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Celestial Checkers
Celestial Checkers
by (Web published) (2001)
Player Count

Player Ages

Playing Time
30 minutes
  • Abstract Strategy
  • Designers
  • Chris Huntoon
  • Family
  • Checkers
  • Player Count: Two Player Only Games
  • Rating: 0/10 from 0 users


    An ancient Chinese folk tale recounts that the Jade Emperor once held a feast to which he invited all the animals of the forest. Only twelve showed up. To reward his guests, the Jade Emperor announced that he would name a year of the Zodiac after each. The animals were all duly honored. But then the question of order arose. The Ox, the brawniest of all the animals but also the most dull-witted, insisted he should be first due to his tremendous strength. The Rat, puniest of all the animals but also the most cunning, argued he should be first due to his keen intelligence. The other animals, who possessed both strength and intelligence in varying degrees, soon joined the quarrel. Some sided with the Ox, saying that strength was more important than intelligence. Others sided with the Rat, saying intelligence was more important than strength. While still others wavered back and forth. So to settle the matter, the Rat proposed a contest.

    This game uses the twelve animals of the Chinese Zodiac. Each animal possesses its own unique combination of strength and intelligence. During the first phase, strength is crucial; in the second phase, intelligence is valued.

    The board starts off empty. The players alternately place their pieces on their sides of the board. Each piece must be placed on the unoccupied yellow spaces within their first three rows. The direction a piece is facing indicates which player it belongs to. After each player has placed all their twelve pieces, the game can begin. North, for having gone second during the set-up stage, gets to move first.

    An animal can not capture an animal stronger than itself. The animals are ranked in strength, from strongest to weakest: 12. Ox, 11. Tiger, 10. Dragon, 9. Horse, 8. Dog, 7. Goat, 6. Pig, 5. Snake, 4. Rooster, 3. Monkey, 2. Hare, 1. Rat.

    When an animal reaches the far rank, it is removed to the side and scored according to its intelligence. The animals are ranked in intelligence, from smartest to dumbest: 12. Rat, 11. Hare, 10 Monkey, 9. Rooster, 8. Snake, 7. Pig, 6. Goat, 5. Dog, 4. Horse, 3. Dragon, 2. Tiger, 1. Ox. As can be seen, an animal's intelligence is in inverse proportion to its strength. In other words, the weaker the animal the more valuable it is and vice-versa.

    Other than this, normal Checkers rules apply. Pieces can only move diagonally forward, either by sliding to an adjacent empty square or by jumping over an enemy piece to a vacant square on the other side. Jumping over a piece captures it. Capturing is mandatory, and you must keep jumping and capturing as long as it is possible.

    When one player is unable to make a move, by either having no more pieces left on the Checkerboard, or by having all his pieces blocked from movement, the game ends and the player with the higher score wins.

    Incidentally, through prudent and skillful play the Rat was able to easily defeat the brute efforts of the Ox. On the Chinese Calendar, the Year of the Rat is first, and Year of the Ox second to this very day.

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