African Queen is a "long lost" traditional North African checkers variant that never was. During WW II, Alex Randolph found himself in a conversation with a French Colonel, who recalled seeing a popular "tougher and more engaging" local checkers variation that was played around the turn of the 20th century. He only remembered some vague basics: the board had holes and was smaller than a chessboard, one player played on white fields, the other on black, and at times players placed red rings on their playing pieces.
That was it. Sketchy and very likely to be an inaccurate recollection. But Alex did what Alex did best, made notes, and after the War looked high and low for any traces of this long lost gem -- but found nothing. Alex did something else too, something that came naturally to him, pondering what the game could have been like. And so he gave us African Queen and an interesting design story. Alex Randolph dismissed the notion that players should play on different colors, for the simple reason that it doesn't tend to trigger engaging confrontations. What he settled on was a 7x7 checkers board that had normal squares on the black fields and holes for the white ones.
Both players get their own set of 14 playing pieces to fill their own 2 back rows - 7 flat-surface pieces for the black squares (that would fall through the holes if you ever tried to place them on a "white" field), and 7 pieces with rounded bases that plug the holes perfectly (but that would not stand up on black squares). Both players get 2 rings that later in the game can be placed over the playing pieces of their choice, to give it a special move.
The aim of the game is to win by taking all the pieces of your opponent or by forcing the other player into a position from which no legal move is possible.
In turn, each player makes a move by shifting one piece diagonally forward (or sideways) to an empty space or by jumping over a neighboring piece and landing on a free square immediately behind it. A piece can make multiple jumps, and change direction at will, but all jumps need to be forward, diagonally forward, or sideways.
The third move is to capture one or more enemy pieces. This happens when you jump over an enemy piece. Just as in standard checkers, if you can capture, you must, with the caveat that you can stop a capture chain at any point after taking the first piece. You are not forced to capture a piece if you first need to jump over one of your own pieces to get to it.
Remember, pieces can't move backwards, unless (you guessed it), they have a ring on top. Before making a move, and as long as you have a free ring to play, you can place one on top of a playing piece, and that playing piece is then also able to make all the above moves in a backwards direction. Once you commit a ring, it stays on that piece for the remainder of the game, or until the piece is taken by your opponent. The ring then goes into your opponent's supply, and can be brought back into play on top of an enemy piece (until you recapture it).