Halma (from the Greek word meaning "jump") is a board game invented in 1883 or 1884 by an American plastic surgeon at Harvard Medical School, George Howard Monks. An English game called "Hoppity" was the inspiration.

Playing equipment consists of a checkered board, divided into 16 x 16 squares. Pieces are typically black and white for two-player games, and of various colours or other distinction in games of four players.


The game is played by two or four players on opposing corners of the board. The goal of the game is to transfer all of one's pieces from one's own camp into the camp in the opposing corner. Each turn, a player either moves a single piece to an adjacent open square, or jumps over one or more pieces in sequence.

Rules of play

Set up

* The "board" consists of a grid of 16 by 16 "squares".
* Squares are "adjacent" horizontally, vertically or diagonally.
* A game may be played by two or four "players".
* Each player's "camp" consists of a cluster of adjacent squares in one corner of the board. These camps are delineated on the board.
** For two-player games, each player's camp is a cluster of 19 squares. The camps are in opposite corners.
** For four-player games, each player's camp is a cluster of 13 squares. Each of the four corners of the board is a camp.
* Each player has a set of "pieces" in a distinct colour, of the same number as squares in each camp.
* The board starts with all the squares of each player's camp occupied by a piece of that player's colour.


* The objective is to cause all one's own pieces to occupy the "opposing camp": the diagonally opposite camp to one's own.

Play sequence

* Players randomly determine who will take the first turn.
* Each player's turn consists of moving a single piece of one's own colour in one of the following plays:
** One "move" to an empty square:
*** Place the piece in an empty adjacent square.
*** This move ends the play.
** One or more "jump"s over adjacent pieces:
*** An adjacent piece of any colour can be jumped if there is an adjacent empty square on the directly opposite side of that piece.
*** Place the piece in the empty square on the opposite side of the jumped piece.
*** The piece which was jumped over is unaffected and remains on the board.
*** After any jump, one may make further jumps using the same piece, or end the play.
* Once a piece has reached the opposing camp, a play cannot result in that piece leaving that camp.
* If the current play results in having every square of the opposing camp occupied by one's own pieces, the acting player wins.
* Otherwise, after each players turn, continue with the next player to the left taking a turn.

Comparison to other games

* The mechanic of jumping pieces is reminiscent of draughts (checkers) but differs in that no opposing pieces are ever captured or otherwise withdrawn from the board nor is jumping compulsory.

* Chinese checkers was originally published in 1892 as "Stern-Halma" (German for "Star Halma") and later renamed upon marketing to the United States to appear more exotic. The name is misleading, since the game has no historical connection with China, nor is it a checkers game.

Variations available

There are also 8x8 and 10x10 board variations, either of which is adequate for two players and they have 10 and 15 pieces per player, respectively. There are various on-line versions on the internet, usually for two-player, turn based play.

Some sites implement a rule variation stating that a player automatically loses if they still have a piece in their start region after a certain number of moves (typically 30 for the 8x8 game, 50 for the 10x10 game). Fast-advancing players occasionally attempt to blockade an opposing piece, but this tactic can backfire if the other player is aware of it. In non-electronic versions, the number of moves is not normally counted.

Basic tactics

In comparison with many board games, Halma has a beginning, a middle, and an end. The beginning (before opposing pieces come into contact) is usually a set-piece battle, with players setting up their favoured openings. The middle (when opposing pieces are blocking or jumping each other) is usually characterised by opportunistic play; the player with the most patience to check the whole board for opportunities, including those gained by moving backwards in order to move forwards, will gain an advantage. Players should also set up for the end game (when opposing pieces have passed one another and must run for home), avoiding stragglers.

As with most board games, early control of the centre is a key tactic, as it provides additional mobility. Pieces can form a two-layer blocking wall, deflecting the opponent from the centre and forcing them into a longer trajectory; however, if the opponent builds an adjacent wall, then the first player to disband his wall usually suffers a strategic disadvantage.

It is important to understand that paired pieces move faster than single pieces in the end game. This means that a player with a pair of "leapfrogging" pieces has an advantage over a player with two individual stragglers.

The larger boards have more strategic combinations available than the smaller boards, and the four player game offers more tactical intrigue than the two player game.

References to Halma in literature

* In E.M. Forster's "Maurice" the main character plays halma upon returning home from boarding school.
* The game appears in Billy Wilder's 1944 classic film "Double Indemnity".
* Talking halma pieces featured in a Rupert the Bear story.
* Evelyn Waugh's "Brideshead Revisited" has Julia Flyte playing Halma with Nanny.
* "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" contains a scene during which the shipboard computer offers a game of halma.
* The television series "The Good Life" features a scene (in "The Early Birds", the first episode of Season 3) in which the characters go to bed early one night and take Halma to entertain themselves until they fall asleep.
* In E. Nesbit's "The Magic City", the land of Somnolentia is inhabited by Halma people.
* In Nesbit's "The Wouldbegoods", Halma is described as "a beastly game". [http://www.gutenberg.org/dirs/etext97/twbgd10.txt]
* M.V. Hughes' autobiography A London Home in the 1890s repeatedly refers to halma as an alternative to chess for relaxation, though the actual playing is never described.
* In Agatha Christie (writing as Mary Westmacott)'s "Absent in the Spring", Joan Scudamore is stranded at a Rest House in Tell Abu Hamid for days and wishes for a game of Halma to pass the time.
* In P.G. Wodehouse's story "The Amazing Hat Mystery", a character in hospital with a broken leg is playing halma with his nurse.
* In Saki's short story "Clovis on Parental Responsibilities," Mrs.Eggelby mentions this board game together with draughts; it is also mentioned in "Reginald's Christmas Revels."
* Paul Jennings described the hilarious results of his attempt to decipher the rules of the game from a set of instructions in German in his article "How to Spiel Halma."
* In Monica Dickens's 1946 novel "The Happy Prisoner", Evelyn plays halma with her cousin Oliver North.

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