It seems hard to believe that any of the oldest states could have more woodlands than Pennsylvania, where the hilliness makes the land less suited for modern agriculture and where a vigorous wildlands conservation program has been in effect for a long, long time.
The interior of the state is covered with state parks and state game lands -- "game lands" being wild forest with no facilities, where one may hike or ride, but where the most prominent use is hunting.
For example, there is Pennsylvania State Game Lands 312, which nearly touches Gouldsboro State Park and Tobyhanna STate Park.
Although I do not hunt, I have spent a lot of time in and around PA SGL 312, because our summer palace (a decrepit old mobile home on a mere acre of woods) is right on the edge of it.
Although the black bear found in this region is timid and shy and usually harmless, it is also huge and powerful, and could do you in by accident.
Do not feed the bears. Avoid walking too quietly in the woods -- you want the bears to hear you coming, so that you don't meet one too closely by surprise.
The first time we ever saw one, the whole family was sitting around the campfire at night, and a skunk came walking through, in the light, close enough to touch -- but it's not a wise idea to bother a skunk!
Imagine that, a complete creature, so small! Brain, heart, lungs, eyes, nose, limbs, digestive system, reproductive system, and fur; all in miniature so that the whole creature is barely the size of your thumb! Surely there is nothing in the world more marvelous!
You will note that road kill is not in the game, but that critters can get run over by the Train.
The train is a freight train of the historic Erie Lackawanna Railroad, running from the Steamtown Train Musuem to the Tobyhanna Army Depot. They don't use steam trains on these runs, but they do use vintage collectible diesel locomotives.
First the board and then lunch and then the critters...
On the board there are two special features, the Train and the Campfire.
The campfire is indicated by the "*", the "<, >, ^" indicate the path of the railroad, and "===" delimits the terminals. See Notation below for what letters stand for what animals.+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+ 8 | t |:s:| f |:h:| b |:d:| w |:t:| +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+ 7 |:p:| p |:p:| p |:p:| p |:p:| p | +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+ 6 | |:::| |:::| |:::| |:::| +===+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+===+ 5 | > |:>:| > |:>:| > |:>:| > |:>:| > |:X:| +===+---+---+---+---*---+---+---+---+===+ 4 |:^:| < |:<:| < |:<:| < |:<:| < |:<:| X | +===+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+===+ 3 |:::| |:::| |:::| |:::| | +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+ 2 | P |:P:| P |:P:| P |:P:| P |:P:| +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+ 1 |:T:| S |:F:| H |:B:| D |:W:| T | +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+ z a b c d e f g h x
Any critter that moves onto a terminal square is "boarding". It cannot make a move that leaves the terminal, but rather it will be picked up when the Train comes to the terminal, carried to the other terminal, and left there.
Critters deposited on a terminal square by the Train are "leaving": they cannot move from one terminal square to another, but rather must leave the terminal if they move. If they fail to move for a long time, the Train will come by again, but it ignores them.
Critters that are "boarding" can move from one terminal square to another, whether or not their normal movement power would allow it, but can do no harm to other critters while they are in the terminal.
Critters that are "leaving" can make their normal move to leave the terminal, and in so doing they may harm other critters, but as long as they stay in the terminal even critters that are "leaving" are safe from all harm.
Except for these two possibilities, critters that are either on a terminal square or on the train are safe from all harm and can do no harm and can make no moves and can earn no points.
Lunch is provided at the terminals. A critter that has lost its lunch gets a new one when it enters a terminal square.
It starts the game occupying the added terminal squares x4 and x5; after each Black move, it advances one square, so that on the second move of the game it occupies h4 and x4, and on the third move it occupies g4 and h4.
When the Train is completely within a terminal, it drops off all the critters that were riding the train, and picks up all that were "boarding". A critter that is picked up on x4 will be dropped off on z5, and so on.
Any critter that finds itself on the same square as the Train gets squooshed flat and is no longer in the game, except of course that critters which are riding the train don't get squished and critters that are on terminal squares don't get squashed.
No critter may move onto a square that is occupied by the Train, although suicide can be accomplished by moving to where the train will be next move.
The Hunter cannot shoot through the Train. Deer cannot leap over it. It's too big.
Critters earn points by being on these 4 squares that are next to the campfire; in order to earn any points, the critter must start a move on one of these 4 squares, it must not move or shoot or chuck or steal, and at the end of the turn it must not be stinky, and it must not have lost its lunch. (All of these things will be explained later.)
