Two players draw dominoes at random from a face-down pile, pass four of the tiles they drew to their opponent, place them on a checkerboard, and take turns moving them with the intent to capture all of their opponent's "Jewel" pieces. Crown Jewels is a board game involving some luck, some strategy, and is helped by a good memory. Numerous pieces have bonus game effects, which help to keep the game balanced and interesting.
Place all dominoes face down on the table and shuffle them. Each player takes turns drawing dominoes until the pile is exhausted and each player holds 14 dominoes. Each player also takes four of the eight checkers.
The players then select four dominoes (of their own choice) and pass them to their opponent. Naturally, you will want to pass the least desirable of the tiles you drew. See the section below entitled Special Pieces for an explanation of the pieces and which ones you might want to pass.
Following the pass, the players place the dominoes in any arrangement they desire on the three ranks of the checkerboard closest to themselves, leaving 2 empty ranks in the middle of the board. Dominoes should be placed on end (or preferably on a side) such that they stand on the board with the pips facing the controlling player and the backs facing the opponent.
The checkers are also placed on the board, on any of the three ranks closest to the player, with the additional rule that no more than two checkers can be placed adjacent to each other. That is to say, no more than two checkers can be placed such that they are touching on one horizontal or vertical side. Any number of checkers can be neighboring another checker diagonally. This rule is imposed to prevent players from "boxing off" a particular section of the board; No pieces can be entrapped or isolated within an inaccessible section, nor can an empty section of the board be made inaccessible. Remember that once the checkers are placed, their placement is final; they cannot be moved or captured at all during game play.
One of the players goes first. Any conventional method can be used to determine which player goes first. The opening player can move any piece he would like onto any available square.
Dominoes move like chess kings. A legal play moves a piece from it's current square onto one square before, behind, to the left, right, or any diagonal square which is one square away. Pieces can not be moved onto checkers, but must be moved around them. Checkers cannot be moved.
Just as their movement, pieces capture like chess kings, moving onto an opposing piece's square, one square away. The opposing piece is not immediately removed, however. Rather, the two dominoes are turned over, the pips of both are revealed, and the piece with the highest total number of pips wins the capture. This contest is referred to as a "strength comparison". The capturing process will occasionally result in a tie, and can often involve special pieces, in which case, observe the rules in the next section regarding special pieces to resolve ties, or to capture pieces without a strength comparison.
When a piece is captured, it is removed from the board and placed on the table by the capturer. For a less challenging game, place the captured pieces face up. For a more challenging game, place the captured pieces face down.
Many pieces have special capturing abilities and bonus game effects. Use this list to resolve capture situations and to determine which piece wins a tie.
Obviously, there are numerous pieces with at least one special trait, 22 to be exact (23, if you play with the Jewel Thief), and only 6 pieces without any special traits. Six of the 22 special pieces have two special traits. For those pieces having two special traits (the blank-one tile, the five-six tile, the one-five tile, etc.), both special traits are observed. This results in pieces like the "Jewel-General", the "Spy Bomb", the "Spy-General", the "Spy-Jewel", the "General-Bomb", and the "Jewel-Bomb". These can be valuable pieces to possess.
To summarize the tie resolution process:
The first player to capture all of his opponents Jewel pieces wins the game. It is possible, after the deal and the pass, for one player to hold all the Jewel tiles, while the other player holds none. In this instance, the player having no Jewels has the same objective: Capture all his opponent's jewels, while the player holding all the Jewels must capture all of his opponent's pieces.
A tie game results when both players lose their last Jewel pieces at the same time, as the result of a high-strength Jewel taking the "Jewel-Bomb" and getting blown up. In the situation where one player has all the jewel pieces, a tie game can also result, either with the bomb situation previously mentioned, or when the last piece that the non-jewel holding player possesses is the Jewel Thief, the last piece the defending player holds is the Jewel Bomb, and the two pieces are removed simultaneously as the result of an attempted capture by the Jewel Thief.
You will want to pass undesirable pieces with the hope of getting better pieces in return and improving your standing. Good candidates for passing are ones with low point value or ones with no special traits.
Selecting which tiles to pass, however, can get a little more involved than just relative capturing strength. If you don't have a lot of Generals, you will want to hold onto your spies in order to capture your opponent's Generals. Also, if you have a few Jewel pieces with a relatively low capturing strength you might want to hold onto some Bomb tiles to protect them, even thought Bomb tiles tend to have a low capturing strength.
In general, don't cling doggedly to a single passing strategy. Rather, respond to what you're dealt and use your wits to determine what to pass. If you don't have a lot of Generals, for example, you won't want to get rid of you Spies, even though they are low-strength tiles. There's always a chance that you won't get dealt your favorite "passing pieces", or you'll have an abundance of one type of piece and a dearth of another. At worst, your opponent will figure out what you always pass and stymie you by passing exactly the same kind of stuff.
At the most basic level, you want to place your game pieces (Jewels) on the back rows, and your strong attackers (i.e. Generals) on the front line. The most basic approach however, is not always the best.
It can often be a good idea to place mid-range pieces with no special traits on the front lines to "feel out" your opponent's pieces. At best, you will be able to capture some of his Spies that he has placed on his front line, and win the trade. At worst, you'll be taken by some of his Generals and lose the trade, but in turn sniff them out and be able to send some Spies after them. Or, you might break even by discovering some of his Bombs and remove them from play, along with your own piece. Certainly, spending a tile with a strength of 5 and no bonus game effects is a better alternative to wasting a General on one of your opponent's Bombs, or worse, losing it to a Spy.
Just behind or on the flanks of your front line, you want to keep your Spies and Generals in reserve, so that once you begin to discover where your opponent's pieces are placed, you can advance the appropriate pieces to capture your opponent's tiles. Spies for Generals, Generals for Jewels, etc.
The basic approach is probably still your best bet for the back line. Place your low strength Jewels on the back rank, preferably behind a few checkers. Surround Jewels with bombs, and keep a spy nearby, should a lucky General break through.
If you have a high-strength jewel, however, like the double 5 or 5-4 tile, they can be good candidates for your middle rank to use in capturing spies and any other lower-strength opposing tiles. Don't get too overzealous with these seeming powerhouse Jewels, though. Bringing them out too early or using them too much can give your opponent opportunity to take it with a high General or run your high Jewel into a bomb, bringing him one step closer to victory!
It can also be a good idea to keep a high-strength piece (i.e. a General or a high Jewel) in reserve on the back row. Bring that high-guy into play late in the game to pick off your opponent's Jewels once the front and second lines have been exhausted and (hopefully) most of the bombs and spies are out of the way.
Other than protecting your low-strength Jewels, good spots for your checkers are anywhere that blocks your opponent from immediate access to your side of the board, or forces him to move down a particular channel. In this way, you can trap opponent's pieces in a pile of Bombs at the end of the channel, or in the diagonals along the way. It is seldom a good idea to place checkers on the back row, or to place two checkers together in a vertical line. Such placement has a tendency to split up the board into awkward sections, and can isolate your pieces from each other, especially late in the game.