Check out Chess with Different Armies, our featured variant for July, 2024.

This page is written by the game's inventor, Jeff Stroud.




The board

The board is a 7x7 chessboard with 8 squares cut out as follows:
   | r | b | pa| k | l | m | j |
   | p |XXX| p |XXX| p |XXX| p |
   |   |   |   |   |   |   |   |
   |   |XXX|   |   |   |XXX|   |
   |   |   |   |   |   |   |   |
   | P |XXX| P |XXX| P |XXX| P |
   | J | M | L | K | Pa| B | R |
The cut-out squares (XXX) are hereafter called pits. No piece can end its move on a pit. Pieces that jump may move over them, however.

Object of the game

The object of the game is to capture the King. There is no checkmate or stalemate.


The pieces are as follows:

Each team has eleven pieces.

K - King : (1)
Just like the king in regular chess, one square in any direction. Losing the king loses the game. There is only one king.
R - Rook : (1)
Just like the rook in regular chess, any number of squares orthogonally without jumping. Castling is allowed, just as in regular chess. There is only one rook.
B - Bishop : (1)
Just like the bishop in regular chess, any number of squares diagonally without jumping. There is only one bishop.
P - Pikeman : (4)
Not like the pawn in chess! In Jokers Wild, the pawns may move with or without capturing one square forward or diagonally forward. There is no double move. There is no en passant. When a pikeman gets to the last rank it promotes to a Veteran, which can move one square in any direction except sideways. There are four pawns.
L - Lancer : (1)
Jumps exactly two squares in any of the eight directions. There is only one lancer. A lancer which moves to the last rank may, but is not required to, promote to a Veteran (see above). This choice is made each time the Lancer moves to the last rank. There is one lancer.
Pa - Paladin : (1)
Like a combination of a king and a knight in regular chess. The paladin is the most powerful piece in the game. Losing the paladin does not lose the game. There is only one paladin.
M - Mercenary : (1)
May move one square diagonally or one square straight forward. When a mercenary gets to the last rank, it promotes to a Captain, which can move one square in any direction. When a mercenary or captain is captured, it changes sides and becomes a mercenary under the control of the opponent. The opponent immediately places the mercenary on any empty square in his first two ranks. This does not count as a move. If this is not possible, the mercenary is lost. Each side starts with only one mercenary, but it is possible for one player to end up with both of them.
J - Joker : (1)
May move with or without capturing one square orthogonally. If the joker starts its turn adjacent to one of the eight pits, it may jump across to the square on the other side of the pit, directly opposite. It may capture an enemy piece it lands on this way. If the landing square is empty, and the joker is adjacent to a different pit, it may make another jump, although it may not capture. It may continue jumping as long as the landing squares are empty and adjacent to other pits. It may not capture on any of these subsequent jumps. There is only one joker per side, which is probably one too many for some.

Example of Joker moves:

 7 |   | y | x |   |   |   | r |  The white joker at e1 can move to any square marked 'x'.
   +===+===+===+===+===+===+===+  It can capture a black pawn at c3 or e2.  It does not
 6 |   |XXX|   |XXX|   |XXX|   |  check the black king at a5.
 5 | k | j | y |   | x |   |   |  The black joker at b5 can move to any square marked 'y'.
   +===+===+===+===+===+===+===+  It could capture at c5, b3, or b7 if these squares had a 
 4 |   |XXX|   |   |   |XXX|   |  white piece.
 3 |   | y | p |   |   |   | x |  The joker never moves one square diagonally.
   +===+===+===+===+===+===+===+  It cannot jump like a knight either.  So, jumping from
 2 |   |XXX|   |XXX| p |XXX|   |  e1 to f3 or g1 is not possible.
 1 |   | y |   | K | J | x |   |
     a   b   c   d   e   f   g

Here are the pieces one can use to represent the pieces in Wild Jokers Chess:

Wild Jokers Piece Use
King King
Paladin Queen
Rook Rook
Bishop Bishop
Lancer Knight
Pikeman Pawn
Joker Inverted Rook or any unusual piece from another game
Mercenary Checker or Shogi Piece

Special Rules

None at the moment; some house rules are in the works. Players can experiment with alternate placements of the home rank pieces.


Pieces that jump still capture by replacement--they do not remove any pieces that they jump over.


Designer: Jeff 'Cavebear' Stroud
email: or

Wild Jokers can be a quick, brutal game. I'm not sure if it stands up to repeated playing. The original idea was sketched out on a napkin last November; I decided to submit it anyway.

A board can be whipped up on Illustrator in about ten minutes; Pieces are easily improvised. The rules can be learned in only a few minutes also. Hope you like it!

Written by Jeff Stroud. Html-conversion by Hans Bodlaender.
WWW page created: April 3, 2001.