The Chess Variant Pages

Chess with Cyclical Armies

By Peter Aronson


          In Chess with Cyclical Armies, player's start with the usual FIDE Chess array, but each piece when moved changes to the positionally equivalent piece of another of the armies of Ralph Betza's Chess with Different Armies (each now with their own types of Kings and Pawns). The armies, are, in order:

A FIDE piece when moved becomes the Nutty Knights piece that starts on the same square, the Nutty Knights piece when moved becomes the Colorbound Clobberers piece that starts on the same square, the Colorbound Clobberers piece when moved becomes the Remarkable Rookies piece that started on the same square, and the Remarkable Rookies piece when moved becomes the FIDE piece it started as again.

To add to the fun, unique Kings and Pawns are supplied for each army.

General Rules

          The rules of Chess with Cyclical Armies are identical to those of FIDE Chess, except that the pieces keep changing type, and there are rather more types of them than is usual.

The standard 8x8 chessboard is used, and the standard FIDE Chess starting arrays as well.

The Movement of Pieces

          The King. In the King's position starts the FIDE King, which when moved becomes a Centaur Royal (the Nutty Knights' King), which moves like a Knight. A Centaur Royal when moved becomes a Color Khan (the Colorbound Clobberers' King), which moves one square diagonally, or leaps two orthogonally (combining the moves of a Ferz and a Dabbabah). A Color Khan when moved becomes a Rookja (the Remarkable Rookies' King) , which slides one or two squares orthogonally like a Rook. And a Rookja when moved becomes a FIDE King. All of these are royal pieces, and checkmating any of them wins the game.

          The Queen. In the Queen's position starts the FIDE Queen, which when moved becomes a Forfnifurlrurking, which moves one in any direction, or like a Knight forward, or like a Rook forward or to the side. A Forfnifurlrurking when moved becomes a Cardinal, which moves like a Knight or a Bishop. A Cardinal when moved becomes a Chancellor, which moves like a Knight or a Rook. And a Chancellor when moved becomes a Queen.

          The Rooks. In the Rook positions start FIDE Rooks, which when moved become Furlrurlbakkings, which moves like a Rook forward and to the side, but like a King diagonally an straight back. A Furlrurlbakking when moved becomes a BD (or Bede), which moves like a Bishop or jumps two orthogonally. A Bede when moved becomes a Short Rook, which moves like a Rook, but at most four squares. And a Short Rook when moved becomes a Rook.

          The Bishops. In the Bishop positions start FIDE Bishops, which when moved become Forfnibakkings, which leaps like a Knight in the forward direction, and moves like a King backwards and to the side. A Forfnibakking when moved becomes a FAD, which moves one diagonally, or jumps two on any Queen-line. A FAD when moved becomes a Half Duck, which moves one diagonally, or jumps two or three orthogonally. And a Half Duck when moved becomes a Bishop.

          The Knights. In the Knight positions start FIDE Knights, which when moved become Fibnifs, which jumps narrowly forwards and back as a Knight, or steps one diagonally. A Fibnif when moved becomes a Waffle, which leaps two diagonally or steps one orthogonally. A Waffle when moved becomes a Woody Rook, which leaps two, or steps one orthogonally. And a Woody Rook when moved becomes a Knight.

          The Pawns. In the Pawn positions start FIDE Pawns, which when moved become Cavalier Pawns (the Nutty Knights' Pawn), which move forwards (wide or narrow) like a Mao (non-jumping Knight that moves one square orthogonally, then one diagonally). A Cavalier Pawn becomes a Berolina Pawn (the Colorbound Clobberers' Pawn) when moved, which moves without capturing diagonally one forward, and captures straight ahead one. A Berolina Pawn becomes a Chinese Pawn (the Remarkable Rookies' Pawn) when moved, which moves and captures one straight ahead if on the owner's side of the board, or one straight ahead or to the side if on the opponent's half of the board. And a Chinese Pawn when moved becomes a FIDE Pawn. All of the above types of Pawns promote to any non-royal non-pawn piece upon reaching the far end of the board. For simplicity's sake, only FIDE Pawns may capture en-passant.


    Fixed King and Pawns

              Is this variation we stick to the original Chess with Different Armies armies. The King remains a FIDE King no matter how many times it is moved, and the Pawns likewise remain FIDE Pawns.

    Different Order of Rotation for Black and White

              While white continues to rotate through FIDEs, Knights, Clobberers, Rookies in that order, Black rotates FIDEs, Rookies, Clobberers, Knights. I am not sure what effect this would have on balance. It would certainly increase confusion!


          The original inspiration for this game from a (as far as I know) unpublished variant of David Paulowich's where the each time the Queen was moved, it changed into a Chancellor, each time a Chancellor was moved, it changed into a Cardinal, and each time a Cardinal was moved, it changed into a Queen. I thought this was pretty neat, but wondered what would happen if all pieces changed like that. But to build a variant where that happened, I'd need a lot of pieces. Well, it so happened I knew where I could lay my hands on lots of pieces: Ralph Betza's Chess with Different Armies defined four whole sets of pieces I could happily rotate through. After a little thought I realized I wanted the Kings and Pawns to rotate too, so I defined some that I thought would match nicely. Since I wasn't trying to build balanced armies, I did not have to match the power among various Kings and Pawns closely. The name Royal Centaur for a royal piece that moves like a Knight was coined by V.R. Parton. The Cavalier Pawns are weakened versions of the Cavalier piece from Fergus Duniho's game Cavalier Chess.

          The play of this game is a bit . . . odd. The armies of CWDA are balanced overall, but not all "Rooks", for example, have the same strength. This means that as a piece is moved, it gains and loses strength in addition to the strength of its position. It may also move in and out of being colorbound. Abstract strategy games strive for clarity -- the characteristic that a knowledgeable player can look at a position and plan their moves several turns in advance. Chess with Cyclical Armies is extremely lacking in clarity.

          This game would also be a bookkeeping nightmare to play over the board. I suppose you could use various sized wooden cubes for pieces (ordered in size Pawn, Knight, Bishop, Rook, Queen, King) with stickers on four of the sides indicating how the piece currently moved. But if you should forget to rotate the cube! This is game that is almost certainly easist to play with the aid of a computer. Zillions of Games, for example, handles all of the piece changes for you. It could also be played on the Chess Variant Pages Play by E-mail system -- you'd have to change the piece types by hand, but at least you'd have a record where you could detect any missed or incorrect changes.

Zillions of Games

          I have written an implementation of Chess with Cyclical Armies for Zillions of games. You can download it here:

Written by Peter Aronson.
WWW page created: October 12th, 2001.