Chinese Checkers Java Game

Chinese Checkers is an old game (over 100 years), but somewhat unique because it uses the hexagonal grid rather than the traditional square grid. This adds an element of complexity for the programmer because computers tend to think in squares.

This is a Java applet, download this jar file and run with "java -jar".

How to Play the Game

The coloured dots on the left hand side allow you to select how many players are in the came and which colours they will be using. Changing this selection at any time will reset the game to the start. You can play with a mix of human and computer AI players or just let the computer run against itself.

Drag the pieces to their new positions. Note the small, white stars help indicate what are the legal moves. First player to the other side is the winner and then the game is over. Start again by toggling the coloured dots on the left hand side.

The AI players utilise a brute-force shallow and greedy search algorithm with a few special weightings thrown in to give it some approximate sense of strategy (this is just a vague strategy, it has no lookahead). Some additional random element is added just for amusement sake to make it less boring.

Strategy Suggestion

Obviously, long moves are better so search for long moves (the small, white stars help make it easier to see the moves). Try not to let pieces get left behind because once they are left on their own they move very slowly. It is good to organise your pieces into a pattern to get repeated long runs, however other players will mess up your pattern by jumping into the middle of it, so don't try too hard to set things up for a future long move.

Going out wide can pay off, especially if the center of the board is crowded. But the center clears out surprisingly quickly towards the end of the game and pieces out on the edges run the risk of being stranded with nowhere to go.

History and Patents

As with a great many things that you didn't expect were patented, the Chinese Checkers game was patented (according to this history of the game) in Germany, in 1892, calling it "Stern-Halma". The earlier game "Halma" was set on a square grid instead of a hex grid (in Halma the pieces have four possible directions to move, in Chinese Checkers the pieces have six possible directions) so the game dynamics are different. Here is another history of the game, with board photos.

Since then (for whatever reason) Halma has fallen into disregard and Chinese Checkers (which never was Chinese) has become the classic hopping piece race game.

Related links

To Download The Game (and Source)

Download the JAR file and you can run the game as an application on your own machine (without this web page). Unzip the JAR to see the source code. Running as an application lets you resize the game board to fit your screen. This program is released under GPL so you are granted the freedom to copy and modify the source.

UPDATE: 2012-04-22

Earlier versions of the program don't work anymore because Java engines have changed over the years, if you want to download the earlier version it is in this JAR file from 2008 but it only works on old JVM's (like 1.4 and earlier I think). In particular, the earlier version used a feature that allowed "byte" types to work as unsigned under special cases (i.e. can access numbers bigger than 127) but they appear to have cracked down on that, so it crashes with an exception now. Also, a bunch of things like type checks for generics have been introduced and the command line for the JAR program is different (as far as I can see only "jar cfm ..." actually reliably works to build jar files, not a place to get creative with options).

Index of Java Games