The Chess Variant Pages

The Sons of Mithra

By Michael Chang Gummelt and Holly Gummelt

Introduction

This is a Chess variant that my sister and I developed around 1992 while on a family vacation. It uses a 10x10 board and each side has 13 unique types of pieces (20 in total). I later got a job as a computer game programmer so a couple years ago a friend and I wrote a computer Fantasy Chess game (for Windows). I'm still trying to get a physical wood board and set made (my sister and I played on a posterboard chess board with clay pieces we made), but the computer version is pretty cool.

If you don't feel like wading through the rules below, the computer version will show all the pieces' possible moves by placing the mouse over them.

Board and Setup

Sons of Mithras Setup
Light
Leader (L): e10
Wyrm (W): f10
Berzerker (B): a10
Teleporter (T): b10
Ranger (R): c10
Flyer (F): d10
Assassin (A): g10
Marauder (M): h10
Possessor (P): i10
Spectre (S): j10
Guardian (G): e9
Exploder (E): f9
Hatchlings (h1-8): a9 b9 c9 d9 g9 h9 i9 j9
Dark
Leader (L): f1
Wyrm (W): e1
Berzerker (B): j1
Teleporter (T): i1
Ranger (R): h1
Flyer (F): g1
Assassin (A): d1
Marauder (M): c1
Possessor (P): b1
Spectre (S): a1
Guardian (G): f2
Exploder (E): e2
Hatchlings (h1-8): a2 b2 c2 d2 g2 h2 i2 j2

Rules

The rules of The Sons of Mithras generally follow the rules of usual Western Chess. Victory is by capturing the opposing Leader. The Dark player always goes first.

Pieces

There are 13 different piece types per team. The pieces are described in the order they occupy from left to right at the top of the board (Light side), or from right to left on the bottom of the board (Dark side).

Berzerker - Moves like a Rook except that it can only move to capture. The Berzerker can move twice in one turn, capturing both times. It may capture friendly as well as opposing pieces.

Teleporter - Can teleport to any open space. It can also swap with any back-row piece (i.e., not Hatchlings, Exploders or Guardians). When there is only one Hatchling left, it can swap with it (to make it easier to get back a Wyrm). As an attacker, it is very limited, can only attack one square vertically and horizontally. The Teleporter is excellent for positioning pieces quickly and for getting the leader out of danger.

Ranger - Can attack from a distance. This piece can attack diagonally from up to 4 squares away. It will capture the target piece and stay on the square it was in. If it needs to move, it can move diagonally up to 3 spaces, but cannot capture while moving. It can either capture or move, not both.

Flier - Can fly over other pieces. It moves horizontally and vertically and can change direction any number of times (it cannot change directions back the way it came). However, since it must take off and land, it MUST fly exactly three spaces.

Leader -- like the usual Chess King, don't lose him. The Leader moves and captures like a Chess King as well -- one square in any direction. Once per game your Leader as its move can command one of your opponent's pieces to move as you wish, as long as the move is legal and no pieces are captured or destroyed. Note that checks are not announced and you are allowed to put you Leader in danger (However, in the computer version, you are not allowed to put your Leader in check). You can fortify (like castling) with the two pieces at either end if the Leader and the other piece have not moved yet -- the Leader moves three spaces toward the Spectre or Berzerker, which leaps to the far side. You can also swap with the Teleporter to get out of check.

Wyrm - A Phoenix for the Dark side, a Green Dragon for the Light. The Wyrm moves like a usual Chess Queen (any distance diagonally or orthogonally), except when it is captured, another one hatches from the Hatchlings (Pawns). It will hatch at the lowest numbered Hatchling. Note that this is automatic and takes up your next turn. Also note that if the square that that Hatchling occupies is attacked by an opposing piece, the Wyrm will not hatch and you will have lost it forever. (Or at least until one of your Hatchlings reaches the other side of the board and hatches - like Pawn promotion).

Assassin - The Assassin is a sneaky piece. It can move diagonally up to three spaces and change directions any number of times (it cannot change directions back the way it came). It is excellent for getting around obstacles and is a very good mid-board piece since it covers a good area (especially when combined with the Flier).

Marauder - This piece is like a Reflecting Bishop. It can move diagonally any number of squares and reflects off the side of the board. This makes it an excellent piece to use if you want to get to the other side of the board quickly or surreptitiously threaten a far-away piece. It can also move (without capturing ) one space horizontally or vertically to put itself on a different diagonal.

Possessor - A very powerful piece, the possessor can move two spaces in any direction and change direction (it cannot change directions back the way it came). This gives it excellent coverage. When it attacks, it doesn't capture the piece, but rather takes it over: the Possessor is removed from the board, and the piece attacked is now under the control of the player who had moved the Possessor. The exceptions to this are that they simply capture another Possessor or any front-row piece (they are mindless and cannot be possessed). You cannot un-possess. Note that if a possessed Wyrm is killed and a new one hatches, the new Wyrm will not be possessed. Also note that a possessed piece retains its characteristics and abilities when possessed, it is simply under the enemy's control. This means, for example, that if you were to possess the enemy Spectre, you would now have a piece that can pass through all of the enemy's pieces (which could be very, very handy)!

