Eugen Laukamp (email removed contact us for address) t.uni-c.dk has sent me the rules of two chess variants, or Chessoids, as he calls them, called SuperPawn, and NeutronChess. One is invented by himself; the other was invented by a friend. Both are quite complex chess variants, with elaborate rules.
Below, you find Eugens description of these two games, with some small editing done by Hans Bodlaender.
The Chessoids came into being as a consequence of knowledge gained from early and latter attempts to make my own classification of the boardgame families, as well as my own analysis of what the structural similarities was between those members of the chess-family, that I knew at the time.
With any friend that I could get interested, I made an attempt to dissect and classify any structure or item that I could identify, even inventing names such as retroomnigonal to quickly describe for myself what I meant (in case you wonder: retro is a term relevant to the base of the board, while omni, meaning all, describes the possible moves of a Queen. Thus it would relate to both the two diagonals going "backward" as well as the orthogonal line going "backward"). Those were some of the "tools" for inventing Chessoids.
What the inspiration were, is harder to say; it could be such commonly known chess-variants as Cylinder-chess (where you theoretically join the a-file of the board to the h-file, to play on a cylinder), or "Bughouse", known in my country (Denmark) as "Indian-" or "Baby-"chess (where two players with two ordinary chessboards and different colours, form a side who plays another. Any piece taken from an opponent can then be entered instead of an ordinary move, subject to various local rules. Quite similar to the rule in Shogi). It could also be my discovery of fairy-chess. I can't remember if that was a trigger or just an enhancement. But I know that it were the pieces and the boards that interested me, not the fairy-problems.
I have been interested in asymmetrical games forever (and frustrated by any attempt to make a perfect one in a boardgame). SuperPawn is not a truly asymmetrical game (as I define it, the lay-out would be different for both sides, the number of pieces different, the values and possible some of the rules), but it has some asymmetrical features; the pieces has the same corresponding values on both sides, but they are slightly different in structure. The main pieces and the "pawns" are divided into a number of style/value groups and the players each generate a secret selection and setup behind a screen, where they have to select a fixed number of pieces from each style/value group and place them on preordained rows, but otherwise only according to their own design.
SuperPawn has been modified many times, as my taste grew more refined. The present version is from 1993.
It was invented in the mid-seventies by a good friend I had then, René Boyle, shortly before we lost touch, due to moving about. To my knowledge it was never played, before the early nineties when I had a second look at it, and designed a set of pieces for it (I also made a small addition to a rule). It turned out to be one of the most smashing and original Chessoids I have ever come across. He had married a slightly changed set of chesspieces to the basic formula of the Hierarchical game family (the one with Stratego). The basic Hierarchical idea is that the pieces is placed in a value-hierarchy towards each other, where a piece can take an opposing piece of the same or lower value. Usually it goes in a ring, so that the weakest piece can take the strongest. However, this basic idea does not state how many values should exist, how many pieces in each value, what the value consist of, etc etc.. And these are the concepts he has played with.
In order to describe the pieces and their moves, without drawings, I would like to establish a few conventions: Any piece described is described in relation to the base of the board on its own side:
All my actual pieces (except for jumping pieces like a knight, and specialised pieces like Canon and Nightrider) are based on an eight-armed standing figurine*. For descriptive purposes we'll number the arms like an eight-hour clock, with the number eight on top. (Arm 8 would be pro-orthogonal. Arm 3 and 5 retro-diagonal).
If it has thick arms, it is a major piece, like a Queen. If it has thin arms it is a "minor" piece, and can only go from one to a few steps at a time, like a King. To make a minor piece, like for instance the "Gold general" from Shogi, we simply remove arms number 3 and 5 from a figurine with thin arms. A Rook is a figurine with the thick arms 1, 3, 5 and 7 removed.