The number of points gained by each type of critter varies, but is roughly in proportion to the size of the critter; the exact number of points for each critter type will be given in that critter's description.
When a critter that normally carries its lunch does not have a lunch, whether because the lunch was stolen, lost, or dropped, the critter loses all power except the power of movement: a lunchless Hunter cannot shoot, a lunchless Bear cannot displace, a lunchless Fox or Deer cannot steal, a lunchless Fox cannot devour, a lunchless Skunk cannot stink unless it is attacked, and a lunchless Woodchuck cannot chuck wood.
These lunchless critters can still move, and can get a new lunch either by entering a terminal or by returning home to the square where the critter started the game.
They do this by moving onto the same square as the victim; and so we expect that there can be several critters on the same square. A critter can only steal the lunch of one other critter per turn, so when you move onto a crowded square you must specify which enemy critter gets its lunch stolen.
You can't steal lunch from a critter that's already on the same square as you.
When a skunk has its lunch stolen, it stinks up every enemy piece on the same square as itself and on all adjacent squares.
Remember, skunks direct their spray to avoid friendly critters, and are immune to being skunked by enemy skunks.
Any critter that gets skunked not only loses its lunch (if it was carrying one), but also becomes stinky. If you have any stinky critters, and if none of your medium to small critters are threatened by an enemy Fox, and if none of your medium to large critters are threatened by the enemy Hunter, and if none of your critters are on the non-terminal square the Train will move to next, you must move a stinky critter. The good news is that once you move it, it isn't stinky any more.
How much wood can a woodchuck chuck? Just one per turn. If there are multiple enemy critters on the same square, the Woodchuck must choose one.
The Bear is the King of the forest, and so if you lose your Bear the game is over and your opponent gets 20 points. (Yes, you could lose your Bear and still win the game.)
The Bears start the game at e1 and e8, move like the King except that each Bear must stay in its own half of the board, and score 5 points for being near the campfire.
When a Bear moves onto the same square as other critters, it squashes Shrews and displaces all the others: displacement means that the critters get moved to some adjacent square.
The owner of the Bear gets to choose which adjacent square each displaced critter goes to, but it must be a square; the Bear cannot push them off the edge of the board. However, the Bear can push them into a Terminal, which forces them to wait for the Train and then ride it; and the Bear can push critters onto a square occupied by the Train, in which case they perish beneath its wheels.
Being displaced does not cause critters to lose their lunches.
The Bear can displace friends as well as enemies; and it squishes friendly Shrews just like enemy ones.
A lunchless Bear cannot move onto an occupied square.
A Bear cannot steal any other critter's lunch.
Other critters can move onto the same square as the Bear, but when the Bear moves onto an occupied square it winds up being the sole occupant of the square.
Because the Bear must stay on its own side of the board, it is not allowed to ride the Train; and therefore it is not allowed to go into a Terminal.
Each player has one Hunter, starting on d1 or d8. The Hunter moves one square Rookwise and shoots as far as 3 squares Rookwise.
For example, if the White Hunter is on e2 and the Black Bear is on e5, and if there are no critters on e3 or e4, the Hunter can shoot the Bear.
The Hunter cannot shoot tiny critters because his aim is not that good, but tiny critters block the Hunter's range -- he cannot shoot past them.
A piece that is shot is removed from the game.
The Hunter cannot shoot friendly critters.
A lunchless Hunter cannot shoot.
The Hunter gains no points for shooting enemy critters; but of course shooting the enemy Bear has the side effect of gaining twenty points.
The Hunter earns 4 points for being near the Campfire.
The Hunter cannot move onto an occupied square, and so of course it cannot steal any other critter's lunch.
Each player has one Deer, starting on f1 or f8. The Deer moves like a Knightrider, and it uses its great mobility to steal the lunches from other critters; as described above, it does this by moving onto the same square as its victim.
The Deer can leap over any obstacle except the Train, which is too big.
Entering an occupied square stops the Deer's move.
When the Deer enters a square occupied by one or more Shrews, all the Shrews (friend or foe) get squashed and removed from the game.
A lunchless Deer cannot move onto an occupied square.
A Deer earns 3 points for being by the Campfire.
Each player has one Fox, which starts the game on c1 or c8 and moves as bWzF3, that is, one square Rookwise to the rear or like a Crooked Bishop but no more than 3 squares.
