The Chess Variant Pages

Medieval War Chess


Medieval War Chess has quite a few differences from regular chess, but it does use the standard board and pieces, making it easy to play. The main emphasis of the game is concentrated attacks with your normal pieces and careful use of the special pieces, Rooks and King.


The game starts in exactly the same board position as normal chess. It is a good idea to keep handy the power levels of the pieces and the special powers of the King and Rook for the first few games. Since moves are made in groups of three, writing down the moves can help you remember how many moves you have already made.


Normal Pieces

The Queen, Bishop and Knight are the easiest pieces to figure out, the only difference among these three is their power. The Queen has a power of 2, the Bishop has a power of 3, and the Knight is best with a power of 4.


Pawns are no longer the complete wimps of normal chess, but they also are crippled in new ways, and lack the promotion potential of regular chess.

For all purposes, the pawns power is equal to the number of friendly pieces adjacent to it, including diagonals.

The catch is, if a pawn is ever without any friendly pieces adjacent to it, it is immediately destroyed, even if this is in the middle of either player's turn. The pawn can make no actions after it is due to be destroyed, and must be immediately removed from the table. You ARE allowed to take an action that will result in the death of one of your own pawns.


Rooks are very special pieces. They have 0 power however.

The Rook has an attack called the cannon attack. It only works in the following way: Trace a ray (line starting from a point and going on forever) starting from the Rook, and going along a diagonal, file or rank from that Rook. If that ray only includes the attacking Rook and a single enemy piece, that piece can be destroyed by the Rook's cannon attack. This counts as an action. The attack is blocked if any piece of either side is either before the target or after it on that ray starting from the rook. Because this is a ray starting from the Rook and not a line, any number of pieces can be BEHIND the Rook with reference to the ray. If the Rook is at e4, and pieces are on d3, c2 and b1, but the Rook is making a cannon attack at g6, and there are no pieces at f5 or h7, then the cannon attack is legal.


The King is also special, but the game is not over if you lose your King, either by sacrifice or attack. The King has a power of 0.

The King has two types of powers, Minor and Major powers. Major powers can only be used when the other King is gone. They are a punishment to the other side for losing there King. Minor powers can be used whenever.

Minor Powers

1. Summon three pawns, pawns are placed adjacent to the King. You can not summon pawns that will bring your total number of pawns over 8, you also can only summon as many pawns as there are adjacent spaces to the King, up to three. If only one spot is left adjacent to the King, this power will only summon that one pawn, and if there are no spots, the power will be completely wasted. Destroy the King after you have summoned the pawns adjacent to him. Even if you could not summon any pawns because of the above rules, still destroy the King since the power has been used.

2. Take another turn. Destroy your King, and then end this turn now, your opponent's turn is skipped, and you have another turn immediately.

3. If your opponent's King is off of his starting square (e1, or e8), destroy your opponent's King. Destroy your King and put another piece in its place according to the following rules. You can not replace the King with the King. You can not replace the King with a Rook. Whatever piece you replace the King with, you can not end up with a situation where you have more of that piece than at the start of the game. This means you can not have three Knights nor two Queens and so on.

Major Powers

1. Summon one pawn, Do not destroy your King. End your turn now, and skip your next turn. You must place the pawn adjacent to the King and not end up with more than 8 pawns after.

2. Destroy ALL pieces of any type. You must destroy your pieces and your enemies pieces of that type. Destroy your King if he remains after you have destroyed the pieces.

3. Reset all pieces left on the board to their starting positions. When either side has a choice of how to arrange their remaining pieces, place the pieces from left to right according the spots on the board that those pieces can be, i.e. if you have 4 pawns left as white, they would go on a2, b2, c2 and d2. A single rook would go on a1.



Turns alternate, starting with White, except where a King's power says otherwise.

On a players' turn, they have and must use three actions.


The following things count as an action

1. Moving a single piece one square in any direction

2. Making a normal attack

3. Making a cannon attack

4. Using a King's power

A single piece can move more than once and you can attack more than once in a turn.

Normal Attack

Declare a target, and add up the power of all of the pieces adjacent to that target. That total must be GREATER than DOUBLE the power of the target. You can not even declare an attack that does not work out. The target is destroyed

Cannon Attack

The mechanics have been discussed already. Make sure the cannon attack works, and then just specify the Rook and the target. You can not declare an invalid cannon attack

King's Powers

Announce what power you are using. You can not declare a power if you do not qualify to use it.


You win the game if your opponent: has no pieces left, has no Rooks nor a King, and whose remaining pieces total to two or less power, or your opponent resigns. This is only a victory if you do not also have no pieces left or power of two or less.


The game is drawn if: both sides have no pieces left, both sides have no Rooks nor King, and remaining pieces totalling to two or less power. Or if the game is drawn by agreement. Or if neither side has enough power or special pieces to destroy any piece of their opponents, e.g. Bishop vs. Knight. (4 power knight can't take out a Bishop which has a 6 defending from attack) Or if 50 turns pass in which no pieces were destroyed and no Cannon attacks nor King's powers were used.


