The Jungle Game (aka "Animal Chess")

Written by Howard Fosdick ©

Overview: Enjoy games like checkers but long for something new? You'll love the Jungle Game. More challenging than checkers, yet less mentally taxing than Chess, what some call "Animal Chess" might be exactly what you're looking for.

The Jungle Game -- or Dou Shou Qi-- is widely known within China. Yet it's little known outside it. The game deserves much wider recognition for the fun pastime it offers. It appeals, too, because of its jungle theme. You can play on jungle terrain, instead of a fully abstract checkers board.

The Board: Here's how the playing area looks:

The Animal Chess Board
The "Animal Chess" Board

The board measures 7 squares by 9 squares. Each player has a Den at the center of his side of the board (the brown square). The Den is surrounded by three Traps (red squares). In the center of the playing area are two large expanses of water, called the rivers (blue squares). Each measures 2 by 3 squares.

Each player has 8 animals on his side. The accompanying board shows their initial positions before play starts.

For a choice of several free printable game boards click here.

The Pieces: Each player's 8 animals are traditionally represented by either blue or red markers. The power of the animals, from most powerful to weakest, are:

  Elephant  8
  Lion  7
  Tiger  6
  Leopard  (or Panther)  5
  Wolf  4
  Dog  3
  Cat  2
  Rat  1
  Any animal in a Trap  0

Objective: The first player to move one of his animals into his opponent's Den wins the game. Alternatively, if a player captures or "eats" all his opponent's animals, he wins.

Movement: Players alternate turns. In his turn, a player is required to move one of his animals. The Blue side traditionally starts the game by making the first move.

Animals move one square, either vertically or horizontally. Animals can not move diagonally. Nor can a player move any of his animals into his own Den.

Animals can freely move into and out of any trap square. But when they reside on a trap square, their power is reduced to zero. Their normal power rank is restored as soon as they leave the trap square.

Water Movement: Special rules govern the 12 water squares in the center of the board:

  • The Rat is the only animal that can move through water squares.
  • The Lion and Tiger can jump over the water squares either vertically or horizontally. (Some play that the Tiger can only jump over water squares vertically). Both animals jump from a land square immediately adjacent to a water square to the closest land square on the opposite side of the water. They do this in one move.
  • Lions and Tigers can not jump over water squares if any Rat (of either team) resides on an intervening water square.
  • When jumping across the water, Lions and Tigers can kill the animal residing on the land square they jump to.

Capturing Enemy Animals: Animals "eat" or capture opposing pieces simply by moving into the square on which the enemy animal resides. An animal may only eat an enemy animal of equal or lower rank.

The clever Rat can kill the Elephant (it enters its ear and "gnaws its brain"). But the rat can only attack the Elephant from a land square. The Rat can not attack the Elephant from a water square.

A Rat on a water square can only by killed by the opposing Rat also on a water square. A Rat in the water can not be killed by any animal coming from a land square.

Any animal that resides on a trap square has its power reduced to 0 for as long as it sits on a trap square. Thus, any enemy animal can kill an animal residing on a trap square. An animal is restored to full powers as soon as it moves off a trap square.

Print Your Own Game Board:

Want to print your own Jungle Game board? We offer several different free images. Just click here. You don't need to buy anything to play!

If you like the game and would like to purchase a quality commercial set, at least in the U.S., you'll have to do some searching. Those I've found locally are all very inexpensive, unappealing sets with paper "boards" and flat wooden markers. Below you'll find photos of some very nice sets.

Alternate Rules:

  • Some play that the Elephant can never kill the Rat.
  • Some assign the Lion and Tiger equal power.
  • Depending on translation, you may hear the Leopard alternately referred to as a Panther.

Sources: Originally sourced from R.C. Bell, Board and Table Games from Many Civilizations. Also see this Wikipedia article.

If you like board games, click here for rules for a couple dozen other fascinating games.

Game Boards

The Jungle Game Board
By Jeu de société Dou Shou Qi
The Jungle Game Board
Courtesy of Pinterest, Diy cadeau noel
The Jungle Game Board
Courtesy of
The Jungle Game Board
Courtesy of Pinterest
The Jungle Game Board
Courtesy of

License: Feel free to print, copy, and distribute these rules, so long as you retain this paragraph. Written by Howard Fosdick © 2023, distributed under Creative Commons License BY-ND.      HOME