The Fox steals lunches, just like the Deer, but it can also devour medium or small lunchless critters: when it moves onto the same square as a medium or small enemy critter, and if that critter has no lunch for the Fox to steal, the Fox eats that critter!
Unless it's an enemy Fox, of course; that would be cannibalism.
Devouring the enemy Skunk results in mutual annihilation, because the Fox gets skunked and then some; and of course at the same time the Skunk in its dying throes stinks up all your pieces on the same or adjacent squares.
A lunchless Fox can neither steal nor devour nor move onto an occupied square.
The Fox earns 3 points for being by the Campfire.
Each player has one Woodchuck, at g1 or g8, which moves as WD or chucks wood either 2 or 3 squares diagonally. (Intervening pieces do not block the chucked wood because it takes a high arc.)
The Woodchuck can never enter an occupied square.
A lunchless Woodchuck cannot chuck.
The Woodchuck earns 3 points for being by the campfire.
Each player has one Skunk, at b1 or b8, which moves like a Rook.
The Skunk's stinky power has been described above, under the heading "Losing Lunch".
The Skunk uses its chemical warfare only in self-defense. If it is devoured, if it is shot, if it is run over by the Train, if its lunch is stolen, or if it is hit by a chunk of wood, it skunks all enemy pieces on the same square as itself and on all adjacent squares; but if you don't bother the Skunk it won't bother you.
Displacement does not trigger the Skunk's defenses.
The Skunk can move onto an occupied square; this stops its move, but the Skunk can't steal anybody's lunch.
The Skunk earns 2 points for being near the Campfire.
Each player has two Turkeys, at a1/h1 or a8/h8, which move as R3.
The Turkey has no attack at all, but it can earn 2 points by being near the Campfire.
Each player starts with 8 Shrews, arrayed along the second rank where Pawns might normally be; they move diagonaly forwards one square (fF).
The Shrew is so small that it earns zero points for being near the campfire.
The Shrew can move onto an occupied square, but cannot steal a lunch; in fact, it has no attacking power at all.
The Shrew is so small that the Hunter cannot shoot it (although it can block a Hunter's range of fire), and it is too small for the Fox to devour (barely a mouthful). A Skunked Shrew must move, but has no lunch to lose.
A Bear or a Deer can step on a Shrew and squish it. The Train can run over a Shrew, squoosh! However, because a lunchless Bear cannot enter an occupied square, the Shrew can get in the way.
Upon reaching the last rank, the Shrew is promoted to a Chipmunk; in real life, Shrews don't grow up to be chipmunks, but a little poetic license was taken for the sake of the game.
There are no Chipmunks in the game at the start; they are created by promotion of Shrews.
The Chipmunk moves one square diagonally, can enter occupied squares, but has no attacking power.
However, it can earn 1 point by being near the campfire, and it can get in the way of Hunters or lunchless pieces.
The Chipmunk is so darn cute that nothing wants to harm it, too small for the Hunter to shoot, too cute for the kindly Fox to devour; however, it can be run over by the Train, or it can be pushed by a Bear beneath the wheels of the Train. A Skunked Chipmunk must move, but has no lunch to lose.
Whoever has more points at the end of the game has won the game. In a series of games, the cumulative point score determines who has won the series.
If one player is 30 or more points ahead, the game is over instantly; score is calculated after each player's move.
If either Bear perishes, the game is over instantly; and remember that a dead Bear gives the other side a 20 point bonus.
The Hunter generally wants to stay near home so he can get a new lunch if necessary.
Letting your Skunk get run over is one way to use its stinky power offensively.
Is it a Chsss Variant? The dead Bear rule is a little bit like checkmate, after all; and the reason I decided to make it possible to win even if you lose your Bear is that I wanted to stretch the boundaries of "Chess variant" a bit.
Not playtested yet. I was too impatient to wait!
Bear B Hunter H Deer D Fox F Woodchuck W Skunk S Turkey T Chipmunk M Shrew P Train XOther modifiers for moves:
Stinky * Lunchless - Run over by train _Stinky and Lunchless would be prefixes, ie: *T is a stinky Turkey, and -B is a lunchless Bear.
In fact, in addition to the usual rules for a chess variant, there are merely a few major rules; however, one major rule is usually enough for a chess variant, and so perhaps PASGL really does have an unusually large number of rules!
The major new rules are the rules about the object of the game, the rules about Lunch, and the rules about the Train; if you look at it from this perspective, the rules will seem simple and logical.