Any figurine with thin arms is stipulated to be able to go only 1 square along any remaining arm. We will call those 1,0 2,0 3,0 and so on (for all practical purposes however, the ,0 will be mute). If a piece with thin arms can go more than 1 square along one or more of its arms, the arm on the figurine would have extra lengths of "arm" attached to it. For descriptive purposes however, we'll call them 8,1 8,2 8,3 and so on. The reason I stress this, is because I use a simple colour-coding system to describe what each arm is capable of. And each arm may have different capabilities for each step (or square). The base of the figurine is always made a bit substantial, for weight, but also because the colour of it describes the side. Blue for one side, and red for the other, has turned out to work well.
The colourcodes of the arms of red is as follows:
Red = movement only.
Gold = taking only.
White = moving and taking.
Black = Is used for very complex arms (none in SuperPawn or NeutronChess).
The colourcodes of the arms of blue is as follows:
Blue = movement only.
Silver = taking only.
Yellow = moving and taking.
Light green = Is used for very complex arms (none in SuperPawn or NeutronChess).
The values of the different pieces is calculated by counting the maximum squares covered by that piece at its most favourable position on the board. This is done as a double-count where the hypothetical number of squares covered when taking, is added to the hypothetical number of squares covered when moving. It is therefore possible to field quite different pieces on each side, that nevertheless have corresponding values. Since I have had to play ordinary people with no special interest in exotic variants, I have tried to exercise as much restraint as I could.
Is played on a Tamerlane-chessboard. This is one of the ancient Big-chess forms. It measures 10x11 squares, with an extra square, the Citadel, placed where b0 and i12 would be. (Note that the board is obtained by rotating the board, as used with Tamerlane chess 90 degrees.) The rows with 10 squares face each player, and for reasons of notes we name them "a" to "j". For the same reasons we call the files; 1 to 11. There are no Kings in Superpawn. The game is won when one player succeed in placing a piece in the opponents Citadel. The players are not allowed to enter their own Citadels with any piece. Generally the more defensive major- and minor pieces has been allocated the Blue player. They have the same value however. For this reason Blue always begins. Unless otherwise stated the basic rules of any chessvariant is valid.
There are four groupings of pieces in SuperPawn:
Each has the value 7 (see value above). Each has a serial-number, (I usually write it in the base of the piece), that are used to separate it from other ants in other games, with other values. The last digit in the serial-number, is used in the notes to separate the chosen ants from each other. Although the serial-number does not differentiate between blue and red ants, they don't duplicate.Generally the more defensive Ants has been chosen for blue. See also the notes on "colour-coding" above.
The "Superpawns" is assembled of just four riders, and just three jumpers. I will therefore describe those separately. Each of the superpawns is a rider-mover and a jumper-taker or vice-versa:
The riders that make one half of the Hunter/Mover-pieces in SuperPawn have clerical names as they can all be seen as strengthened Bishops. Two off them are half Bishop, half Rook. Since the symbol of the Rook is a castle, these riders have been given clerical names from fortified orders. As for the Ants, the actual pieces are represented by a standing figurine*. This one a double one with thick arms. It has the Mover at the bottom (near to the base), and the Hunter on top. Description as for the ants, except that all arms are the same colour: If it is a Mover it has the same colour as the base; and if it's a Hunter they are all gold (for the red player) and silver (for the blue player). See the notes on colour-coding:
Lama (LA): Missing arms: 1-4 and 7.
Prior (PR): Missing arms: 2-6 and 8.
Abbot (AB): Missing arms: 3-5 and 8.
Kardinal (KA): Missing arms: 2-4 and 6.
If the jumper is of the same type as a knight, I give them a figurine
symbol*, that represents 1/4 of its move-potential:
For the Knight this is "Y". If you let the base be at the intersection of a + and repeated the symbol on all four arms, you would get the full move-potential:
Knight (NI): Symbol: Y. Like a knight in orthodox chess.
Tarantula (TA): Symbol: Two Y's, one on top of the other. Instead of jumping 1 square orthogonally + 1 square diagonally, like a Knight, it can chose between going 1 OR 2 orthogonally, before adding 1 diagonally.
The third jumper is different:
Spider (SP): Symbol: 2! : The symbol says it all!: The Spider can jump to any square that has one empty square between it's new and old square.
