By David T. Jagger © 2005
Competing entry for Chessvariants 10th Anniversary Contest, 2005.
CHARIOTS, following the 10 theme and played on a 10x10 game board, takes its inspiration from the 10 years siege of Troy. Two enclosed armed camps (one representing a walled city, the other a defended beachhead) face each other within a plain.
The usual chess piece types appear, together with the 'berolina pawn' - called here a 'skirmisher'. Each side has 10 pawns and 10 skirmishers as well as two lots of the 8 usual back-row pieces, which when combined in pairs can offer all 10 possible combinations of the 5 major piece types.
Pieces begin as pairs (which can share or borrow each other's moves) but can separate and recombine at will, even with enemy pieces, which they can drag about with them - as Achilles dragged Hector behind his chariot around the walls of Troy. An important novelty is the ability for pieces to over fly singletons of their own side - making for some interesting ballistics.
A victory can be secured in one of 10 different ways!
Seven consist in eliminating all pieces of a particular type from the opposition army. The piece types double as symbols of certain 'must-haves' (for both sides) needed to survive siege warfare, certain necessities for protection, stability, morale and physical survival. They are: K - the regal house, Q - women, R = the walls/towers/defensive works, B = priests/seers/soothsayers, N = horses/cattle/livestock, P = the popular army, S = transport/communications/spies/alliances.
The eighth type of victory can be secured by occupying one of the two enemy kings' start squares with a knight (the 'wooden horse' or its Trojan equivalent) paired with another friendly piece of any of the 7 types (the troops hidden inside it).
A ninth way to win is to build an altar to Zeus (consisting solely of bishops on otherwise empty squares) upon the 4 central squares of the battlefield.
The tenth and final method is to secure divine intervention via Zeus' thunderbolt - this is done by building a continuously connected (either diagonally or orthogonally) line of your men from one corner to its far opposite, wherein each of the 7 types of piece is represented.
Some of these wins are likely to be far harder to achieve than others!
BASIC MOVES AND CAPTURES
1) The skirmisher's basic move and capture is that of a 'berolina pawn'. It moves one step diagonally forward (in either direction) but captures one step vertically forward. A skirmisher, though, does not have any initial two-step move option.
2) All other piece types have basic moves and captures as for orthodox western chess, though the pawn (like the skirmisher) is restricted to one-step moves.
3) There is no en passant and no castling.
SHARED CELL MOVES AND CAPTURES
4) A man can share a cell with a friend or foe.
5) A cell can never contain more than 2 men in total.
6) A man, in an otherwise empty cell, moves or captures according to its basic move or capture.
7) A man moves or captures as itself or as its cell mate, if friendly.
8) It may move or capture together with its cell mate (even if an enemy) only if there is room to receive them both in the target cell.
9) A move cannot just reverse the effect of the previous move. For instance, if one of your men drags an enemy cell mate somewhere, your opponent cannot on the next move just drag your man straight back again with his, recreating the previous position.
10) Only one man (which must be enemy) may be captured at a time.
11) A capture is optional - you may choose merely to move into an enemy-occupied cell rather than take its occupant.
12) A knight's basic leap move or capture is completely unaffected and remains unchanged.
13) Shared cells (of any kind) cannot be overleapt.
14) Singletons or pairs of the same colour, when moving or capturing, may overleap cells with just a single occupant, but only if it is of their own side.
15) Pairs that consist of men of opposite colours cannot overleap any cells.
16) More than one cell can be overleapt at a time.
17) Overleapt cells do not count towards the steps of a move. So kings, pawns and skirmishers are free to leap continuous lines of singletons of their own side, even when just using their basic moves.
EXAMPLE OF MOVES AND CAPTURES
The above diagram is meant to illustrate movement and capture possibilities for those men underlined in blue. When operating from a pair, men of one side always have identical movement and capturing options, but they may only both be moved into a target cell if there is room to receive them both. When capturing within an enemy pair, either one of the enemy pair could equally well be taken, but never both.
18) Only pawn and skirmisher are promotable.
19) Both men of a promotable pair can promote at once.
20) A pawn or skirmisher (or pair of either or both) arriving at a promotion cell on their side's move can freely promote to any of the 7 piece types (including pawn or skirmisher) - that is they are also individually free to effectively NOT promote. (You may not want to promote if, say, you are short of pawn or skirmisher types.)
21) A player that chooses not to promote his man, or promotes it to pawn or skirmisher, is free later to revisit the promotion rank with it, on a later move of his, and promote (or not promote) it then.
22) A player's pawn or skirmisher arriving at a promotion cell due to his opponent's move, does not then promote. It needs to be re-presented to a promotion cell by the owner himself , if it is to be promoted at all.
23) Check must be given whenever a victory (of whatever type) is threatened next move.
24) If a check is missed, checkmate cannot be delivered that move.
25) All pieces are free to move through check.
YOU ALSO LOSE...
26) if you resign.
27) if you have no legal move left to make.
28) The Greek and Trojan heroes (Paris and Achilles for instance) had their divine protectors. You have too! Zeus rolls back time for you (within the limits of his patience) - you have 10 retractable moves!
