its namesake, however, Chinese checkers is a movement-based strategy game without any way to capture an opponent's pieces. Up to six players -- although the game works best with an even number -- compete to race their pieces from their starting area to the opposite corner of the board.

Setting Up the Board

Chinese checkers works with two, three, four or six players. Each player takes ten playing pieces and places them in the ten spaces of his starting zone. In a two-player game, each player may take more than one starting zone. If there are empty zones, starting zones should be placed so that each has another player's starting zone across from it. Players select one player to go first using any method they choose. In a three player game, the three starting zones are every other zone around the edge of the board, forming the three points of a triangle.

Moving Pieces

Each player moves one piece per turn. There are two ways to move pieces: A piece can move into any adjacent space, or it can jump over an adjacent piece into the empty space beyond. It doesn't matter what color the jumped marble is; the jumping piece can continue jumping as long as there are spaces to jump to. The player can stop moving the piece at any time, even if there are still pieces she can jump over. Jumped pieces stay on the board and can still move as normal. Once the player finishes his move, play passes to the left.

Winning the Game

The first player to move all ten of her pieces to the starting zone on the opposite side of the board is the winner. The player's pieces should fill up all ten of the spaces in the starting zone.

Variant Rules

An opposing player's piece in the opposite starting zone is frustrating if it stops a player from finishing the game. Some rule variants solve this problem by allowing players to replace an opponent's piece in the starting zone with their own if it lands in the same space. Alternatively, require players to fill up only the empty spaces in the starting zone in order to win. Another common variant rule increases the number of pieces in a two-player game, giving each player 15 pieces instead of 10.

About the Author

Dr James Holloway has been writing about games, geek culture and whisky since 1995. A former editor of "Archaeological Review from Cambridge," he has also written for Fortean Times, Fantasy Flight Games and The Unspeakable Oath. A graduate of Cambridge University, Holloway runs the blog Gonzo History Gaming.