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Trevor Stone's Journal
Those who can, do. The rest hyperlink.
Party Game: Human Chinese Checkers 
20th-May-2007 10:39 pm
Akershus Castle cobblestones
In Chinese checkers, a piece can only move in a straight line and must jump another piece and land in an unoccupied space. Keep this fact in mind as you read about my last weekend.

Last weekend, my brother graduated from College of Santa Fe. Most of the students pursue creative paths of one sort or another; when the sole candidate for Bachelor of Science stood to receive his diploma I yelled out "Yay science!"

That evening, some of Harper's friends and classmates gave the final concert in Santa Fe for their band, Emergency Room. This was followed by a graduation party at the home of several of these graduating artists. Harper posited that I probably hadn't been to a college party in a while. I asked if soup night at bike4fish's house counts since graduate students usually outnumber nonacademics. Apparently the soup/alcohol ratio is too high to qualify.

Shortly after arrival, Harper, his roommate, and I sat down at a Chinese checkers board. Between my memory and the input of another party goer we figured out the movement rules and game objective and set up the board with each person marching toward a vacant triangle.

Observation #1: Chinese checkers should only be played with an even number of players, each moving opposite another. With three players the end game is frustrating and unwinnable. We should have suspected that a Chinese game would require one to take proper advantage of opposing pieces to succeed.

After our grand schemes had melted into futile attempts to move a marble three centimeters we decided to mingle with the locals. I didn't know anyone else there, but that didn't stop me from adding obscure facts and strained puns to alcohol-inspired conversations. By way of introduction I shook hands with several people who said "I thought you might be Harper's brother." It must be the hair. Or maybe the fact I had a triceratops on my head.

At one point while both of us were standing in the kitchen, overhearing different conversations, Harper stepped up to me and said "We could play Chinese checkers... with people!" I immediately saw the brilliance of his plan. He slid from the left side to the right side of the person standing next to him. When she moved over a little, I moved around her as well, then around my brother. He moved around me, then around someone else. He told his roommate and we continued to jump from cluster to cluster moving only around guests into an empty space.

Observation #2: a party is a great place to play human Chinese checkers. Since not everyone knows about the game, lots of pieces will wander into convenient locations. Harper realized he could make good progress by saying "Hey James, come here." (Stepping forward) "Oh, hi Harper." (Stepping around) "Thanks. So, how are you?" I got stranded by moving into the dead-end kitchen and then having the person I jumped wander off while I was eating some pineapple from the bottom of an upside down cake. It all felt a bit like an XKCD comic.

How does one win at human Chinese checkers? You could set a goal like being the first to visit every corner of the room. Or your goal could be to get as many people to play as possible. Or your goal could be to see how many people say "Huh? What are you doing?"

The great thing about Stones is that without substances we can outweird all the drunks.
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