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Djambi (also described as "Machiavelli's chessboard") is a board game and a chess variant for four players, invented by Jean Anesto in 1975. The rulebook in French describes the game, the pieces and the rules in a humorous and theatrical way, clearly stating that the game pieces are intended to represent all wrongdoings in politics.

Board of Djambi, with the pieces in their start position. Each piece is identified by the first letter of its name as well as a symbol. The E5 square, at the exact center of this 9X9 board, is called "the maze" and has special rules concerning it.



The game is played on a 9×9 board whose central square (called "the maze") is marked with a different color or a sign. Each player has nine pieces:

  • Some killers
    • 1 Chief
      Djambi chief piece
      Djambi chief piece
    • 1 Assassin
      Djambi assassin piece
      Djambi assassin piece
    • 1 Reporter
      Djambi reporter piece
      Djambi reporter piece
    • 4 Militants
      Djambi militant piece
      Djambi militant piece
  • Some movers
    • 1 Diplomat that moves living pieces. It is a very useful piece at the beginning of the game also called Agitator, or Troublemaker.
      Djambi diplomat piece
      Djambi diplomat piece
    • 1 Necromobile that moves corpses. Important piece in end of game as dead pieces stay as corpses on the board in this game.
      Djambi necromobile piece
      Djambi necromobile piece


The objective of the game is to get absolute power by being the last chief alive on board. Although informal alliances can be temporarily agreed upon, there is no team: each player plays against the other players.

Start position[edit]

The pieces are placed in each corner of the board as shown in the picture above. Order of play is red - blue - yellow - green.


Each player, at their turn, moves one of their pieces, and can possibly capture a piece in this way. The militants move of one or two squares in the eight directions; the other pieces can move through any number of squares in the eight directions. A piece cannot jump above another piece.

Militant and regular piece move


The pieces are "killed" as soon as they are captured, but their "corpses" stay on the board (the pieces are turned upside down to show that they are "dead"). The militant kills by occupying the square of a piece (capture by replacement). They place the corpse on an unoccupied square of their choice, except on the central square (the "maze"). A militant cannot kill a chief in power (see the maze below).

  • The chief kills and places the corpse in the same way as the militant.
Shows a move where chief piece kills and places corpses to protect themselves against further moves
  • The assassin kills in the same way as the militant, but places the corpse in the square they come from. This is the symbol that corpses by assassin tend to mess space at home in politics.
Forced placement of corpse when assassin kills.
  • The reporter kills by occupying one of the four squares next to the square of the piece they want to kill (they cannot kill diagonally). The corpse stays in their square. The reporter can only kill at the end of their move. That means that if they are moved by the diplomat, they must move again before killing and so cannot kill a piece that is directly orthogonal to them at the beginning of their move. The reporter can move without killing.
Reporter may kill one of orthogonal pieces at arrival. They may also move without killing.

The diplomat and the necromobile cannot kill the other pieces but can move them.

  • The diplomat can move another living piece by occupying its square (of course, they can only move the pieces of the other players). The piece is placed on any unoccupied square (except the maze if this piece is not a chief).
Advantageous positioning of living pieces of adversary.
  • The necromobile acts like a diplomat but only with the dead pieces (whatever the origin of the dead piece is). The corpses cannot be placed in the maze.
Protecting your pieces by moving corpses.

Death and surrounding of a chief[edit]

Chief dies if completely surrounded and has no necromobile. Their pieces will become minions of chief in the maze or the first chief that enter the maze.

When a player kills the chief of another player, they take control of the remaining living pieces of this one. At their turn, they will have the choice between using one of their own pieces, or using one of the captured pieces. When a player has no necromobile and their chief is surrounded by corpses, they are eliminated (except if they are in power, in the maze). Their pieces now belong to the chief in power. If there is no chief in power, then the pieces cannot be moved or killed, until the moment when a chief takes the power, and captures them in that way (they keep control on these pieces even if they leave the maze).

The maze[edit]

The central square of the board (E5) is called the maze. Each piece can go through this square, but the chief is the only piece that can stop on it. A chief who is in the maze is a chief "in power". They play one time after each player. For instance, if there are four players, they play three times in a turn (if there are two players, they play twice consecutively). When they leave the maze, they lose this power. A chief in power takes control of the pieces of the surrounded chiefs, and keeps them after losing the power. A chief in power cannot be killed by a militant. The surrounding has no effect on them as long as they stay on the maze. An assassin, a troublemaker or a necromobile can go in the maze to kill or move a living chief or a chief corpse, the piece must make an additional move immediately, in order to leave the maze. The original rule humoristically states that it is done to avoid things like an assassin empowered in the maze. It is done in this order :

How to make the extra move when killing in the maze
  • The piece goes in the maze and the chief (corpse) is removed from the board
  • The piece makes its free move to get out of the maze
  • The chief/corpse is placed back on the board following the usual rule.

This order of actions allows placing the chief/corpse between the maze and the new position of the acting piece.

Alliances and betrayals[edit]

There can be informal agreements or alliances between the players, but there is no rule to prevent any betrayal.

End of the game[edit]

The game ends when a player has killed the chiefs of all of the other players.


Three-player variant[edit]

The pieces of the missing fourth player are "hostages". These pieces can be killed or moved by the pieces of the players. When the chief is captured, the normal rules to take control of them apply. The hostage chief can be placed in the maze, but it has no influence on the game.

External links[edit]