All movers are mentioned first. NIPR therefore means Knight mover / Prior taker:
Group one: Blue has to choose two and discard one: LATA-ABSP-PRSP.
Group two: Blue has to choose two and discard one: SPLA-SPPR-TALA.
Group three: Blue must choose AND discard one: PRNI-LANI.
Group four: Blue must choose AND discard one: NIAB-NIPR.
Group one: Red must choose two and discard one: LASP-KATA-ABTA.
Group two: Red must choose two and discard one: SPAB-TAAB-TAKA.
Group three: Red must choose AND discard one: ABNI-KANI.
Group four: Red must choose AND discard one: NIKA-NILA.
The last group of two pieces. They both move and take like Queens.Their figurines are "normal" symbol-pieces (where you have to know what the symbol represents, as opposed to the aforementioned "Picturines", where the symbols "tells" you how the piece moves). They manipulate the dead pieces. One, the Sexton (Gravedigger) "buries" them altogether.It's symbol is a skull. The other one, the Mortician, can "take" a dead piece, who must then be placed on any free square, by the player, in the same move (free move). They have no effect on anything but dead pieces. It's symbol is a sandwatch where all the sand has nearly run out. They can of course be taken by any Ant or Major piece.
These have been mentioned above.
*) I have put the star at several places where the pieces were mentioned. That is because I thought it might be interesting to know for some people how to make them. I have developed them over many years, and I think that they are close to ideal now in their concept: You see: I've had to play people a lot of times, who were just ordinary chess-players, and not fans. And that makes them very impatient when it comes to learning complex rules(and remembering complex pieces, where they had only some symbol to remember them by). I thought some of the other people, reading your pages, might have had similar problems. Forced by this pressure I gradually invented a kind of pictogram, that informs you about most of its structure at a glance. The pictogram then made it possible to differentiate the arms (directions) in a way that would be very impractical in a traditional symbolic piece. And they work extremely well. Let me tell you how to make them:
I make all my pieces out of the same plastic that they use for model . That makes it possible to make them lightweight, yet strong. And I always use some mass-manufactured product (Which I'm always on the look-out for) because the come in more slick and attractive shapes, than I could possibly make myself:
The major pieces are made of a piece of plastic that are used as a spacer between tiles, when making bathrooms. But be careful! They come in several kinds of plastic, and not all can be glued by that fantastic model cement. However, when you find the right kind, it is very inexpensive, and yet attractive. It is also very easy to cut and reassemble with the aforementioned glue, and some practice. When you buy it, the shape is like an "x" or "+", depending how you turn it and that ought to tell you all you need to know. If not, then just ask me.
The Ants are made of two McDonald coffee-swizzle sticks, who are cemented together.A bit of the stem is left as a body for the picturegram. All parts that are not needed, is removed with an electronics cutter. These make a straight, clean cut with one side of the beak. If only the stem is removed from the other side, we have a six-armed pictogram figurine left (the missing arms are # 2 & 6) who are very elegant to look at, with flowing curves, almost Jugend-style. If the arms 2 & 6 has to be added, one just takes them from an extra swizzle-stick. Any thinkable ant, can be made out of the basic figure. Other minor pieces can be made from the aforementioned spacers, if one is lucky enough to find it in one of the smaller versions. They are a bit rare in that size, so one has to be persistent!
The base is very important. It has to have some bulk, because the colour of it tells of the ownership, and if its not bulky enough, the colour used in the arms can become too dominant, and make the pieces look kitchy, instead of effective. The bases can be made from a lot of different objects, as long as it is that same model-airplane plastic. If one can afford it, layered, glued-together pokerchips, in varying sizes, make the bases look very attractive. Note that the glue, while bonding almost immediately, only gains its full strength after about 24 hours!
The dead pieces can be easily made by separating the little spoon, from the McDonald swizzle-sticks, and removing all traces of the stem. It is then glued on to a round plastic-jeton, only slightly larger. A piece of one arm of one of the tile-spacers is then glued on at the broad end, as a tiny tombstone. The tombstone is left white, when painting the spoon brown, and the jeton green. And voila!: A tiny grave with newly turned dirt! (Very Gothic!).
