Atari 2600 Checkers Instructions
A New Twist on a Classic Game
Checkers, a classic game known by many, has been transformed to allow an entire family to challenge the Activision computer across three difficulty levels. Before jumping into the game, it’s essential to familiarize yourself with the basics of moving your pieces and the innovative gameplay options available.
Setting Up Your Game
Use the game select switch to choose your game mode:
- Game 1: Compete against the novice level Activision computer.
- Game 2: Challenge the intermediate level Activision computer.
- Game 3: Face off against the expert level Activision computer.
- Game 4: Play against another person.
- The left Joystick Controller is for players controlling pieces at the bottom of the screen (Games 1-4), and the right controller is for the top pieces (Game 4 only). In games 1-3, the computer controls the top pieces.
- The right difficulty switch lets you select the color of your pieces; the position (up or down) determines if you are white or red. (The left difficulty switch does not impact the game.)
- Press the game reset button to start a new game. The color of the flashing X indicates whose turn it is, with white moving first.
- Use your joystick to move the flashing X diagonally to the checker you wish to move, then press the red button to pick it up. Once picked up, move to the desired square and press the button again to place it down. If an illegal move is attempted, the game will prevent placement.
- The game enforces Checkers rules strictly: you must take available jumps, and if multiple jumps are available, you may choose which to take. Consecutive jumps with the same piece require picking up and placing the piece down again between jumps.
Understanding the Computer’s Thought Process
The computer takes a variable amount of time to make its move, depending on the difficulty level chosen. This thinking time ranges from a few seconds to several minutes. The game screen will go blank during the computer’s turn, indicating it’s processing its next move.
Game Duration Estimates
- Game 1 typically lasts around 15 minutes.
- Game 2 can take up to 30 minutes.
- Game 3 may extend over 2 hours.
Ending a Game
A game ends in a stalemate if each side has one piece left. A player loses by either losing all their pieces or being unable to make a legal move. When the computer loses, it will not move, indicating defeat.
General Rules of Checkers
- Pieces can move one square at a time along diagonals towards the opponent’s end, except kings, which can move forwards and backwards.
- Jumping opponent pieces is mandatory.
- Kings are made by reaching the opponent’s back line and can move more freely.
- The winner is the player who captures all of the opponent’s pieces or leaves them with no legal moves.
Expert Tips by Alan Miller
Alan Miller, a former senior design engineer at Atari and designer of Checkers for Activision, shares that the computer has been designed to be a formidable opponent, often beating even its creators. He notes that the computer lacks a “killer instinct” in endgame scenarios, which can be exploited by players. For those looking to improve, Miller suggests studying Checkers strategy from library resources, highlighting the game’s complexity and strategic depth. He also acknowledges A. L. Samuels for his contributions to computer artificial intelligence, which inspired the game’s design.