How to Play Chinese Checkers: A Simple Guide Anyone Can Follow

Updated August 18, 2021
Man and Woman Playing Chinese Checkers

Chinese checkers is a fun board game for players ages 7 and older. It is easy to learn as it has only a few easy-to-understand rules. It also moves quickly and only takes 20-30 minutes to play.

How to Play Chinese Checkers

The Chinese checkers game consists of:

  • A playing board - The board has a six-pointed star. Each point of the star is a triangle. Each triangle is a different color and has ten holes (four holes to each side). The middle of the playing board is a hexagon, and each side of the hexagon has five holes.
  • Marbles or pegs - There are six sets of marbles or pegs. Each set has ten marbles or pegs of a specific color. Some players prefer the peg version of the game because the pegs don't move if the board is accidentally bumped.

Setting Up the Game Area

The game can be played by up to six players. Each player chooses a color and then places the ten marbles of that color into the triangle of the same color:

  • Two players - Each player moves to the opposite triangle on the board. For a longer game, each player can play two or three sets of marbles.
  • Three players - Each player moves to the opposite triangle on the board. For a longer game, each player can play two sets of marbles.
  • Four players - Two pairs of opposing triangles are used. Each player moves to their opposite triangle.
  • Five players - Four players move to the opposite triangle on the board. The fifth player moves to the unoccupied triangle.
  • Six players - Each player gets a set of marbles and moves to the opposite triangle on the board.

The goal of the game is to be the first player to move all ten of their marbles into the opposite triangle.

Basic Rules of Play

A marble can:

  • Never be removed from the board
  • Be moved into any hole on the board, including holes in triangles belonging to other players
  • Be moved around in the opposite triangle, but it cannot be moved out of the opposite triangle

Getting Started

The game starts with one player tossing a coin and a second player guessing heads or tails. The winner of the coin toss makes the opening move. Players take turns going clockwise around the board, moving one marble of their chosen color. The player can either:

  • Move into any adjacent, vacant hole
  • Make one or more hops into a vacant hole; the moves can be in any direction over any adjacent marbles, including the marbles of the player who is taking the turn
  • Finish moving after one hop or can continue to hop over marbles as long as it moves to vacant holes that are available
  • Only move in straight lines and can change direction; however, cannot move to the side of a peg or hop over two pegs in one jump
  • Hop through a triangle that is not their home or destination triangle, so long as they do not end their turn in that triangle

Winning the Game

The game ends when a player has placed all ten of their marbles in the destination triangle. A player cannot be prevented from winning because an opposing player's marble occupies one of the holes in the destination triangle. If this happens:

  • The player can swap the opposing player's marble with their own marble.
  • The game is won when a player has placed nine of their ten marbles in the destination triangle.

"Capture" Version

A fast-paced version of Chinese checkers is called the "capture" version. This version is similar to traditional checkers. In the "capture" version, all marbles are placed in the center hexagon. The hole in the center is left vacant. Each player takes their turn by hopping over, and then removing, adjacent marbles on the board. The player with the most captured marbles wins the game.

History of the Game

Chinese checkers was introduced in the U.S. in 1928. It was originally called Hop Ching checkers. Interestingly, Chinese checkers did not originate in China or any part of Asia, nor is it a variation of the game Checkers. It is actually based on an old German game called Stern-Halma.

Hop Ching checkers was renamed Chinese checkers as a marketing gimmick to draw interest and sales. This is because in the early 1920's in the US, there was a growing interest in Asian cultures. In fact, mahjongg, a game that originated in China, was brought to the US in 1923.

Chinese Checkers Game Night

Invite friends over for a fun night of Chinese checkers. You can make the night interesting by playing different shorter or longer versions of the game throughout the night, depending on how many players you have. You can also spice it up with more competition; as guests arrive, have them complete a quick quiz about the history of the game and those with the most correct answers on the quiz win a prize. Announce the winners at the end of the night and present prizes, including consolation prizes to all the other guests.

Be a Revered Host

Chinese checkers presents a number of variations you can play. Put your own twist on a game night using different versions and be the star host among your friends.

How to Play Chinese Checkers: A Simple Guide Anyone Can Follow