The Chess Variant Pages




Holywar

About the Game

Holywar is a Chess variant played on a board with 40 squares. Holywar was created and developed by Fergus Duniho on July 28-9, 1999 for submission to the 40-squares chess variant design contest hosted by Hans Bodlaender's chess variants web site.

For a smaller board, I decided to reduce the power of the pieces a player usually has. I replaced most pieces with less powerful counterparts and entirely eliminated the jumping powers of the Knight and the long-range orthogonal movement of the Rook and Queen. I added some less powerful pieces which had Bishop movements, and the presence of all these Bishop-like pieces gave me the inspiration to call this game Holywar.

I drew inspiration for the board design from Omega Chess. I calculated that 6x6 + 4 = 40.

Dropping pieces onto the board at the beginning of the game is something I borrowed from Burmese Chess.

Rules

With noted exceptions, Holywar follows the same rules as Chess. It differs from Chess only in the shape and size of the board, and in the setup, selection, and powers of the pieces. These differences are all described in the following subsections.

Board

The board is a checkered 8x8 grid with all but the corner squares missing from the sides. Another way to describe it is as a 6x6 grid with an extra square at each corner. The square in the lower right should be light. Here is what the board looks like:


       +---+                       +---+
   8   |   |                       |:::|
       +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
   7       |   |:::|   |:::|   |:::|
           +---+---+---+---+---+---+
   6       |:::|   |:::|   |:::|   |
           +---+---+---+---+---+---+
   5       |   |:::|   |:::|   |:::|
           +---+---+---+---+---+---+
   4       |:::|   |:::|   |:::|   |
           +---+---+---+---+---+---+
   3       |   |:::|   |:::|   |:::|
           +---+---+---+---+---+---+
   2       |:::|   |:::|   |:::|   |
       +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
   1   |:::|                       |   |
       +---+                       +---+
         a   b   c   d   e   f   g   h

Pieces

Pawn The Pawn (P) moves like a Pawn in Chess, but it has no double move and may not capture en passant. It promotes on the 7th rank, and the player gets the choice of promoting it to a Squire, Bishop, Crusader, or Lady. It may not promote to a Rook or Queen, since these pieces are not used in this game.
Squire The Squire (S) moves two spaces in neighboring compass directions, such as north and north west or south and south east, but not north and north or south and east. When it isn't blocked by any pieces, it has the same power of movement as a Knight. Since a Squire has two paths to any square it can reach, it takes two pieces to block it. This makes it more powerful than the Cavalier in Cavalier Chess, which can be blocked by a single piece. But because it can be blocked, it is weaker than the regular Knight. Although pieces can block the Squire, the edge of the board does not. The Squire may jump over the edge of the board to move into and out of the corner squares.
Bishop The Bishop (B) moves as the Bishop in Chess, any number of spaces in any diagonal direction.
Crusader The Crusader (C) moves like a Squire or Bishop. It is similar to but less powerful than a Paladin in Cavalier Chess.
Lady The Lady (L) moves as a King or Bishop, one space in any direction or any number of spaces diagonally. She moves like the Dragon Horse (promoted Bishop) in Shogi. Loosely based on Joan of Arc, the Lady is a charismatic military leader and vision-inspired idealist who is devoted to the King. Although that doesn't have any bearing on how she moves, it explains why this piece is taking part in a Holywar.
King The King (K) moves as the King in Chess, but it may not castle. Instead of castling, it may swap places with the Lady whenever they are adjacent. They are adjacent whenever the Lady is on a square the King could normally move to. The King may do this any number of times and even when it is in check.
All piece images were made with Armando Hernandez Marroquin's Chess Magnetic font.

Setup and Play

Each player begins with six Pawns on his third rank. This is b3 through g3 for White and b6 through g6 for Red. The other pieces begin off the board.


       +---+                       +---+
   8   |   |                       |:::|
       +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
   7       |   |:::|   |:::|   |:::|
           +---+---+---+---+---+---+
   6       |:p:| p |:p:| p |:p:| p |
           +---+---+---+---+---+---+
   5       |   |:::|   |:::|   |:::|
           +---+---+---+---+---+---+
   4       |:::|   |:::|   |:::|   |
           +---+---+---+---+---+---+
   3       | P |:P:| P |:P:| P |:P:|
           +---+---+---+---+---+---+
   2       |:::|   |:::|   |:::|   |
       +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
   1   |:::|                       |   |
       +---+                       +---+
         a   b   c   d   e   f   g   h


Beginning with White, each player takes turns dropping the rest of his pieces on the squares behind his pawn line. These are the first and second ranks for White and the seventh and eighth ranks for Red. The pieces each player has to drop are 1 King, 1 Lady, 2 Crusaders, 2 Bishops, and 2 Squires. Once each player has placed all his pieces on the board, regular play commences.

White begins, and the game proceeds like regular Chess. The object is the same, to checkmate the King, and the only differences from Chess are the design of the board and the powers of the pieces. I will summarize some of the key differences from Chess below:

  1. Only the Pawns have an initial starting position.
  2. The game begins with each player dropping his remaining pieces on the board behind his Pawn line. White begins, and the players take turns dropping one piece at a time until all pieces are on the board. Regular play commences after this.
  3. The King may not castle.
  4. The King may swap places with the Lady any time they are adjacent.
  5. Pawns have no double move.
  6. Pawns may not capture en passant.
  7. A Pawn promotes on the 7th rank to a Squire, Bishop, Crusader, or Lady.
  8. The Squire, Crusader, and Lady are all new pieces absent in Chess.
Instead of dropping pieces at the beginning, players may also agree on standardized setups. Here are a few suggestions. These are all implemented as variations in the Zillions file I wrote for Holywar.

  • Crusader a1, h1; Squire b2, g2; Bishop c2, f2; Lady d2; King e2
  • Bishop a1, h1; Squire b2, g2; Crusader c2, f2; Lady d2; King e2
  • Squire a1, h1; Bishop b2, g2; Crusader c2, f2; Lady d2; King e2

Equipment

You have different options for the equipment you may use to play this game. Here are some of your options.

A single Chess set

You may play Holywar with a regular Chess board and a regular set of pieces. Using poster board, cardboard, poker chips, checkers, or something else, cover up all of the side squares except for the corner squares. These squares will be unused for the game. Turn your rooks upside down and use them for Crusaders. Turning them upside down is just a reminder that they aren't really Rooks. Use the Knights for Squires and the Queen for the Lady.

Multiple Chess Sets

If you have multiple Chess sets of different designs or sizes, you can use the Bishops or Knights from another set, preferably a larger one, for the Crusaders.

Chess Variation Construction Set

On my website, I have described how to make a Chess Variation Construction Set. With this set, you could make a board out of poster board tiles. I have included there some photographs of a Holywar setup made with this set. A Chess Construction Set will serve you well for this game and for other Chess variations.

Here are some photos of a Holywar game I constructed out of posterboard tiles.

Zillions of Games

I created Holywar by writing a rules file for Zillions of Games. If you own a copy of Zillions, you may download a rules file for playing it on your PC:

The New Pieces

Holywar has three pieces not found in Chess. My inspiration for naming these pieces comes from Ingmar Bergman's film The Seventh Seal and the recent TV miniseries on Joan of Arc. In The Seventh Seal, a knight and his squire come back to Sweden from the Crusades. The knight meets up with Death and plays a game of Chess with him. This is where I got the idea to call two of the pieces Crusader and Squire. In the film, the squire was less religious than the knight. He kept asserting that there was nothing after death, and the knight wanted to believe there was something after death. The more religious knight is the Crusader of the game and, unlike the less religious Squire, can also move like a Bishop.

The Joan of Arc miniseries began with a prophecy from Merlin about a so-called "Lady of Lorraine" who would unite all of France behind one king. The people in France come to believe that Joan of Arc is this Lady of Lorraine, and they often refer to her by that title rather than by her name. I named the Lady piece after the Lady of Lorraine. Joan of Arc allegedly spoke directly with saints and followed a more direct authority than the ecclesiastical. So the Lady is a religious figure outside of the church hierarchy which the Bishops belong to. She is also a military leader who is closely associated with the King. So she moves like a King or a Bishop.

I originally called the Lady the Minister, which can refer to either a head of state, such as a prime minister, or a clergyman. I combined the Bishop and King images to make the piece for Zillions, but it looked so much like a King's crown that I kept making the mistake of thinking it was the King. So I combined the Queen and Bishop images instead. This looked much less like a King, and it also looked to me like a female Christian mystic. So I thought of Joan of Arc and the Lady of Lorraine and found a new name for the piece.


This is an entry in the contest to design a chess variant on a board with 40 squares.
Written by Fergus Duniho
WWW page created: August 4, 1999. Last modified: August 16, 2000.