Chinese checkers (alternate spelling Chinese chequers) is a strategy board game which can be played by two, three, four, or six people, playing individually or with partners. The game is a modern and simplified variation of the game Halma.
The objective is to be first to race one's pieces across the hexagram-shaped gameboard into "home"—the corner of the star opposite one's starting corner—using single-step moves or moves which jump over other pieces. The others continue playing to establish 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, and last place finishers. Like other skill-based games, Chinese checkers involves strategy. The rules are simple, so even young children can play.
The aim is to race all one's pieces into the star corner on the opposite side of the board before opponents do the same. The destination corner is called home. Each player has 10 pieces, except in games between two players when 15 are sometimes used. (On bigger star boards, 15 or 21 pieces are used.)
In "hop across", the most popular variation, each player starts with their colored pieces on one of the six points or corners of the star and attempts to race them all home into the opposite corner. Players take turns moving a single piece, 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 may not combine hopping with a single-step move – a move consists of one or the other. There is no capturing in Chinese checkers, so hopped pieces remain active and in play. Turns proceed clockwise around the board.
In the diagram, Green might move the topmost piece one space diagonally forward as shown. A hop consists of jumping over a single adjacent piece, either one's own or an opponent's, to the empty space directly beyond it in the same line of direction. Red might advance the indicated piece by a chain of three hops in a single move. It is not mandatory to make the most number of hops possible. (In some instances a player may choose to stop the jumping sequence part way in order to impede the opponent's progress, or to align pieces for planned future moves.)
A basic strategy is to create or find the longest hopping path that leads closest to home, or immediately into it. (Multiple-jump moves are obviously faster to advance pieces than step-by-step moves.) Since either player can make use of any hopping 'ladder' or 'chain' created, a more advanced strategy involves hindering an opposing player in addition to helping oneself make jumps across the board. Of equal importance are the players' strategies for emptying and filling their starting and home corners. Games between top players are rarely decided by more than a couple of moves.
Differing numbers of players result in different starting layouts, in turn imposing different best-game strategies. For example, if a player's home destination corner starts empty (i.e. is not an opponent's starting corner), the player can freely build a 'ladder' or 'bridge' with their pieces between the two opposite ends. But if a player's opponent occupies the home corner, the player may need to wait for opponent pieces to clear before filling the home vacancies.
Can be played "all versus all", or three teams of two. When playing teams, teammates usually sit at opposite corners of the star, with each team member controlling their own colored set of pieces. The first team to advance both sets to their home destination corners is the winner. The remaining players usually continue play to determine second and third place finishers, etc.
The four-player game is the same as the game for six players, except that two opposite corners will be unused.
In a three-player game, all players control either one or two sets of pieces each. If one set is used, pieces race across the board into empty, opposite corners. If two sets are used, each player controls two differently colored sets of pieces at opposite corners of the star.
In a two-player game, each player plays one, two, or three sets of pieces. If one set is played, the pieces usually go into the opponent's starting corner, and the number of pieces per side is often increased to 15 (instead of the usual 10). If two sets are played, the pieces can either go into the opponent's starting corners, or one of the players' two sets can go into an opposite empty corner. If three sets are played, the pieces usually go into the opponent's starting corners.