NeutronChess is played on a regular chess-board (8x8). It can be won in four different ways:
The pieces are divided into three different groups. Each group will be described separately below, with the focus on how each group reacts to each of the opponents three groups:
Organic pieces can do absolutely nothing against enemy Screen-pieces.
If a Screen-piece decontaminates a square (=would be able to go to that square) next to a Radioactive piece, it cannot go there itself, but allows an Organic piece to go there: Should the Organic piece do so, it would force the Radioactive piece to move, since Organic- and Radioactive pieces are not allowed to occupy adjacent squares for more than a half-move. Should the square be adjacent to more than one Radioactive piece, the opponent must move one of them (of his own choice, unless the Organic king is put in check at the same time) away, while the rest dies, and are removed from the game (this forced move is a very essential part of the game).
They can do absolutely nothing to each other!
Screen-pieces can't do anything to Organic pieces either!
THE ORGANIC ANTS have the value 12 (see "value" under "Description - conventions"). It's a pictogram-figurine with the thin arms 2 and 6 removed. The arms are white (see "colourcode","eight-armed standing figurine" and "thick arms-thin arms", under "Description - conventions"). The Red and the Blue player have six each, that are placed on the rows b3-g3, and b6-g6.
Ants do not promote.
THE ORGANIC FLEA has the choice of one or two squares orthogonally. It may jump. It has the same symbol as a rook; "+" except for a dot in the intersection to indicate that it's a jumper. The Red and Blue player has two each, placed on b1, g1, b8 and g8.
THE ORGANIC CRICKET is exactly like the Organic flea in all things, except that it moves diagonally instead of orthogonally. The Red and Blue player has two each, placed on c1, f1, c8 and f8.
THE ORGANIC NIGHTKING is a combination of a Knight and a King (from orthodox chess). Except that the "King"-part only moves like a King. Other than that, the piece has no royal powers(no risk of it being mated). The player is free to choose between the two. It's symbol is an eight-armed figure with thin arms, nested in the arms of a "Y" (see the symbol for the Knight in SuperPawn). The Red and Blue player has two each, placed on b2, g2, b7 and g7.
THE ORGANIC KING is just like a King in orthodox chess.Plus it's organic properties, as they were explained under each group above. See also the victory conditions in "NeutronChess part one", as the Organic king figures prominently in three of the four victory-possibilities. The Red Organic king starts on d8 and the Blue Organic king on e1 (note that they do not mirror each other)! NOTE: There are two special rules for the Organic king that is unique to it:
It is the mating situation, that has gotten total precedence by René !
There are two on each side. Each move like a Knight. Their symbol is a "Y" that "cuts" through a semi-opaque jeton (to symbolise their screening capabilities) Another semi-opaque jeton is placed upright between the arms of the "Y". The Red and Blue player has two each, placed on d2,e2,d7 and e7.
PLUTONIUM moves like a Knight. It's symbol is a "Y" with a skull between the arms.The Red and Blue player has two each, placed on c2, f2, c7 and f7.
NOTE: Plutonium figures prominently in two of the four victory-possibilities, which makes it a very important piece indeed!
URANIUM moves like a queen. It's symbol is an eight-armed figurine with thick arms, and a skull on top.
NOTE: Uranium may NOT jump over a contaminated enemy square EVEN IF IT IS UNOCCUPIED!
To make separation of the three groups easier, it is recommended to differentiate the height of the bases, between the three groups: I have found that it works well to make the Organic pieces one-tiered, the Radioactive pieces two-tiered and the Screen-pieces three-tiered. I separate the tiers with a small jeton. It makes the bases attractive as well as makes them more recognisable.
Enough has been said about them, except: Coloured squares of plastic or cardboard should be kept handy, to mark them. I have never exceeded the need for four, for either colour. Even if it's theoreticallyy possible.
NeutronChess can be quite complex to play especially for novices. Therefore mistakes occur until one gets the hang of it. The following rules have been formulated to resolve these mistakes in a friendly spirit: