Pegs and Jokers
Pegs and Jokers is a North
American race game for four, six or eight players, using
playing-cards to move pegs around a board. It is also sometimes
known as Jokers and Pegs. Some board designs use marbles
instead of pegs as the playing pieces in which case it may be
called Marbles and Jokers or Jokers and
Pegs and Jokers is clearly
derived ultimately from the Indian race game Pachisi, a race
game using dice for movement, probably via its American
derivative Sorry!, in which pawns are moved according to cards
drawn from a special deck.
Pegs and Jokers is a partnership
game played with standard playing-cards on boards that are
generally home-made. It allows extra scope for strategy by
giving players a choice of cards to play. Each player has five
pegs, and the winners are the first team to move all their pegs
from their START area to their HOME areas.
The players are divided into two
teams - two against two, three against three or four against
four. They sit alternately - each player seated between two
Standard decks of cards are used,
with two jokers in each deck. Three decks (162 cards including 6
jokers) may be enough for up to six players: eight players
should use four decks (216 cards including 8 jokers).
Four players use a four-sided
board; six players use a six-sided board; eight players use an
eight-sided board - one side for each player, each associated
with a different color. Each player has five pegs in the color
that corresponds to the side of the board nearest to them. Each
side of the board has a straight section of track 18 units long:
there is a corner hole at each end, shared between two adjacent
sides, and 17 holes between them. The 8th hole after the corner
is the "come out" position for the pegs on that
side, and next to it is the colored "start"
area with five holes where the pegs of that color are stored at
the start of the game. The 3rd hole after the corner is the "in-spot"
for that color, and branching off at the "in-spot" is
a colored private track of 5 holes, which is the "home"
or "safe" area or "castle",
where the pegs end their journey. The diagram below shows one
side of the board.
Here two examples of boards:
Some people use colored golf tees
as the pegs for this game. Others use the small colored plastic
bulbs that fit into ceramic Christmas trees..
Deal and play of cards
Five cards are dealt to each
player, and the remaining cards are stacked face down. As usual
players hold their cards so that they can see their faces but no
one else can. Played cards form a face up pile on the table.
Players take turns in clockwise order. At your turn you do the
- Draw one card from the top of
the face-down deck, so that you hold six cards.
- Play one card of your choice
from your hand face up onto your discard pile.
- Move according to the power of
the played card.
If you have any card (except a
joker) that allows you to move a peg, you must play such a card,
even if the move is disadvantageous. However, if you have no
cards (except jokers) that enable you to move you may discard
one card of your choice without moving and draw a card to
replace it. This ends your turn. Discarding without moving
normally happens only at the start of the game, when a player
has no aces or pictures to move any peg out of the start area.
A player is never forced to play
a joker: if you have no other move you may keep the joker and
discard another card.
Movement of pegs - general rules
All the pegs begin in their own
start areas. From there they move to the neighbouring "come
out" hole, and then around the board clockwise. On reaching
its own "in-spot" a peg may take the branch into its
safe "home" track. No peg may ever move into any start
or home area other than its own.
In the basic game, except in
special circumstances described below, you may only move your
You may never land on or pass
over a hole occupied by one of your own pegs, but you may pass
over or land on other player's pegs. Passing over a peg of a
different color has no effect on it, but landing exactly in the
hole occupied by a peg of a different color has the following
- When a peg lands on an
opponent's peg, the opponent's peg is immediately moved back
to its start area.
- When a peg lands on a
partner's peg, the partner's peg is immediately moved to its
"in-spot", provided the partner does not already
have a peg there. It is illegal to land on your partner's
peg if that partner already has a peg on his or her own
Movement of pegs - effects of
In order to move your peg out of
your start area, you must play a jack, queen, king, ace (to move
it to its "come out" hole) or a joker (to move it to
the hole occupied by a peg of a different color anywhere on the
When playing a 2, 3, 4, 5, 6,
9 or 10, you move one of your own pegs that is not in
your start area forward that number of holes along the track.
When playing an ace, you
may either move one of your pegs from your start area to
your "come out" hole, or move one of your pegs
forward one hole.
When playing a jack, queen
or king you may either move one of your pegs from
your start area to your "come out" hole, or
move one of your pegs forward 10 holes.
When playing an 8, you
must move one of your pegs backwards 8 holes.
When playing a 7, you may either
move one of your pegs forward 7 holes, or split the 7
between two of your pegs, moving them 1 and 6, 2 and 5 or 3 and
4 holes forwards. Of course the split move can only be made if
you have at least two pegs in play.
When you play a joker, you
move any one of your pegs (for example one in the start area)
into a hole on the main track that is occupied by another
player's peg, belonging either to a partner or to an opponent.
This has the effect of sending that peg to its in-spot or start
area respectively, as described above. A joker cannot be used to
move to an empty hole, so if there are no pegs of any colour on
the main track a joker cannot be played.
You must always use the full
value of the card played. For example when playing a 6 you must
move a peg forward 6 holes, no less. If you play a 6 when you
have a peg on your in-spot and all your other pegs in the start
area, you must move your peg on along the main track, since
there is not room in the home track for a move of 6.
For a team to win the game, all
its pegs must be in their respective home areas. Pegs move along
the home tracks in the usual way. Since they cannot land on or
pass over each other, the first peg to arrive must eventually be
moved all the way to the end of the home track to leave room for
the others, the second to the next space behind it and so on.
"Backing in" to the
home track is not allowed. In other words, pegs cannot turn into
their home track while moving backwards. Also, pegs that are
already in their home areas are not allowed to move backwards.
However, it is legal to use a
backward move on the main track as a means to get from start to
home. For example: you could use a picture to move from the
start area to "come-out"; use an 8 to move back 8
spaces to the corner (NOT into the home track); use a 4, 5, 6 or
7 to move forward into your home track.
When, and only when, all five of
your pegs are in the home (safe) position, occupying the five
holes of your home track, you use your turn to move the pegs of
your left-hand partner, if that player still has playable pegs.
If left partner's pegs are also all home, you move the pegs of
the next partner around the table who still has playable pegs.
The first team that manages to
get all its pegs into their respective home areas wins the game.
This more interesting version of
Pegs and Jokers developed in Arizona, from where it has spread
to Texas and perhaps other places. It uses four full decks of
cards including 8 Jokers. The rules differ from the basic game
- 5 cards are dealt to each
player as usual, but a turn consists of first playing
a card to your discard pile, then moving a peg or
pegs using the power of the played card, and finally
drawing a card from the face down deck so that you have 5
cards again. So for each turn you have 5 cards to choose
from rather than 6.
- Throughout the game, you may
move any of the pegs belonging to your team (so for
example any of 20 pegs in the 8-player game with 4 on each
team). Therefore you may discard without moving only if you
are unable to play a card (other than a joker) that moves
any of your team's pegs.
- A peg cannot land on or pass
over another peg of the same color.
- When playing a 9 you may either
move one peg forward 9 holes, or split the 9 between
two different pegs belonging to your team, moving one
forward and the other backward - for example moving one peg
3 holes forward and another 6 holes backward.
- When using a 7 or 9 for a
split move, you may move any two different pegs belonging to
your team - either the same color or different colors.
- When you play a joker, if your
team has any pegs in their start areas, you must move one of
these pegs to replace any peg of a different color
(belonging to either team) that is on the main track. If
your team's start areas are all empty (but only in that
case), you can move one of your team's pegs from anywhere on
the main track to displace any peg of a different color on
the main track.
Here is a brief
summary of the Arizona Rules in the form of a Word document.
New players may find it useful to refer to this during their
first few games.
Naturally a 9, like a 7, can only
be split if your team has at least two pegs in play. If your
team only has one peg left that is not in its final home
position, then 7 and 9 can only be used to move forward that
number of holes.
