Keezen can be described as a combination of Ludo and bullying (Sometimes known in Britain as Whot).. Keezen has a high ‘annoyance’ content and some tactical play with luck with the playing cards also playing an important role.


Keezen, like Ludo derived from the Indian board game Pachisi, but is played with playing cards instead of a die. Keezen is known worldwide. Canadian, American and German variants are known. In Germany, the game is called Dog. In English it is better known as Tock.

In the Netherlands it is claimed that the game has its origins in the town of Ankersloot but West Friesland people claim that it is their invention. In any case, the fact is that it is a very old game, which has been rediscovered in the Netherlands. There are now also Dutch championships for Keezen.

Purpose of the game.

The goal of the game is to get all the pawns in your own home box (the base) as quickly as possible and prevent your opponent from getting this done sooner. The player who achieves this first has won. In partnership play all of both partners pawns need to be in the home box to win.


Keezen can be played using this set with 2 to 8 players.

4 coloured storage places, 1 coloured starting position and 4 coloured home boxes (the base) are provided per player. In this set up to 8 people can play.

If you play the game with 4, 6 or 8 players, you can form teams. Partners have to sit opposite each other. The player must first play all his own pawns in the home box and then he can help with his cards to get his partner’s pawns to the home box.

If you play without a partner, you will have won if you are the first to play all of your four pawns into the four home boxes.


Keezen set up for 2,3, or 4 players.

In this set firstly build the board so that the number of players can be accommodated. The board can be constructed with 4, 5, 6, 7 or 8 places. Play with 2 players is usually played on opposing spaces on the four-player board and 3 player with the four player board with a place left unused. The picture above shows the setup for 4 players.

Each player chooses a colour pawn and puts his four pawns in the coloured starting boxes.

One complete suit of playing cards is used per player thus 26 cards are used for a 2-player game and 39 for a 3-player game etc. For more than 4 players a second pack of playing cards will be required. When a full pack is not being used the suits selected will not make any difference.

Each player then draws a card. The player with the highest card is the dealer (Ace low). This player shuffles the cards and will be the dealer for three rounds. The dealer deals five cards clockwise and these are played and then the next two rounds are dealt with four cards per player.

Once these three rounds have been played, the next player – clockwise – becomes the dealer. He shuffles all the cards again and deals another three rounds, and so on. The picture on the previous page shows the setup for 5 players and the board can be expanded at will though it is not usually played with more than 8 players,

Game Play.

Set up for five players

When the cards are dealt to each player, the player to the left of the dealer throws one card out of hand and performs the corresponding action (see card actions below). After that, the next player may play one card, and so on, until all the cards have been played. The cards played are placed open and in the middle of the game board.

Each player is free to choose which card to play, but in order to start, the player first needs an Ace or a Lord. Only then can the player place (set up) one pawn from his starting box on his own coloured starting position and play other cards with that pawn.

All pawns may be on the game board at the same time, but not in the same place. A pawn is ‘beaten’ when another pawn (including its own pawn) lands on exactly the same box. The beaten pawn has to return to his starting box and can only return to the field with an Ace or Lord. This is an important element of bullying the opponent.

When a player can throw a card, he must always do so. Even if this means knocking himself or his partner off the board. If a player can no longer throw a card, he throws all his cards on the game board and has to wait for the next round. This means that in some circumstances a player my be forced to remove a pawn from the safety of the home box (with the play of a four).

Card Actions.

The actions associated with the cards are as follows:

  • Ace: put a pawn from the starting box at the own starting position on the board or put a pawn one place ahead.
  • Lord (King): put a pawn from a starting box on the board at its own starting position.
  • Woman (Queen): put a pawn twelve places ahead.
  • Farmer (Jack): exchange your own pawn with a pawn of another player (a teammate or an opponent). Please note that this should not be done if the other player’s pawn is in his own starting position or in his own home base (of his colour).
  • Seven: one or two of his own pawns must be put forward a total of seven squares. Please note: Splitting is allowed but is not mandatory. If the total of seven cannot be completed then this card cannot be used at all.
  • Four: a pawn must be put four squares backwards. Please note that it is not allowed to place the pawn backwards in your own home compartment. However, it is allowed to take your own pawn over or from your own starting position four steps back, provided that there is no proprietary pawn on the starting position.
  • All other cards: a pawn must be put forward the number of squares on the card.

A pawn on its own starting position is ‘safe’ and also forms a blockade for all other pawns. This pawn cannot be overtaken, beaten or exchanged, even by its own pawns. Also a pawn in your own home box is ‘safe’ and cannot be beaten, exchanged or overtaken. A Lord or an Ace cannot be used to start a pawn if there is already pawn of that teams colour on the starting position.

The pawns must all be played into the home box to win the game, but the pawns once in the home box must not be overtaken (not forward and not backwards). The pawns in the home box must therefore be played forward, so that all 4 pawns fit in the home box in order.

When pawns are being played the complete action of a card must be completed, therefore when playing into the home box the card must provide the exact number of steps required. If the pawn cannot enter the home box with the exact number of steps required then the card cannot be used for that pawn.

A game in progress

First, the playing card must be played face up on the table. After that, the pawn is moved. A card placed on the table must be played. If the card is not able to be played, the card must be exchanged for another card from the players hand that can be legally played. A pawn should be played as soon as the card is placed down hesitation is not allowed.

Players are allowed to count out the steps with the finger before the card is played. When playing the card and moving the pawn, each step must be counted (again) so that all players can see that the correct number of steps are being played.

A player is allowed to help his partner using his cards only once he has got all his pawns home. A player may use a 7 to get into the home box with his last pawn and use the remaining steps to continue playing with a pawn from his partner. Of course, his partner’s pawn must be able to legally make the remaining steps, so that a total of 7 steps are always made.

If a player is unable to legally play a card on his turn, then all of their remaining cards are laid down and any remaining turns for that round are forfeited.

In the picture shown green cannot use any card with a forward motion of more than 3 because the pawn on the playing track is blocked by the pawn already in home, The white pawn cannot move forward as it is blocked by the blue pawn on its own colour.

Discussion about which cards to play and strategy during a round is not allowed and any such discussion is penalised by the pawn closest to home of the player initiating the discussion being returned to the start box. If he does not have a pawn in the game, then the front pawn of his partner must return to the starting box. Pawns within their home box are not vulnerable to this rule.


There are some variations as to special card actions. While any or all of the following can be used it is important to ensure that all players are aware of any variations before play begins.

Card Action variations

  • 5             either 5 forward or move an opponent’s piece five forward. When this variation is used an opponent’s piece can be moved past that opponents home entrance, meaning the piece would have to travel around the board again.
  • 10                          10 forward or backward 1 place.
  • Queen                  start by beating another pawn.
  • 7                            the seven can be split between more than 2 pawns

Other Variations

  • Players are never allowed to use their cards to help their partner even following getting all their own pawns into their home box..
  • The game is won once one of the partners gets all four pawns into the home box.
  • In another variation players are always allowed to use their card to help their partners. In this case both partners must get all their pawns home to win. This also means that only one partner needs a starting card for both to be able to use their cards.
  • In some versions after the first deal of 5 cards the rest of the deck is placed face down and as each card is played it is replaced until the deck is empty. In this case all remaining cards are played and when no cards remain another deal is made. In this case usually only one card is forfeit if a card cannot be played. A legal card must be played if possible.

Variations played with other boards

  • Sometimes there are 18 not 16 space between start points.
  • Some people play with the start point 1 place further along the track meaning that there is a space between the start and the entrance to home which that colour would not normally access.