29) You may even choose to retract your move 10 times on the same go!
30) But you must choose to retract a move before your next go!
The game begins with the usual striving for small advantages in pawn/skirmisher advancement and exchange, while at the same time opportunities are sought to open up the front for heavier artillery (the paired pieces which can fire bigger bombs - each other). Novel defensive structures become apparent as you get used to using pawn and skirmisher (and other pieces) in tandem.
Don't make the mistake of exaggerating a king's importance. It may be worth exchanging a king for a more powerful enemy piece, especially if you can keep your remaining king paired with a mobile partner. Then again, it may not be!
Firing pawns (of whatever type) to promotion can often earn you a lucrative exchange.
You need to try to reduce your forces uniformly across types - so that all types can be used relatively safely for longer. Even pawns and skirmishers must be looked after. An opponent will often change his point of attack as new piece types become vulnerable.
Nonetheless it may well be a threatened species that wins you the game - emerging rapidly and unexpectedly from cosseting on the sidelines to deliver the coup de grace.
CHARIOTS is highly unusual with its overleaping and novel pawn and skirmisher combinations. Surprising strategies emerge. It repays study and makes a thoroughly rewarding solitaire.
There is little that I can see to alter in CHARIOTS, and it seems to suit its present scale. The overleaping idea could be tried in many existing variants, as well as the use of 'berolina pawns' in combination with ordinary ones.
Some people might prefer to play the game with only one win type - that of taking both kings, say. Check would then only come into play when a side has just one king left.
Similarly it is quite possible to try the game without overleaping, and even without berolina pawns (substituting usual ones) - though of course the character of the game would be completely changed.
The main ideas in CHARIOTS of 'own-side overleaping' and 'move borrowing' were used in games I developed last year for a presumed, forthcoming(?) 45-square contest. The shared-cell idea continues the experiment of last year's game PiRaTeKnIcS. The idea of an initial array of men on an 8x8 board within a larger board derives from my earliest (unpublished) game of Holistic Chess which uses a 14x14 board and also mixes berolina and ordinary pawns.
A chief problem in large board chess design is achieving early contact between the armies. In CHARIOTS (as I did in Holistic Chess) I've set the entire opening array within the 8x8 squared centre. I'd already decided on adopting a paired starting arrangement and trying out 'own side overleaping', but I found initially that, using just paired ordinary pawns, play did not spread sufficiently to the edge cells - there never seemed to be sufficient tempos for this to happen. I figured that the introduction of 'berolina pawns' (my 'skirmishers') would help to spread play wide, but while this worked to some extent, whatever pawn/skirmisher array I used seemed overcomplex, generating a wild melee of unclear interactions.
The root of the problem seemed to be both pawn types' initial 2-step option. I found that removing this, while at the same time putting the armies closer together in the starting array, simplified the pawn/skirmisher interactions yet still allowed the armies to encounter early. It also allowed me to introduce an extra 2 pawns of each type per side, not only conforming nicely to the 10 theme (in terms of pawn numbers) but providing useful additional cover too, against missile attack.
(There was never any danger of either pawn type having any great difficulty in promoting - for, besides the chance of their making swifter progress through overleaping solitary friends, I knew that they could be fired to promotion even more quickly by cell companions who lent them their moves.)
Another basic problem with large board design where you often have extravagantly large and poweful armies, is the tendency for the fight rapidly to become just a series of blunt exchanges with little finesse. This danger is mitigated in CHARIOTS by having capture limited to a single man of the pair, so that although the combined pieces are powerful they cannot obliterate each other all at once. Instead they first become less powerful pieces.
Also, because every piece type is valuable (lose all of one type and you lose the game), you have to look after your army more and more carefully the more it gets reduced. Once you are down to one of a type you have to tread very warily, working out the consequences of each exchange. The perimeter cells can come into their own as refuges for indispensable pieces seeking protection. The abundance of pawns of both types comes to be seen as a benefit, providing shields to thwart an opponent's otherwise all too bludgeoning attacks.
For me, the acid test of an interesting and challenging game is whether, on returning to the board, you know which side's go it is - showing that each tempo is important. Hopefully CHARIOTS is found to pass this test.
I was hard pressed to come up with a name for this game until CHARIOTS emerged as the blindingly obvious choice.
They used chariots at Troy, the initial array even looks like the 2 wheels of a chariot, and the pairs of men could even be thought of as paired like charioteer and warrior upon their chariot. And, of course, too, my little logo suddenly presented itself, apt for the anniversary.
Anyone is welcome to try to make a Courier set or Zillions game for CHARIOTS.
I've distilled this game from several ideas within others of my games, some still unpublished - but I'm sure there have been other less conscious influences, some no doubt drawn from the pages of D. B. Pritchard's magnificent encyclopedia ( V. R. Parton springs to mind), or the web pages of Chess Variants itself. If you know of anything which resembles CHARIOTS in any major respect please let me know here with a comment.
Written by David Jagger. Webpage made by Tony Quintanilla. Webpage made: April 30, 2005. Last modified: May 7, 2005.