The idea of having a sort of checkmate that might not score enough points to win the game soon followed.
Remember, the Game of Nemoroth started with the idea of having a chess variant whose main object was stalemate, and all the rest of the rules followed logically from that premise; in just the same way, PASGL312 started with the idea of scoring points, and all the rest of the rules followed as inevitable consequences.
Winning by standing on the central squares seemed a bit boring, and so I soon came up with the ideas of Lunch and of the Train.
It is directly related to the scoring system; instead of boring piece capture as in Chess, you can prevent pieces from scoring or attacking, and at the same time force them to waste time going home for a new Lunch. I think it's a perfect thing to have in a point-scoring game.
Many lines of the game description are devoted to explaining the Lunch rules, and this is because Lunch is a brand-new idea! There was no way to simply say that ""this game uses Lunch, and the rules are just like Lunch Chess except ...."".
Having your Lunch stolen is really the same thing as dropping your Lunch and is really the same thing as losing your Lunch. They are described separately and differently merely because of the theme of the game.
Then I thought, wouldn't it be nice if you could ride the Train? However, the Train is rather slow, and riding it puts a piece out of action for quite a while; and so I had to make up some minor rules that would make it worth while to ride the train in at least a few situations.
I thought of putting the Train in the game while I was waiting at the grade crossing in the town of Gouldsboro for a train to pass.
My experience with this type of capture tells me that it is extremely powerful -- because the shooter does not occupy the square of its victim, it's very hard to arrange for a recapture.
For the sake of play balance, I gave the Hunter very little mobility, and gave the Deer extreme mobility; if in the game the Hunter still has an advantage, I don't mind, but if the Deer is actually better than the Hunter, I am content. Bambi's revenge.
For the sake of variety, and for the sake of the theme, I gave the Woodchuck a shooting power that is non-fatal, and of course the WD movement power was inevitable.
For the sake of the Hunter, I gave the Turkeys a movement power that makes it hard for them to run away. This corresponds with what I have seen of them in real life.
In PASGL312 Chess, I allow pieces to move freely (with exceptions) onto occupied squares, but in most cases a capture (or a lunch stealing) affects only one of the pieces on the crowded square. This seems to violate the guidleines I had set up in those articles.
In fact, I set a trap for the unwary player! Imagine if you put several pieces on e4, and all of them are scoring points; but now, horror of horrors, here comes the Train bearing down on them, and you can only save one of them per turn!!
The lowly Shrew can block the powerful Hunter's shot, or it can block the movement of a lunchless Bear! If you have played Stratego, you will think of the Spy.
The idea of equality inspired several of the minor rules.
Complete immunity is an idea which has been explored before, but the partial immunity we see in PASGL312 is a different idea which could not have been used in the context of a less complicated game.
Immunity goes with equality. The Shrew can only be stomped on by a Bear or Deer, and so it may be difficult to stop it from advancing and promoting to an even more powerful Chipmunk; but of course this advance eats up quite a few moves, and therefore has a cost.
Likewise the Skunk has tremendous defensive power, but only if it is attacked; this is thematic! But what an interesting piece to have in the game!
Bears can move fast, but usually merely walk slowly. I know they can move fast, because one once ran across the road right in front of my car. A hit would have wrecked the car, as in fact deer hits do wreck many cars per year. Imagine how complex the game would have been if hitting a large critter caused a train wreck!
I watched a deer running away, leaping gracefully through the forest, and I decided that the deer absolutely had to have a leaping move.
I have never heard of anybody or any dog who was skunked unless they first bothered the skunk.
Woodchucks. Oh, well; it's legend, not reality, in this case.
The effort to fully develop the theme of the game by giving each critter the attributes appropriate to its real life counterpart did make the rules more complex than they would have been; but this is excusable in a themed game.
The reason it took so much effort is both because this is the first point-scoring chess variant I ever wrote and because I really wanted to do justice to the theme.
To do justice to the theme, I had to decide which critters to include in the game and which to exclude. If I hadn't spotted a woodchuck while driving from one place to another while thinking about the game, there wouldn't have been one in the game. There were so many critter types that I couldn't use the usual setup of 3 pairs of pieces and 2 unique pieces.
For the theme, I had to think of movement or capture powers that reflected in the game the real-life attributes of the critter in question; and for the game I had to consider the one-on-one confrontations between each type of piece.
After so much thinking about the interactions between each pair of piece types, I felt pretty safe in publishing the game without playtesting -- this is called "praytesting".