History and Origins

Chinese Checkers is based on Halma and the only difference is that it is played on a six-pointed star-shaped game board and then can be played by 2 to 6 players. Each player has only 10 pieces each and the distance to the opponents home arena is fewer spaces away than in standard Halma. In some modern versions for children the board is smaller and the player have only six pieces each. In a two-player game many prefers to play with 15 pieces each.

The object of the 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.

The History of Halma

Halma was invented by an American professor from Boston, Dr. George Howard Monks (1853-1933) between 1883 and 1884. Monks was an thoracic surgeon at Harvard Medical School. George's brother Robert Monks was in England in 1883 or 1884 and Robert wrote to his brother and described the British game of Hoppity. G.W. Monks took a couple of suggestions from Hoppity and developed Halma. Knowledge about Hoppity is scarce and it is not clear how strong the connection is between Hoppity and Halma regarding gameplay and game board design.

Dr. Thomas Hill (1818-1891), a mathematician, teacher and preacher, apparently helped in the development of the game, and it was he who named the game "Halma"; which is Greek for "Jump". Hill was President of Harvard College between 1862-1868 and was Robert Monks father-in-law.

Halma was first published in the United States in 1885 by E.I. Horsman Company (which called themselves "The Halma Company"). There was controversy surrounding Halma in the US as Milton Bradley Company also laid claim to the rights. It is unclear wherever there was any legal battles; but later Milton Bradley either lost the battle or backed down. They then produced and marketed a modified version as Eckha (see Variations page) in 1889.

Parker Bros.' claim that George H. Monks sold the patent for Halma to them are unverified.

In England Spears Co. was definitely producing Halma games in July, 1893, the earliest date for which there exists records of individual product.

Halma is the only 19th Century internationally-known classic game to have originated in the United States. Halma is a game for 2 or 4 players (some rare, early versions of the game also explains rules for three players) and played on a flat square game board with 256 spaces (16x16). 19 pieces each in a two-player game, 13 pieces each in a four player game. In the rare three player game, each player has 15 pieces. In board games terminology, Halma (and Chinese Checkers) is part of the traversal branch of space games.

Two things make Halma unique:

1) The number of pieces used at the start depends upon the number of players

2) Jumped pieces are never captured or removed from the board

History of Chinese Checkers

Chinese Checkers was invented in Germany in (1892) and it's an descendant from the game of Halma (1883). Chinese Checkers is not from China and it has nothing to do with the game Checkers.... It is neither related to the peg game 'Marble Solitaire' or 'Peg Solitaire'; who sometimes wrongly is called Chinese Checkers.

The first game of Chinese Checkers was published and patented by the German game company Ravensburger (Otto Robert Maier) under the name Stern-Halma (stern means star in English; Star-Halma) in 1892. Spears & Sons introduced the star board to England in 1909.

The first Chinese Checkers game to be published in the United States was 'Hop Ching Checkers' in 1928 by J. Pressman & Co. This was exact the same game as the 1892 Star-Halma. The brothers Bill and Jack Pressman made up the name 'Chinese Checkers' during or shortly after 1928. The game was given a Chinese name and theme in keeping with the current interest in all things oriental (among them the discovery of King Tut's tomb in 1922 and the 'mah jongg' game that was introduced in 1923)

In the 1930s a craze for Chinese Checkers swept across America. Several other manufactures started to make the game. Many were given other names; but since no one seemed to own the rights to the name; many were just called Chinese Checkers. Why this happened is unanswered. The Milton Bradley Company got a patent on Chinese Checkers thirteen years later (1941). This is also very odd.

An interesting question is why Halma is still favored in many European countries (especially in Germany) while almost disappeared in others and replaced with Chinese Checkers? Remember also that Chinese Checkers is called Halma in many places (again especially in Germany), and can be found on the internet under that name.

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