The Chess Variant Pages




Duggan's Fantasy Chess (revised)

by Sean Duggan

Introduction

The original Duggan's Fantasy Chess was devised somewhere back in the early 1990's. For some reason, I got it in my mind to create a variant of Chess based upon fantasy figures. I seem to remember that my main inspiration was a cartoon in DragonMirth, a page in the then-popular Dragon magazine. It showed a cavalier and a barbarian sitting at a chess board where every piece was toppled but for one Pawn. The cavalier is yelling, "There is no such thing as a Berserker Pawn!" And so I had to create something where the Pawns could berserk. I submitted my rules to Fergus over Usenet and the variant entered history. Over a decade later, I decided to implement it in Zillions of Games and realized how bad the game was. There were several initial moves that guaranteed checkmate unless the opponent made specific precautions in moving their pieces. In addition, a few of the pieces got updated moves that increased or decreased their power. And so, now that I feel that the game runs fairly decently, I am submitting an updated version. *wry grin* Ironically, the very inspiration, berserking, never made it back in, although that was partly due to some engine constraints.

Board and Setup

Same as FIDE chess. 8x8 board of alternating squares.

Pieces and Piece Movement

Golem (Rook) A lumbering hulk of stone that crushes those in his path regardless of their side, The Golem is a special case in more than one manner. For one, he is extremely hard to kill, being only able to be killed by the move of a Mercenary, a Commander, or an Adept. Secondly, he may kill multiple pieces in one move. Lastly, he can kill pieces of his own side. The Golem has 8 possible moves, 4 diagonal ones and 4 horizontal or vertical ones. He may move 2 spaces diagonally or 3 spaces horizontally or vertically. Capturing follows the rule that the Golem may only move to a space if there are either no pieces in the way or if there is a piece on the space where he lands. In the latter case, he takes all pieces in his path, friendly or not. The Golem cannot put his own Adept in check, but he may not make a move that would capture his Adept in the process. He can, of course, check the other side's Adept. Golems may not capture other Golems.

Mercenary (Pawn) A Mercenary is fairly analogous to a Pawn. He has one non-capturing move and three potentially capturing moves. For his move, a Mercenary can move one step forward as long as no piece is occupying that space, two steps if he is still on the 2nd rank of his side. If the Mercenary is being threatened by any piece that could capture him next turn, including one of his own (Golem), he may instead take one step to his left, to his right, or forward, capturing in the process. This move may capture the Golem piece. If a Mercenary lands on the final rank, he is promoted to an Archer, a Bishop, or a Commander.

Archer (Knight) The Archer has a fairly unusual form of movement, but a fairly simple one. The archer moves by going n spaces in one direction horizontal, vertical, or diagonal, then n spaces perpendicular to the first direction. He may not jump over any pieces. He may capture any enemy piece at the ending square of his move. It might be noted that the Archer never leaves the color he starts on.

Bishop (Bishop) The Bishop acts in all ways like his FIDE counterpart, moving any number of squares diagonally on his move, capturing at its end. It, like the Archer, is color-bound.

Commander (Pawn with a counter beneath it) This is the promoted version of a Mercenary. A Commander may move one space horizontally or vertically, capturing in the process is there is an enemy piece on the square. If a Commander reaches the first rank, he may promote to an Archer, Assassin, Golem, or Bishop. Alternately, he may choose not to promote at all. A Commander retains the Mercenary's ability to kill Golems.

Assassin (Queen) The Assassin is a rather deadly teleporting foe. For her move, she may either teleport to an unoccupied square or make a capturing move. Her capturing move is similar to that of a King in FIDE chess, one square horizontally, vertically, or diagonally. This piece is extraordinarily powerful in its ability to attack undefended pieces and the players may wish to play with one of the alternate variants which reduce the Assassin's power.

Adept (King) This is the piece which decides the game. If the Adept is captured, the game is over. The Adept moves like the FIDE king, one step in any direction, capturing any pieces occupying that square. The Adept may kill enemy Golems.

Rules

Basically the same as FIDE Chess. Players take turns moving one piece at a time, trying to checkmate the opponent's king. There is no castling or en passant.

Variants

Cornered Assassin - Teleporting takes a presence of mind unavailable when under the threat of imminent death. The Assassin may not make her teleporting move if she is threatened by an enemy piece. Capturing moves are unaffected.

Cowardly Assassin - The Assassin is insecure and needs affirmation. She may only teleport to a square defended by a friendly piece. This includes her own Golems but not those of the enemy.

Game Tips and Strategy

Wry grin. Still trying to figure these out. However, while playing the computer, I've found a few things that may help.

  • Assassins are extremely valuable pieces, even in their variant forms. An Assassin can almost instantly capitalize on any undefended piece within a move or so. However, she can only strike undefended targets with impunity, so be careful.

  • Golems are powerful pieces, able to strike directly through lines of defense and safe from reprisal by many of the pieces. This, however, is balanced out by their inability to attack unless their ending square is occupied. They make ideal blocking pieces, as few pieces can defeat them.

  • Mercenary promotion doesn't seem to happen very often. Commander promotion even more seldom. Generally, they're only used to seal end-games.

  • Mercenaries of the same color that are side-by-side protect each other.

  • Archers cover a fairly wide field of possible squares, but can be easily blocked. On the other hand, their roundabout movement is often overlooked by human opponents.

  • Beware of checkmates by a Golem in early stages of your game. An Adept surrounded by defenders cannot move out of the way and interposed pieces won't stop the Golem.

Other Notes

  • Endgames can take forever in this game. Most pieces have a fairly limited threat range, with only the Bishop having a long-distance sliding move.

  • Caution is rewarded in the early moves. A small mistake can often be easily capitalized upon using the Golem or Assassin.

  • The game is still not at the level of Chess, but it's playable.

Computer Applications

There is a Zillions rules implementation of the game. (See below.)


Web Page by Sean Duggan.
WWW page created: March 8th, 2004.