How to play Chinese Checkers

Chinese Checkers Rules:

How To Play And Win With Strategy & Tactics

Chinese checkers is one of those games that anyone can play. The rules for Chinese checkers are really quite simple. The challenge for the game comes in deciding which tactics one uses to win!

One of the first questions people who are new to the game will ask is, “Why is it called Chinese Checkers?” The game did not originate in China, nor is it a variation on the game of checkers. In fact, it was created in Germany in the late 1800s and was known as Stern Halma. The word stern means ‘star’ in German.

How to Play

You might ask how you play Chinese checkers.

Actually, learning how to play Chinese checkers is very simple. Chinese checkers is a game for two to six players. Each player is assigned one of the colored triangles as a starting point (the starting triangle). In a standard game, each player begins with ten marbles which are placed in ten corresponding holes in her starting triangle. The marbles are usually the same color as the player’s starting triangle.

The objective is for each player to move all of their marbles across the board toward the triangle that is on the opposite side of the playing board (the destination triangle). Players take turns moving their marbles and can move only one marble per turn. A player can move her marbles in one of two ways.

The first is to move one marble into an empty, adjacent hole. Marbles can be moved in any direction, forward or backward, one hole at a time.

The second way a player can move a marble is by ‘jumping’ over another marble. A player can jump in a straight line over any neighboring marble and can continue jumping over neighboring marbles as long as she desires. A player can jump over any color of marble including her own. Unlike traditional checkers, marbles that are jumped over are not removed from the playing board.

Rules for 2 Players

The basic Chinese Checkers rules apply regardless of how many people are playing. When there are only two players, their starting triangles should have at least one unused starting triangle between them. Another popular way to begin is that the players are positioned directly opposite each other, each starting in the opponent’s destination triangle.

This makes the game more interesting. The players take turns, alternating between each other. A good way to determine who goes first is by flipping a coin or some similar ‘luck-of-the-draw’ type of system.

Rules for 3 Players

As with the 2-player version, the players should begin with an empty, unused starting triangle between each person. Each player takes turns, usually moving in a clockwise manner, or, traveling to the player to the left. A player can move her marbles in any direction across or around the board.

It is not unusual when playing with three or fewer players to increase the number of marbles used, adding up to five more per person.

How to Win

The way to win is to be the first person to have all of your marbles in your destination triangle. While that may sound simple, there are several strategies which can be used to increase the speed with which marbles are moved across the board.

No Stragglers

As you move each marble out into the playing area, attempt keeping all of your marbles in a line with few spaces between them. This way you can take advantage of creating a system for each marble to jump over several others marbles. This allows you to advance quickly. Do not leave any stragglers behind, as it may become difficult for them to catch up with the others.


Sometimes referred to as ‘spoiling’, blocking is a strategy where a player leaves one of her marbles in her opponent’s destination triangle. This prevents the opponent from completely filling her destination triangle. There are rule variations that limit the effectiveness of this idea, and players will need to determine which rules will be used to play the game.

Stay Centered

A common saying is that the shortest distance between two points is a straight line. This is certainly true in Chinese checkers. Avoid allowing your marbles to wander off to the sides of the board. Keep them in the center. Most opponents will use the same playing strategy, which can help set up some very fun and dramatic jumping sequences.

Chinese checkers is a wonderful game because any level of player can enjoy the competition. More advanced players can use complicated techniques and try to anticipate their opponent’s next moves.

Once you have played a few games, you will develop your own scheme for how to best deploy your marbles and how to effectively fill your destination triangle.

Most importantly, have fun.
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