The Chess Variant Pages

Ackanomic Party Chess

by Uri Bruck

Ackanomic Party Chess is a chess variant created within the context of a game of Nomic played by e-mail.

Nomic is a self-modifying game which was invented by Peter Suber and made famous by Douglas R. Hofstadter in 1983 article in Scientific American. A game of nomic starts with an initial rule-set, usually some variation of Suber's nomic, which was designed for playing while sitting around a table. Game play consists of proposals for creating new rules, ammending or repealing existing rules, made by players. The proposals are voted on by the players, and, if accepted, become part of the rules. The exact process is dictated by the rules, and these can be changed.

I currently play in an e-mail nomic called Ackanomic. It started on January 1996, and has grown quite complex. PartyChess was created within the context of Ackanomic.

In Ackanomic, the rules allow forming Political Parties. The players of PartyChess are representatives of the Political Parties, plus an additional representative who is not a member of a Political Party. Because of other rules, each of these representatives is known as a Swinger. The value of the position of each Swinger in Party Chess can give their respective party benefits in the game. Currently, those benefits are extra votes, and in some cases bonus points. This way, the Party Chess board position can affect the inter-Party relationships in Ackanomic.

The Party Chess board is 20x20 squares. There is no initial position, there is no fixed set of pieces, and no conditions for winning and ending the game.

The Party Chess rules themselves do not define any playing pieces. They require that each player always has exactly one King. They also describe the structure of rules that define playing pieces. This part of the rule is in a sense a meta-rule - a rule about other rules. This means that the set of legal playing pieces can change during the game.

Currently we have the following pieces:

King - the standard chess King

Rook - Standard Rook, limited to a distance of 10

Bishop - Standard Bishop, limited to a distance of 10

Pawn - Can be Placed only on the two outer columns, or two outer rows. Can move horizontally, or vertically, and captures diagonally. It can move or capture as long as its distance from the center is not increasing (distance is the larger of the distance between rows, and distance between columns). Once it reaches one of the four middle squares, it can be promoted to any other legal piece.

Camel- A Camel moves three squares in either a horizontal or vertical direction, and one square in a perpendicular direction. This piece exists in several other chess variants.

CopyCat - A CopyCat can move either 3 or 5 squares in any given direction. It can capture a piece only using the the capture move of the piece it is capturing. e.g. - it can capture a rook using a rook's move, it can capture a bishop using a bishop's move, it can capture an il-Nabi, using il-Nabi's rules for capture. On the surface it may look like a "if it can capture you then you capture it" piece. It isn't, there are cases when a CopyCat can capture an il-Nabi, but the same il-Nabi cannot capture the CopyCat (see the rule for il-Nabi).

Echo - The legal move for an Echo is the same as the legal move for the last piece moved by the player(Swinger) controlling the Echo. e.g.- if a player moved a Camel in one turn, in the the next turn the legal move for an Echo would be the Camel's move.

Jester - can move two squares in any direction, and skips over the intervening square.

il-Nabi - This is a complicated piece. It has the following possible moves (a) 3 squares diagonally and one either horizontally or vertically, provided all the squares is passes through are unoccupied. (b) If, at any given direction, the adjoining square is occupied, il-Nabi can skip over that square to the next one. (c) If, at any given direction, the 2nd square from the current one is unoccupied, and 3rd one is, il-Nabi can skip to the 4th square in that direction. However it can only capture using the move described in (a) (There is a reason for this name. It's explained in the actual rule)

Some of you may have noticed the curious absence of a Queen, and a Knight. I proposed rules defining both of those pieces, but they did not receive the required number of votes to become rules.

Acquiring pieces

Pieces can acquired in three possible ways:

Possible Plays

There are 5 possible plays in PartyChess.

Move and Capture are standard, except thattured pieces are turned over to the player who captured them. They are not immediately placed on the board, though. Unless specified otherwise, a piece can captures the same way it moves.

Placement - Swingers (players) own pieces which are off-board. such as pieces they purchased or captured. Placing a piece is a legal move, provided that the piece does not attack any opposing piece.

Pass - do nothing. This is an unusual option. It is also a default. There is a limited for making a move - four days, if a move is not made, it is assumed to be a pass. Since the game is entirely e-mail based, and is integrated into another, this is necessary to prevent someone from holding up the game.

Surrender - Swingers(players) always have the option to Surrender. When a player is mated, this is the only legal move to make. A player who surrenders removes all of his pieces from the board, however, since the game is continuous (see below) he stays in the game, and can start Plaing pieces again in the next turn.

Check in Party Chess.

Whenever a player is checked, and it's not his turn, it immediately becomes his turn, once he's played, the turn reverts to the player who was supposed to play. When several players are checked simultaneously, there is a procedure that allows them to move simultaneously, with no prior knowledge of the others' moves. Sometimes, in a multi-check situation, it is determined that no legal moves exist that wouldn't lead to a conflict. In such cases, all checked players are forced to surrender.

No end, and no clear winning conditions.

Party Chess is not played in order to win, but in order to achieve and maintain a better (more valuable) position. The game is continuous and mated players do not lose the game. When a player is mated, he surrenders and removes all of his pieces from the board. In the next round, the same player can start placing pieces again, and get back into the game. However, with few pieces on the board, the value of their position would remain very low for a few turns. This way, a sort of a penalty is built into the game mechanics.

If the Party Chess rules appear large and complex, it's because they are. In fact, they are probably as big, or bigger than the entire initial rule-set for Ackanomic, and after they were accepted they had to go through some minor adjustments before the game actually became playable.

It also seems that many supposedly trivial things are defined. In nomic, taking too many things for granted can cause loopholes and paradoxes. This doesn't mean that all rules need to be that complex to work, but chess is quite complex.

If you've read this far, you might like to take a look at the PartyChess home page where the game of PartyChess is actually taking place.

See also


Written by Uri Bruck.
WWW page created: September 3, 1996. Last modified: February 8, 2002.