The Chess Variant Pages

Pawns Chess

Not to be confused with "The Pawn's Game" (a.k.a. Legal's Game), where white gets 8 extra pawns instead of a Queen).

This game was inspired by a chess set where all the pawns were represented by unique individualized pieces. My thought was that it would be interesting to have each pawn be unique in terms of its abilities. For balance, I decided not to try to have pawns be unique across both sides of the board, just for one side. I also rejected giving each piece a unique ability, so that no two pieces would be the same (although that also might be an interesting variant).

So, one approach would be to give each pawn a variant of the standard pawn move. One pawn might be a Berolina pawn, another a slightly different variation, etc. While this might make an interesting variant, it wasn't what I had in mind. I wanted each pawn to have a somewhat more unusual ability. The difficulty was in coming up with abilities that were interesting, yet didn't make the pawns as (or more) valuable than the rest of the chess pieces. The pawn should still be more expendable than the other pieces.

In any case, here is what I've come up with. As usual, it hasn't been play tested, although if anyone would like to play a game I'm always willing. I'd even be open for a "You help playtest my game, I'll help playtest your game" deal.

The Pawns

All pawns retain their orthodox chess movement, capturing and promotion abilities unless stated otherwise. Each pawn has its own unique abilities as specified below.

The Heroic Pawn

Hero (Ph): May make a sacrifice capture. This capturing move must be a Queen or Knight move. The Hero is removed from the board after making the capture. The Hero may promote to a King, but only if the promotion occurs while the existing King is in check or checkmate. When the Hero promotes to King, the existing King is removed from its current position and replaces the promoted Hero.

If at the end of a player's turn the Hero is in a position where it could capture the opposing King with a "heroic" capture, the owning player must decide whether the Hero will threaten check via a sacrifice ("heroic check"). If yes, then the Hero is removed after the opposing player has escaped check. If not, then the Hero is not threatening check and may remain after the opposing player's move.

A player may not move their King into "heroic check".

The Berserker Pawn

Berserker (Pb): Makes a sequence of captures in one move. After the capture, if there is another capture that can be made from the Berserker's new position, then that capture must be made. This continues until the Berserker captures into a position where there is no piece available to be captured. The Berserker captures friendly as well as enemy pieces. If the Berserker has the opportunity to capture an enemy piece, it must do so.

Note the Berserker is not (on the first capture) required to capture friendly pieces. It is only on the 2nd and subsequent captures (called "berserker captures") that the Berserker is required to capture, even if the capture is a friendly piece. Note that if a Berserker is in a position where more than one capture is possible, it is the owning player's choice which capture is made.

If the Berserker promotes as the result of a berserker capture, it must promote to a Berserker Knight, which must then continue berserker captures if possible.

Note that it is possible that the Berserker could be forced to capture its own King. This of course results in an especially disgraceful loss for the player who killed their own King!

The Spying Pawn

Spy (Ps): The Spy is invisible to enemy pieces until it makes a capture or threatens check. From that point on the spy functions as a orthodox chess pawn. When invisible, this piece does not block enemy pieces (they move over it as if it were not there). It does however block friendly pieces. If an enemy piece moves into the same square as the Spy, then the spy is moved to any empty adjacent square (the player owning the Spy chooses). If there are no empty adjacent squares, then the Spy is considered captured. The adjacent empty square may *not* be a promotion square.

Since the Spy is sneaky, and should be able to sneak around enemy pieces, it moves and captures as a Berolina pawn instead of as a usual chess pawn. A Berolina pawn moves (non-capturing) one square forward diagonally, and captures one square forward orthogonally (i.e. the square directly in front of it). Once the Spy is "discovered" it moves as a orthodox chess pawn.

The Healing Pawn

Healer (Pe): Any friendly piece captured in a square that is adjacent to the Healer may be healed and placed into an empty square (adjacent to the Healer) on the player's next turn. This counts as the player's move. A healed pawn may not be placed into a promotion square. Note that the Healer cannot heal two turns in a row. The King may not be healed (i.e. the King is not immune to check when it is adjacent to the Healer). The Hero may not be healed after making its sacrifice capture.

The Mercenary Pawn

Mercenary (Pm): May capture or move into any adjacent square forward.

   +---+---+---+
   | * | * | * |
   +---+---+---+
   |   |Pm |   |
   +---+---+---+
   |   |   |   |    * = capture or move
   +---+---+---+

The Horseman Pawn

Horseman (Pr): May make Knight moves (non-capturing), but in the forward direction only. May only promote to a Knight.

The Guard Pawn

Guard (Pg): May capture into any diagonally adjacent square. May move (non-capturing) one square orthogonally. Guards do not promote. When the Guard is in a home square (i.e. any square in the owning player's first two rows), it moves and captures like a King.

   +---+---+---+
   | x | . | x |
   +---+---+---+
   | . |Pg | . |
   +---+---+---+   . = move (non-capture only)
   | x | . | x |   x = capture only
   +---+---+---+

The Archer Pawn

Archer (Pa): May capture a piece that is two squares away directly forward from the Archer. The Archer remains in its square (i.e. does not physically move). This move is not blocked by any intervening piece.

   +---+---+---+
   |   | ! |   |
   +---+---+---+
   |   |   |   |
   +---+---+---+  ! = capture only using arrow
   |   |Pa |   |
   +---+---+---+

The Archer may also make the above move after moving one square directly forward.

   +---+---+---+
   |   | ! |   |
   +---+---+---+
   |   |   |   |
   +---+---+---+
   |   | . |   |  ! = capture only using arrow
   +---+---+---+  . = move (non-capture only)
   |   |Pa |   |
   +---+---+---+

The Archer may not make an "Archer" move two turns in a row (he must have time to reload his arrow!).

Initial Setup

   +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
 8 | r | n | b | q | k | b | n | r |
   +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
 7 |pa |pe |ps |pm |ph |pb |pr |pg |
   +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
 6 |   |   |   |   |   |   |   |   |
   +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
 5 |   |   |   |   |   |   |   |   |
   +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
 4 |   |   |   |   |   |   |   |   |
   +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
 3 |   |   |   |   |   |   |   |   |
   +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
 2 |Pa |Pe |Ps |Pm |Ph |Pb |Pr |Pg |
   +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
 1 | R | N | B | Q | K | B | N | R |
   +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
     a   b   c   d   e   f   g   h  

Written by David Howe.
WWW page created: August 31, 1998.