The game is also drawn by stalemate if your opponent has no means of any kind to use all three of his actions during a turn. This rule does not trump victory by pieces lost. Which this means is, if during an opponents turn, he destroys all his pieces and therefore has no action, he does not draw by being unable to make actions, but instead loses. The opponent must not already qualify for loss as under the victory section.



You can use the following notation for games, as shown by this example game

(white) (black)

1. (b2-c3, c3-b3, b1-b2)                                                

... (f7-f6, g7-g6, h8-g7)
2. (h2-g3, h Cannon x h7, g3-h2) (f6-f5, g6-g5, g7-g6)
3. (d2-d3, c1-b1, h2-h3) (g8-g7, f8-f7, f7-f6)
4. (f2-f3, f1-f2, g2-g3) (e7-e6, d8-e7, d7-d6)
5. (b2-c3, a1-b2, b1-a1) (c7-c6, b8-c7, c7-b6)
6. (h1-h2, g1-g2, e1-e2) (d6-e5, a7-a6, a8-a7)
7. (g3-g4, h Cannon x e5, g4-g3) (a6-a5, a7-a6, a Cannon x d3)
8. (f3-f4, g3-g4, g2-g3) (g7-h6, h6-h5, f5 & g5 & h5 (12) x g4 (6))
9. (c3-c4, c4-b5, b5 (4) x a6 (0)) (b7-a6, c6-c5, a6 & a5 & b6 & c5 (9) x b5 (8))
10. (b Cannon x f6, b2-c1, a1-b1) (h5-h4, g5-g4, a5-b4)
11. (h3-g2, h Cannon x h4, h2-g1) (b6-b5, b5-c4 x a6 by isolation, b4 & c4 (6) x b3 (4))
12. (c2-b3, c Cannon x c4, g1-f1) (f5-g5, g Cannon x b1, g5-f5)
13. (g3-h4, h4-h5, h5 (4) x g6 (0)) (g4-g5, g5-g6, e7-f6)
14. (c1-b2, b Cannon x f6, h5 (4) x g6 (2)) 

Black Resigns

You might have noticed the key elements of this annotation style. The main problem is, depending on the turn, a lot or a little of information might be needed to talk about what happened. Plus, each turn is a three actions. For each turn, place in parentheses the three actions, separated by commas. Use coordinate notation. For an attack, list the coordinates of all the pieces involved in it, separated by ampersands, and then, if you want you can put the power of the attack in parentheses after the attackers listed, then x for capture, and then the coordinate of the target and perhaps their defense in parentheses (double their power in other words). For cannon attacks, since most of the game your rooks are separated by files not ranks, I list the file of the rook attacking, then Cannon to distinguish it from normal attacks, and then the target.

For spells, i write an abbreviation of the power, and any choices such as which type of piece was removed. There is also another notation you might not recognize. When a pawn is destroyed because it no longer has any allies adjacent to it, I put it in with the action that caused it. Then whatever that action was, I either enter x (pawn) by iso or by isolation, or if the action was an attack already I enter & x (pawn) by iso. Abbreviating isolation to iso saves a lot of space. Cannon could be abbreviated as Can also.

Playing Tips

In the opening its all about the Rooks and cannon attacks, in the middle, the Rooks start to feel the pressure, and often fall to normal attacks, and in the ending, its all about the Knights, normal attacks and King's powers usually are used at this point. Since three actions are taken per turn, ending can easily be by turn 20 or even 15, depending on how quick the exchanges are.

It takes some practice to find good opening moves for defending against rooks. There are no standard openings yet, but (b2-b3, b1-b2, c2-c3) is a good start. Look at the files and diagonals, don't look at ranks. No Rook will ever get that close. Its all about diagonals and files that only have ONE of your pieces on them. Try to have two pieces along each diagonal and file, that is the key to early defense. Remember, often if there is a chance for a Rook, they will spend two actions moving their blocking pieces and moving the Rook, before the capture. Some captures are not good, cause they expose the Rook to counterattack by an enemy rook. Keep your Rooks guarded from being cannon attacked themselves

In the middle game, which could be defined as when normal attacks become viable, watch out for chances to take a Rook. You can make two moves towards the Rook with your Bishop, Queen or Knight (preferably Knights for best defense against counterattack), and then attack. Since the Rook has 0 power, it is helpless when the battles get close up. You can do this with the King also, but it doesn't happen much.

If you move your King, your opponent can destroy it for the net advantage of as much as a knight. So only move the King if you will lose it anyway, or if you would prefer to trade Kings at that cost.

Remember, if pawns have no friendly pieces adjacent they are destroyed, this means pawns can not chase after the Rooks, nor can they move from one cluster of pieces to another. They have to move along the "shore" of other pieces. Besides, pawns with one neighbor are easy to destroy. Pawns with 2 or more neighbors are tougher. Pawns are all about group attack and defense. Sometimes you can take out a pawn that is depending on one neighbor such as a knight, just by taking out that knight.

For most attacks, you need two or more pieces adjacent to your target for it to succeed. Against an enemy Knight, you usually need three or more pieces, including a knight.

