The Chess Variant Pages




Wand Chess

INDEX:

Introduction

Anybody who has played Nethack will know where I got the idea for this!

A random number generator is required to play this game; a pair of ordinary dice can be used.

This game is a nifty idea, and seems to be quite playable; but it is a bit complicated, and it requires a bit of bookkeeping.

Of course, you could play Progressive Wand Chess with different armies on a trapdoor earthquake board; the Wand rule is the type of rule that can easily be combined with other games. Why you would wand to is another question....

Basic Premise

In addition to its normal powers, every piece or Pawn has a wand; instead of making a move, it can zap the wand at any neighboring square, or at itself.

There are several wands with different effects, and until you zap a wand at an occupied square you do not know which wand each piece has. Furthermore, every wand always has a chance to misfire, which simply wastes your move and destroys the wand.

Some wands have good effects, and you would prefer to zap them at friendly pieces; most wands have bad effects, and it makes you happy to zap enemy pieces with these wands.

Formal Rules

For the purists, here are the rules of Wand Chess in "legal" form:
  • The rules of Wand Chess are the same as the rules of FIDE chess, with the following exceptions: (this time there is more than one rule!)
  • Every piece starts the game with a wand of unknown power.
  • Instead of making a normal move, a piece may zap its wand at any neighboring square or at itself.
  • The first time a wand is zapped at an occupied square, a random number is generated to decide what kind of wand it is. (Zapping a wand at an empty square wastes a move without identifying the wand.)

    Each of the following wands has an equal chance of being identified:

    1. Teleport: The piece on the target square is teleported away to a location of your choice.
    2. Death: The piece on the target square is removed from the board.
    3. Sleep: The target cannot move for 5 turns; after that, it wakes up and is normal again.

      Before then, a wand of healing could wake it up.

      Whether a piece is normal speed, fast, or slow, it must sleep for 5 turns in every case.

      A sleeping piece does not give check until it is ready to move.

    4. Stoning: The target becomes a statue for 10 turns: it cannot move, but cannot be captured and is immune to the effects of all wands. After that, it wakes up and is normal again.

      There is no cure for this, you have to wait ten turns.

      Stoning is not necessarily bad. Sometimes you might want to stone your own King.

      A statue does not give check until it is ready to move.

    5. Sloth: The target becomes slow. When it moves or zaps, it must wait three moves before it can move or zap again. This condition is permanent, unless the target is zapped with a wand of Speed or Healing. If the target is already slow, zapping a wand of Sloth at it has no further effect.

      A slothful piece does not give check until it is ready to move.

    6. Polymorph: The target changes to some other kind of piece, possibly the same kind it already is. The probability of becoming each kind of piece is proportional to the representation of that piece in the initial position of the game.

      There is a 50% chance of becoming a Pawn; failing that, there is a 25% chance of becoming a R, N, B, or royal; if royal, there is a 50% chance of becoming a King, 50% Queen. (Phrased this way to make it easy to do with dice).

      If you have no King, you have lost the game; if you have two Kings, you can ignore check (until one of them is captured, of course).

      Polymorphing is permanent, and cannot be reversed.

    7. Demotion: King becomes Queen; Q becomes Rook; R becomes B; B becomes N; N becomes P; P is dead.

      Demotion is permanent, and cannot be reversed.

    8. Peace: The target loses all ability to capture.

      Pacifism is permanent, but can be reversed by a wand of Healing.

    9. Sickness: the target dies three turns later, unless it is zapped by a wand of Healing.

    10. Speed: the target becomes fast. It can move twice in one turn, or it can move once and then a different fast piece can move once.

      HOWEVER, capturing a normal or slow piece takes a whole move -- a fast piece can't capture and retreat, or capture twice. This rule was added for play balance, to keep fast pieces from being too strong.

      Unless its victim is also fast! A fast piece can capture two fast pieces in one move, or can capture one fast piece and retreat. Sample position: White has Ke4, Black has Ke6; if both Kings are fast, whoever moves can capture the other King (somebody made an illegal move, otherwise this position could not have happened); but if only one King is fast, neither King can capture the other. This rule was added for play balance, so that there is some disadvantage to being fast.