Spectre - Moves like a Rook, but it can move through its own pieces (except the Leader and Guardian). A very good defensive piece.

The following pieces are the front row pieces. They may not be possessed.

Hatchlings - like Pawns in usual Chess, except they can move up to three spaces on their first move, not just two. Hatchlings are numbered from one to eight. The lowest-numbered Hatchling still on the board automatically hatches into a Wyrm when that side's Wyrm is captured,unless it's on an attacked square. There is no en passant capture. Upon reaching the opponent's back row, a Hatchling promotes to a Berzerker, Teleporter, Ranger, Flier, Assassin, Marauder, Possessor, Spectre, or, if the player has none in play, a Wyrm. Promotion to a Wrym is required when possible.

Guardian - The Guardian is the Leader's protector piece. It moves just like a Queen but cannot capture or be captured. Also, no piece can fly over it, through it, etc.

Exploder - The Exploder is the Wyrm's protector piece. As its name indicates, it can explode. When it does so, it captures every diagonally or orthogonally adjacent piece -- except for the indestructable Guardians -- including pieces on its own side!!! It can capture normally, but if it does so, it is removed as well (having used up its energy). Conversely, if it is attacked, it takes its attacker with it. The only exception to this is the Ranger - since he can attack from a distance, he just makes the Exploder explode when he shoots it. The Exploder moves one step in any direction, like a King.

Piece Values

Leader20
Wyrm10
Assassin8
Possessor8
Flier7
Berzerker7
Ranger6
Spectre6
Teleporter5
Marauder5
Exploder3
Hatchling1
Guardian0

Strategies

Here are some very basic strategies Iíve discovered while playing Sons of Mithra. Iím sure there are many more to discoverÖ

Berzerker-Teleporter Combo

In endgame, when trying to pin down the King, the Berzerker-Teleporter combination is particularly useful. Since the Berzerker needs to capture a piece in order to change direction, the Teleporter can position itself at the cross-section between the Berzerker and the enemy Leader. Often you can then swap the Berzerker and Teleporter when the Leader moves to evade, eventually herding the fleeing Leader into a trap or a better position for the aggressor.

Possessing a Spectre

Possessing the enemy Spectre is extremely desirable as you gain a piece that can move through all of the enemy pieces (aside from the Guardian and the Leader).

Ranger vs. Exploder

As the Exploder has a great natural defense (when attacked, it captures the attacker when it is captured), it is best to take it out at long range. The only piece capable of this is the Ranger. Note, though, that since the Exploder has no piece to take with it when it dies, it explodes. This can be very useful if you manage to kill the Exploder with your Ranger while the Exploder is in the middle of a few of its own pieces.

Flier-Teleporter Back Rank Mate

When the enemy Leader is hiding on their back rank behind some Hatchlings that have not moved from their start positions, there is a good strategy for checkmating the Leader. Have your Flier land in the back rank two spaces from the Leader. This will not directly threaten the Leader, but it pins him down as it will not allow him to move to either side (both spots are threatened by the Flier). Then just teleport in the Teleporter into either of those spots beside the Leader and itís checkmate.

Single-Piece Checkmates

Because of the nature of their attack coverage, the Possessor and Exploder are the only two pieces that can mate the enemy Leader themselves.

Preventing Wyrm Return

When you take the enemy Wyrm, leave your attacking piece in a position such that the next hatchling or her Leader is attacked. These are sometimes hard to see coming (the move you make to take the Wyrm can open up a route to another of your pieces or may capture more than one piece or the piece that takes the Wyrm may end up endangering the Hatchling or Leader).

Mid-Board Domination

A quick way to take control of a large area of the mid-board is to place an Assassin and a Flier in diagonally adjacent squares in the middle of the board or in orthogonally aligned spaces 1 space apart (one empty space between them vertically or horizontally). The Assassin and Flierís coverage patterns will create a huge area of domination. If placed diagonally, the Assassin will also protect the Flier, but the Flier will need its own protection. The major fault with this is that so much of your power is relying on these two pieces and can easily be taken from you in one move. It is faster to set up than advancing your hatchlings, but easier to bring down. It also ties up two very useful pieces in the middle of the board.

Computer Play

A standalone Windows computer program has been written for this game. You can download it here:

This version of the game calls itself Fantasy Chess, which was the original name of this game. You may play against another human sitting at same computer, or against a weak AI.

Game Credits

Concept: Michael Chang Gummelt and Holly Gummelt
Programming: Michael Chang Gummelt, Jeff Dischler and Josh Weier
Art: Andrew Trabbold, Josh Weier and Jeff Dischler


Web page generated from material provided by Michael Gummelt.
WWW page created: October 15th, 2002