The Chess Variant Pages

Heraldic Chess Review


Pronunciation: 'her-&l-drE
Function: noun
Inflected Form(s): plural -ries
Date: 1572
1 : the practice of devising, blazoning, and granting armorial insignia and of tracing and recording genealogies
2 : an armorial ensign; broadly : INSIGNIA

(From Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary)

Heraldic Chess (designed and created by Modest Solans) takes the anonymity out of chess. Each piece is unique, bishops, rooks, knights -- even the lowly pawns can be differentiated by their heraldic design (in this case simply a color). To make use of this uniqueness, players may use cards or dice which may determine that a particular piece must move, or if a piece of a particular color must move.

In one of my weekly chess variant matches with Fergus Duniho, I brought this set along with me, and we played several games of Heraldic Chess. All our games were played with "cards in hand" rules. We started out with eleven cards per hand, which proved to be a bit much. Fergus also noted that there was no easy way to get rid of 'useless' cards (ie. cards which could no longer be used due to pieces being captured).

In our second game we reduced the hand size to six cards, and Fergus thought up the following rule:

If a card cannot be used in its normal way, then the player has the option of using it to move any piece of the indicated type, or any piece of the indicated color. If the player still is unable to use the card, then the player may use the card to move any piece.

This rule helped keep cards in play, and turned out to work fairly well.

At some point, I thought up the idea of playing Heraldic Chessgi, but after some thought I concluded that doing so would be very difficult with only one set. Fergus then came up with the idea of playing Heraldic Hostage Chess, since Hostage Chess only requires one chess set. This turns out to work quite well in that cards don't become useless due to pieces being captured. You must use a card to rescue a hostage piece. It can get complicated if you play with Fergus' other rule dealing with useless cards.

Hans Bodlaender also came up with the idea of Heraldic Extinction Chess, which I haven't tried yet, but which looks like fun also.

On the whole, I found this game to be a lot of fun -- less random than chess with dice, but still having a significant element of luck. I recommend this game to anyone with an adventuresome attitude toward chess. Also this is a nice looking set (as you can see by the photo), and would make a nice decorative set.

Written by David Howe. Web page posted by David Howe.
WWW page created: 1 Dec 2000. Last modified on: 1 Dec 2000.