      But Wait!
      Sample position: White has Ke4, Black has Ke6, White's K is fast, Black's King has an unidentified wand. Black to play zaps his wand at himself, and if it turns out to be a wand of Speed, White can play Ke4-e5:e6!!

      If the target is already fast, zapping a wand of Speed at it has no further effect.

      Speed is permanent, but can be reversed by a wand of Sloth.

    11. Protection: the target becomes immune to the effects of all wands.

      Protection is permanent, and cannot be reversed.

    12. Healing: if a piece is sick, slow, asleep, or peaceful, a wand of Healing restores it to normal.

    Note: there are 12 wands, and if you are rolling dice you should roll one for even/odd to decide if it's wand 1-6 or wand 7-12, and then roll the other die to choose which wand.

    Note: there are no guarantees. You could have a game in which all your pieces have Wands of Death, but this is less likely than winning the Lottery.

  • When an identified wand is zapped, there is one chance in three that it will misfire; misfiring destroys the wand, has no effect on the target, and uses up your move.
  • If you have no King, you have lost the game; it's okay if your King is a statue. If you have two Kings, you can ignore Check. If you give checkmate, the game is over (an important rule if your King is sick!).
  • Pieces that cannot move because they are Stoned, Slothful, or Sleepy cannot zap wands. Pieces that cannot move because they are stalemated can zap their wands.
  • If you have no other moves, you must zap a wand. If you have no moves, and have no wands, the game is over, stalemate. Stalemate caused by Sloth is interesting.
  • Timers on White pieces run out after White moves; timers on Black pieces run out after Black moves. This relates to Sickness, Sloth, Sleep, and Stoning.

Notation

Notation is important, because people like to be able to write down the moves they made and think about them afterwards, and talk about them, and so on.

Notation for Zapping a Wand

Use the letter Z as though it were the name of a piece, write the move as a capture, and put the name of the wand's effect in parentheses after the move.

Example: 1. e4 e5 2. Ze4:e4 (polymorph = Queen); White's Pe4 zaps its wand at itself; it turns out to be a wand of polymorph, and the lucky Pawn becomes a Queen!

Notation for Timers Running Out

Square brackets, and a separate line for each event, for example:
47.  Ne4-f6             Nf8-g6
48.  Nf6-d5
     [Qd3 dies from Sickness]
     [Ra4 wakes from Sloth]
                        Ng6-f4
                        [Ke8 wakes from Stoning]

Strategy Ideas

Stoning is not necessarily bad. Sometimes you might want to stone your own King.

Identifying

Each wand has three shots on average; but the first shot, you con't know what kind of wand it will be. Most wands have bad effects, so you want to zap them at enemy pieces. So you zap an enemy Pawn, and it polymorphs into a Queen; you might not lose the game -- luck will tend to equal out.

When you zap the enemy Queen, and your wand turns out to be a wand of Speed, expect it to be a Speedy game.

Zap or Move

You have to find the right balance between zapping and making normal moves. Normal moves can be quite powerful; don't be so obsessed with zapping wands that you overlook checkmate!

I want there to be a good balance between normal play and wand play, and have tried to provide this by having unidentified wands, whose powers may be both good and bad, combined with a small number of zaps for each wand and a short-range wand effect.

Discovered Attacks

A new tactical element is introduced by the fact that pieces can disappear (sick and dying) or suddenly come to life (stoned, slothful, or sleeping).

Variants

When a piece is captured, the capturing piece could be able to take the victim's wand. Likewise, when a piece is killed by wand of death, or by sickness, its wand could stay on the floor until another piece moves there and picks it up. I rejected this because of the extra difficulty of keeping track of so many wands.

If you have a moderator available, by all means try this with a Wand of Invisibility.

A Wand of Nothing would simply waste a move; a Wand of Lightning would blow up enemy wands, leaving the target piece unhurt. A Wand of Reflection would coat the target piece with a shimmering silvery shield that not only protects against wands, but reflects them back at their shooter.


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