The Chess Variant Pages



More on Dragonchess

  1. Emails from the inventor, Gary Gygax.
  2. Anthony's Alternative. Alternative rules.
  3. Remarks of Jean-Louis Cazaux.
The rules of dragonchess are described elsewhere.

Emails from Gary Gygax

Gary Gygax, inventor of Dragonchess, (who is most known as the inventor of Dungeons and Dragons, and author of many fantasy books, stories and especially games), send me two emails, the second in response to an email from me. Some quotes follow:
(On Dragonchess:) I confess to playing the game only against myself--not a particularly demanding opponent ;) The valuation of the pieces might well need correction, and I leave that in the capable hands of whomever might essay such a task.

(...) In closing, I have indeed read a few books on chess history and variant games, both of national origination and those created by individuals. Loving the game, I enjoy playing shogi, double chess, and (of course) the modern version, although I am not a particularly strong played.

(From the second email:) (...) You will not be surprised to learn that I am still very much a lover of chess as perhaps the greatest of all games ;)

(HB:) May I use this opportunity to ask you whether the fact that pawns do not have an initial double step in Dragonchess was indeed designed by analogy to Shatranj, or was there another reason for that rule?
But of course! I have indeed spent a lot of time reading the history of chess, playing national-type games of all sorts, and the old variants. If you check on my homepage you will find my offerings in the way of variants of some variants, as well as a new game or two I have dreamed up.

Anyway, I did limit the pawn to the old single-space move of Shatranj, and "Old Chess" in Europe too.

(On Gygax home page, http://www.gygax.com, I found a reference to X-factor Chess - cards that modify the rules of chess (thus seemingly somewhat resembling Knightmare Chess/Tempete sur l'Equipier?) Other links on the page lead to Role Playing games or facts about the departure of Gygax from TSR.

Anthony's Alternatives

Anthony Valterra wrote the following alternative rules for Dragonchess.

Anthony's Alternative (the Dragon problem)

As is stated below the dragon is an immensely powerful piece, perhaps too powerful. In addition, its position at the start of the game allows a capture of the opponents Sylph by the first player to move without recourse. I would change the Dragon thus:

The Dragon cannot move off the top board. It may move or capture with the power of a chess Bishop.

Instead of moving, the Dragon has the additional power of 'capturing from afar'. To do this, the Dragon does not move and one enemy piece that is either in the cell directly below the Dragon or orthogonally adjacent to the cell below the Dragon is removed from the board. The Dragon MAY NOT move and capture from afar in the same turn!

8   - - x - - - - - x - - -
7   - - - x - - - x - - - -
6   - - - - x - x - - - - -
5   - - - - - R - - - - - -
4   - - - - x - x - - - - -      TOP (1)
3   - - - x - - - x - - - -
2   - - x - - - - - x - - -
1   - x - - - - - - - x - -
    a b c d e f g h i j k i

8   - - - - - - - - - - - -
7   - - - - - - - - - - - -
6   - - - - - a - - - - - -
5   - - - - a a a - - - - -
4   - - - - - a - - - - - -      MIDDLE (2)
3   - - - - - - - - - - - -
2   - - - - - - - - - - - -
1   - - - - - - - - - - - -
    a b c d e f g h i j k l
This minor change is actually quite devastating to the Dragon's defenses. The Dragon has enormous ability to do damage from afar but without the King's move is very vulnerable to attack close-up. The Dragon is essentially defenseless if approached on the top board on the orthogonal. The daring piece that wishes to slay the Dragon must get close where she is vulnerable.

Anthony's Alternative (the Dwarf problem)

While on the bottom board, the Dwarf may move or capture one cell diagonally forward or move without capturing one cell forward or laterally.

It may move up to the middle board by capturing to the cell directly above.

While on the middle board, the Dwarf may move or capture one cell diagonally forward or move without capturing one cell backwards or forward.

It may move back to the bottom board by making a non-capturing move to the cell directly below.

