Check out Alice Chess, our featured variant for June, 2024.


Smess, also known as "Take the brain" or "All the King's Men", was created in 1970 by Perry Grant, a sit-com writer.

It was first introduced as a "Chess for children and morons", which seemed in the end to be a bad idea for its promotion, as this game appeared to be for most of the players a really interesting strategic game.


The board

The board is made up of a 7x8 grid, and therefore 56 cells. Each cell has directions painted on it: these are the directions any piece is allowed to follow when starting from that cell. Only the starting cell directions have to be obeyed. You can not change direction during your move.


There are 3 types of pieces. Each opponent starts with 1 Brain, 4 Numskulls and 7 Ninnys

Ninny moves one square in one of the allowed directions

Numskull moves any number of squares in one of the allowed directions

Brain moves one square in one of the allowed directions

How to play.

Each player moves one piece per turn.

To win you need to capture your opponent's Brain.

To capture a piece just go onto its square.

No jump.

Capture is not obligatory.

A Ninny reaching an opponent's Numskull starting position promotes to a Numskull.

If only the 2 Brains remain on the board, it is a draw.

Initial setup


Game designer: Perry Grant (1970)

Jocly implementation: