The Chess Variant Pages

The following description of a historic Xiangqi variant is due to Stephen Leary.

Qiquo Xiangqi

Chinese Chess with seven players

Here is a variant of Chinese chess that can be played on a standard 19 X 19 go board (finally, a fun & socially responsible use for such a board :-) ). Since there are 7 different armies on the board, they are each given their own color. I recommend using go stones (most Xiangqi pieces are going to be too big) & paint them different colors to match each army, then paint the symbol of each piece on top of the color. Usually, you're going to need a lot of people to play this game. Probably it's best to try to enlist people at the local club or maybe when with friends on weekends with nothing to do. The special "penalties" of this game make it ideal for a special late-night weekend social occasion :-)

Name of Game: Qiguo Xiangqi (7 Warring States Chess)

There are a total of 120 pieces used in this variant symbolising the seven Warring States (403-221 B.C.) period. This variant was created by Guang Si-ma.

The Zhou (kingdom) has 1 piece (at the center point of the board). Each of the 7 Warring States has 17 pieces.

        The Zhou piece is yellow     (central space)
        Qin is white                 (starts in west position)
        Chu is red                   (south position)
        Qi is indigo (dark blue)     (east position)
        Yan is black                 (north position)
        Han is cinnabar (orange-red) (south position)
        Wei is green                 (east position)
        Zhao is purple               (north position)


General (Jiang)
Each of 7 states has 1 General. He moves vertically, horizontally, or diagonally with no limit on distance (like the queen in orthodox chess).
Deputy General (Pian1)
Each army has 1 Deputy General. He moves vertically or horizontally with no limit on distance (like the rook).
Officer (Bi4)
Each army has 1 Officer. He moves diagonally without limit (like the bishop in orthodox chess).

The Generals, Deputy Generals, and Officers are viewed as being mounted on chariots (elephants were not used in China, though the Xiang character is used in the game's name).

Diplomat or Liaison Officer (Xing2ren2)
Each army has 1 Diplomat. He moves vertically, horizontally, or diagonally without limit (like the queen in orthodox chess). But he may not engage in combat, and may not be killed.
Cannon (Pao)
Each army has 1 cannon. It moves vertically or horizontally without limit. There must be an intervening piece for it to attack another piece (it moves just like modern-day cannon).
Archers (Gong1)
Each army has 1 (unit of) Archers. The unit moves 4 spaces (on each move) vertically, horizontally, or diagonally.
Crossbowmen (Nu3)
Each army has 1 (unit of) Crossbowmen. The unit moves 5 spaces vertically, horizontally, or diagonally.
Swordsmen (Dao1)
Each army has 2 units of Swordsmen. Each unit moves 1 space diagonally.
Broadswordsmen (Qian?)
Each army has 4 units of Broadswordsmen. Each unit moves 1 space vertically or horizontally.
Cavalry (Qi2)
Each army has 4 units of Cavalry. Each unit moves 4 spaces and moves similar to a knight--1 space in a straight line and then 3 spaces diagonally.
If 7 people play the game, each takes 1 warring state. If 6 people play, 1 player takes both Qin and 1 other state in alliance with it. If 5 people play, then in addition to the Qin alliance, Chu is allied with 1 other state. If 4 people play, then in addition to the Qin and Chu alliances, Qi is allied to another state.

When each player takes possession of 1 state, those states with which they are allied are chosen by the players themselves. Both of the allied states are directed by the choosing players, who must first take an oath saying, "If either of the states under my command is lost, it will be through my own carelessness." If 1 player orders an ally to attack a very strongly defended state, he must first penalise himself by downing a glass of liquor (or beer).

The order of play is: Qin, Chu, Han, Qi, Wei, Zhao, and Yan (this order is counterclockwise beginning with the state in the west in the initial position, which is Qin).

If a poor move is played, it may not be taken back (except if penalty is agreed by players beforehand--glass of beer, lose next turn, etc.). If anyone moves a piece incorrectly, he is penalised (either a lost move or a shot of liquor, exact penalties at discretion of players themselves). If a player attacks his own ally, then the entire army of that ally is lost and removed from the board. Whenever a player is placed in check, he may be penalised according to previously agreed upon penalty :-)

A player wins over another state by capturing that enemy's General. But even if the General is not taken, a player can win by capturing more than 10 other pieces of the opposing state. If an enemy has not yet lost 10 pieces and a player's own army loses more than 10, then that player's own army is lost and removed.

At the end of the game, the player who has captured the most pieces is the winner of the game. First the winner takes a victory drink (a special drink that is not used for other purposes associated with this game), then the losers take a drink.

Should 1 player have captured 2 Generals, or take a total of 30 lesser pieces, he is declared Dictator, or Tyrant, or just Bully (Ba4). Once a player has become Dictator, all the other states avow their submission to him, and everyone drinks another round.

Relative value of pieces in their initial positions: 1 Cavalry unit is equal to any 2 units of Archers, Crossbowmen, Swordsmen, or Broadswordsmen. A Cannon is equal to 3 units of same. An Officer is equal to 4. A Deputy General is equal to 5.

The Zhou king is yellow and sits in the center to show respect for the Son of Heaven. He has no army, does not engage in battle. Each of the 7 states has a particular color to reflect its directional position. The Diplomats represent persuasive politicians who try to create alliances among the states.

The Yi Zheng Retired Scholar Pei Zi-xi obtained a copy of the text of this game's rules and had it engraved on wooden blocks so that it would be widely transmitted. It was then printed on the day of the Lantern Festival in the second year of the Kai-xi reign period (24 February 1206).

Game Board with Initial Position

G       General
D       Deputy General
O       Officer
L       Liaison Officer (Diplomat)
P       Pao (Cannon)
A       Archers
C       Crossbowmen
S       Swordsmen
B       Broadswordsmen
H       Horsemen (Cavalry)
Z       Zhou King

                     Yan                            Zhao
                     Chu                             Han

Stephen Leary
Last modified: February 16, 1996.