8   - - - - - - - - - - - -
7   - - - - - - - - - - - -
6   - - - - - - - - - - - -
5   - - - - - - - - - - - -
4   - - - - - - - -[c m c]-      MIDDLE (2)
3   - - c - - - - - -[D]- -
2   - - - - - - - - -[m] - -
1   - - - - - - - - - - - -
    a b c d e f g h i j k i

8   - - - - - - - - - - - -
7   - - - - - - - - - - - -
6   - - - - - - - - - - - -
5   - - - - - - - - - - - -
4   - c m c - - - - - - - -      BOTTOM (3)
3   - m D m - - - - -[m]- -
2   - - - - - - - - - - - -
1   - - - - - - - - - - - -
    a b c d e f g h i j k i
This allows the Dwarf to move backward but only after rising to the middle board via capture. To balance this ability the Dwarfs lateral movement on the middle board is removed.

Anthony's Alternative (the Sylph problem)

The Sylph is always vulnerable to a fast attack by the Dragon on the first move. One way to prevent this and to slow the use of the Dragon as a Blitzing piece is to re-arrange the starting pieces.
8  - g - - - r - - - g - -
7  s - s - s - s - s - s -
6  - - - - - - - - - - - -
5  - - - - - - - - - - - -
4  - - - - - - - - - - - -      TOP (1)
3  - - - - - - - - - - - -
2  S - S - S - S - S - S -
1  - G - - - R - - - G - -
   a b c d e f g h i j k l
It seems most logical that the Dragon start above the King. Thus the middle board needs one last switch between Mage and King.
8  o u h t c k m p t h u o
7  w w w w w w w w w w w w
6  - - - - - - - - - - - -
5  - - - - - - - - - - - -
4  - - - - - - - - - - - -      MIDDLE (2)
3  - - - - - - - - - - - -
2  W W W W W W W W W W W W
1  O U H T C K M P T H U O
   a b c d e f g h i j k l
And equally the Elemental should be below the King.
8  - b - - - e - - - b - -
7  d - d - d - d - d - d -
6  - - - - - - - - - - - -
5  - - - - - - - - - - - -
4  - - - - - - - - - - - -      BOTTOM (3)
3  - - - - - - - - - - - -
2  D - D - D - D - D - D -
1  - B - - - E - - - B - -
   a b c d e f g h i j k l

Remarks of Jean-Louis Cazaux

Jean-Louis Cazaux made the following suggestions and comments on Dragonchess:

1) I read with a lot of interest the page entitled "More on Dragonchess". Concerning the Anthony's alternative, for the "Sylph problem", it seems to me that a much simpler solution exists. Rather than moving line 1 to the left, it is cleaver to move line 2 (all the Sylphs) one case to the right. The effect is the same (Dragons can't take Sylph on 1a2 or 1a7) and it needs only one change. All subsequent switching on middle and bottom boards are not necessary. Also, the Sylph line 2 on top board would become identical to the Dwarf line 2 on bottom board. It looks so neat that I'm really wondering whether this was that Gygax intended and , perhaps a misprint occurred ...

2) Concerning the "Dwarf problem", I have also another proposition that I found more elegant with respect to the rest of the game. To allow the Dwarf to go backwards, I suggest give to him the same possibility than the Sylph. Let's say like that:
" Dwarf: While on the bottom or middle board, the Dwarf may move (f)or capture one cell diagonally forward or move without capturing one cell forward or laterally. It may move up to the middle board by capturing to the cell directly above. It may move back to the bottom board by making a non-capturing move to the cell directly below OR any empty one of the six home cells that any friendly Dwarf occupied at the start of the game. Dwarfs do NOT promote."


WWW page made by Hans Bodlaender, based on emails written by Gary Gygax and Anthony Valterra. Apologies to an anonymous author, whose email with alternative rules for Dragonchess got lost.
WWW page created: October 3, 1997. Last modified: March 24, 1999.