Knights are best for raiding, they can only destroy a single neighbor pawn by themselves, but it takes an attack of 9 total power or higher to destroy a Knight. They are very sturdy. Two Knights working together can destroy anything but another Knight or a 5+ neighbor pawn.

Piece powers are extremely variable, a King can be indispensable, if your enemy King is gone, you have two knights and your enemy has 8 pawns. Destroy all of one type would destroy all 9 pawns, winning you the game. At the start of the game, the Kings are worth almost nothing though. They are primarily endgame pieces, when the King has adjacent spaces and having 3 more pawns can be useful. Pawns on the other hand are middle game pieces. They need neighbors in significant numbers, and with a good group, they can add 3 power to an attack without much trouble. Cluster your pieces together for this purpose. When defending pawns, give them as many neighbors as you can. Pawns are also often destroyed by cannon attack. If you put all your pawns on either white or dark squares, that tends to defend them well.

Use the summon three pawns ability, if you now have 8 pawns after the summon, your enemy is almost certain to use destroy all: pawns. The best time for summon three pawns is when you have 0 pawns, and say two knights. Then if your enemy uses destroy all, they might take out the knights. Destroy all is probably the most powerful ability, and it can only be used when your opponent has no King.

With some luck, using take another turn might allow you to take out the enemy king and another piece. Try to get something extra, as your attacking piece is likely to be surrounded after

Computer Play

This game is new, there is not any computer programs for it yet. Eventually one could be written. The game has several tactical aspects, but getting pieces to work together for normal attacks has strategic elements to it.

Sample Game

(white) (black)

1. (a2-a3, a1-a2, b2-b3) (e7-e6, g7-g6, f8-g7)
2. (b1-b2, b2-c3, c1-b2) (g7-h6, g8-g7, a7-a6)
3. (b3-b4, f2-f3, f1-f2) (c7-c6, b8-c7, c7-b6)

This was good defense so far.

4. (e2-e3, g1-f1, f1-e2) (a8-b8, a Cannon x h2, b8-a7)
5. (h1-g1, d2-d3, d1-d2) (f7-f6, g7-f7, f7-e7)
6. (a Cannon x e6, a2-a1, e3-e4) (a6-a5, b6-b5, a7-a6)
7. (b4-a4, c3-b4, a4 & b4 (6) x a5 (4)) (b7-b6, b6-a5, a5 & b5 (5) x a4 (4))
8. (b2-b3, b3-a4, a4 & b4 (7) x a5 (4)) (f6-e6, h Cannon x a1, a6-b7)
9. (b4-a5, a5-a6, a6 (4) x b7 (0)) (c8-b7, c6-b6, b5 & b6 & b7 (9) x a6 (8))
10. (f2-g3, g Cannon x b6, f3-g4) (b7-a6, a6-a5, a5 & b5 (7) x a4 (6) x a3 by iso)
11. (g1-f2, f2-e3, e Cannon x h6) (b5-c4, c4-d4, d4 (4) x e3 (0))
12. (e2-e3, d3 & e3 & e4 (10) x d4 (8), c2-d1) (e7-f6, f6-g5, g5 (4) x g4 (2))
13. (d1-e2, g2-f3, g3-f2) (d8-e7, e7-f6, a5-b5)
14. (e3-f4, e2-e3, f2-g3) (e6-f5, f6-e5, e5 & f5 & g5 (9) x f4 (8))
15. (g3-f4, e4 & f4 (7) x e5 (4), d2-e2) (d7-e6, e6-e5, e5 & f5 & g5 (8) x f4 (6))
16. (f3-f4, e4 & f4 (5) x e5 (2), f4-f3) (f5-f6, h8-g8, g8-f8)

Black's rearranging but way ahead now because he has a rook and knight and white has mostly pawns.

17. (e3-f2, e2-e3, f3-f4) (f6-f5, f5 & g5 (6) x g4 (4), g5-g6)

White Resigns. With 3 pawns and a queen, its unlikely he could get 9 total power in an attack to destroy 
black's knight. Since this is an example game I'll play the rest out anyway. This is the first game I've seen 
with a Rook left at this point.

18. (e3-e2, e4-e3, d3-d2) (f6-g7, f Cannon x f2, b5-c4)
19. (Summon 3p (d1 f1 f2), d1-c2, f1-e1) (f Cannon x f2, c4-c3, c3 (3) x c2 (2))

Black could have went with destroy all pawns, but since he can still blast away with his rook, and knight and 
bishop, its not necessary. After black's turn, white is back to where he was, with no king now.

20. (e2-d1, e3-e2, e1-f1) 

Zugzwang for white, after e3-e2 he's got his best position possible.

... (f Cannon x f1, g5-f4, f4-e3)
21. (e2-e1, e1-f2, f2-e2) (e3-f2, f2-e1, c3-c2)
22. (e2-d3, d3-e3, e3-e2) (c2 & e1 (7) x d1 (4), c2 & e1 (7) x d2 (2) & x e2 by iso)

And that's that.

Written by Anthony Peterson.