How to Make a Boardgame Out of Garbage ... For Revenge

©. Ilana E. Strauss

You don't need to spend money to play Chinese checkers, especially if you've got vengeance in your heart.

I was in a small village in Morocco, and there was only one board game around: chess. People played chess all the time; they even watched each other play.

“Want to play?” a French guy asked me at an outdoor café while I was writing an article.
“No thanks, I’m no good at chess,” I responded. I knew the game’s rules, but saying I could play was quite the stretch.
“Come on,” he said.

I eventually acquiesced. I considered myself a fairly intelligent, strategic game player, after all. Maybe I couldn’t destroy him, but I could hold my own.

I was wrong. He didn’t just beat me; he demolished me. I lost in two minutes or so. Up until then, I didn’t know someone physically COULD lose at chess that quickly. When he asked me to play again, I declined.

What I really wanted to do was challenge him to a different board game: Chinese checkers. The game is sort of like regular Checkers, except you can play with anywhere from two to six people, and the gameplay and goals are totally different. So actually, it’s nothing like regular checkers.

I’d grown up playing Chinese checkers, and I was pretty decent at it, if I do say so myself. The problem was, it’d be pretty tough to find a Chinese checkers board in a big Moroccan city, let alone a tiny village. So I decided to make one.

It’s funny, once I go into “making something” mode, the word transforms into an art supplies store. I became the foreigner who would pick up candy wrappers by the side of the road. That's right — in addition to masterminding a toy, I was also recycling. #sustainability

Eventually, I found a cardboard box that someone threw out; it would make a perfect board.

I looked up Chinese checkers boards online; it turns out they consist of a whole bunch of triangles that make up what coincidentally looks like a Jewish star. After making a few test drawings that went pretty badly, I drew the real thing on the cardboard. I didn’t have a ruler, so the proportions ended up pretty messed up, but it would work.

All I needed was pieces. At first, I thought I’d use old paper, but I eventually realized that would blow away in the wind. The village was right along a beach full of colorful pebbles, so I spent hours sifting through stones. Finally, the game was ready.

“Want to play Chinese checkers?” I asked the French guy who’d wrecked me in chess. He looked at the board. “What is this, some Jewish conspiracy?” he asked me. Being a Jewish woman hiding the fact that I was Jewish, I laughed nervously. “No, silly! It’s Chinese,” I replied. And so my conspiracy commenced.

playing chinese checkers
© The board right before we started to play. Ilana E. Strauss

He and his girlfriend agreed to play. And I crushed them. I crushed them so hard. When I realized I was going to win, I even intentionally made some mistakes to string out the time and savor the winning experience.

As it turns out, you can make just about anything out of recycled materials, provided you’ve got a really, REALLY bruised ego.