Notes on Strategy
- 8 spaces backward from the
start takes you to the corner, which is a risky position to
occupy, because you are 10 holes away from your neighbor's
come-out hole. So after coming out of Start it is good to
begin by moving 1, 2 or 3 spaces forwards. Then 8 spaces
backwards will take you to or beyond your in-spot, putting
you in a position to go home with less risk of being killed
meanwhile by your right-hand opponent.
- If you move 4 or more spaces
forward from your come-out hole, moving 8 backward is no
longer useful, since this does not reach your in-spot. Your
peg now becomes a runner - a peg to be sent on a
journey around the board to harass opponents or move into
- You can try to set up a home
run by positioning your "runner" peg in
teammate's come-out hole so that a peg coming out of START
lands on your peg and sends it to its in-spot. Even better
is the double play: a peg is left in its own come-out
hole so that a teammate's arriving runner sends come-out peg
directly to its in-spot. Then the next peg to come out of
the start area sends the runner to its in-spot. Occasionally
it is even possible to set up a longer "chain
reaction" in which a series of different colored pegs
displace each other in a single move. Also a 7 or 9 could be
split to use one part to send a partner's peg to its in-spot
and the other part to move that peg home.
- It is important to watch the
board! When a player sees a runner approaching a start area,
he should position a peg in the adjacent come-out hole to
allow a home run.
- 10's and face cards move a peg
10 holes, and there are 64 of these "tens" in the
four decks, making 10 the easiest distance to move. So when
moving a runner to a partner's area or attacking opponents,
it is good to lurk 10 spaces short of partner's come-out
hole, or opponent's in-spot. Note also that a peg sitting 10
spaces away from its teammate's come-out happens also to be
8 spaces in front of its opponent's come-out, where it is
(almost) safe from attack (since 8's move backwards).
Another good place to wait is 3 spaces forward from a peg's
come-out. This is 10 away from opponent's in-spot and also
within reach of its own in-spot by moving backward 8. Also,
when the team only has one peg left in the game and is
approaching HOME, they should try to maneuver so the last
several moves are 10's.
- Not having enough pegs on the
board. 9s, 7s, and (offensive) Jokers need at least two pegs
to work. Teams should have a minimum of 2 movable pegs per
player on the board at all times (a 4-man team should have 8
- Concentrating on moving into
HOME. It is best to wait until an exact count card can be
played to move all the way into Home (unless the peg is in
imminent danger of being killed). Rely on your partners.
- Getting bound up: one or more
pegs in HOME area but not all the way in. This is the Kiss
- Playing a joker too soon. Hold
it until you can get a double or triple play or use
it in the endgame to save your team from defeat. Don't be
too eager to play it!
- Attacking an opponent instead
of putting a teammate into a scoring position. An opponent
sent to START is after all only two moves from his home
entry space (a face card plus an 8 or 9).
- In the endgame: playing high
cards so that the team is too close to enter HOME on an
exact count. If you can't go all the way HOME, play your
smallest card and give your teammates more chances to enter
Note on Table Talk
As in most card games, players
are not allowed to reveal the cards in their hands to partners
or opponents. It is sometimes very tempting to offer advice or
suggest moves to your partners, or to seek advice when it is
your move, especially when playing by the Arizona rules which
allow players to move any of their team's pegs. This kind of
table talk almost inevitably gives away information about the
cards held by the players, and is not allowed in games between
When teaching the game to
beginners, this rule may be relaxed to allow possible moves to
be discussed by the team. In this case, when discussing moves,
players should do their best to avoid exchanging information
about the cards that they hold.
According to the rule sheet
distributed by Wizard Woodworks a two is a
special card that allows the player either to move forward 2 or
to exchange the positions of any two different colored
marbles/pegs that are on the main track (not in the start or
home areas). Other rules are in the basic game, except that as
in the Arizona version players first play a card, then move and
draw a replacement card at the end of their turn, and nines can
be split, moving one peg/marble forward and another backward.