The Chess Variant Pages

Who Crosses the River First?

This game supposedly comes from the area around Chang-an at a caravan crossing point on the Yellow River. The game is the battle between the merchants and the bandits and is supposed to be popular with ferrymen and drovers of all ages. If anyone has conflicting or additional information, let us know.

The board is a Xiangqi or Chinese chess board. Pieces are different. Each player has one prince, four soldiers, four horses, four camels, and four artillery pieces. The setup is as follows, with some freedoms, as described below.

The artillery may be set up at the start of the game at arbitrary squares on the fourth row. It moves like a cannon from Korean Chess: it goes any number of squares horizontally or vertically, but must always jump exactly one piece whether it captures or not.
moves any number diagonally.
may be set anywhere in their row not already occupied by a Camel, jumps 2 orthogonally.
1 or 2 in any direction.
Soldier (or:Robber or Guard):
any number vertically forward but may not cross the river.

"There is no capturing" [?]. Win by surrounding the opposing Prince so that he cannot move, regardless of whether any other piece can move. No piece may jump over a Prince. Players are Red and Black. Red sets his pieces on the board first. Black then sets his pieces on the board and throws the die first. Players take turns throwing the die, without moving any pieces, until one of them throws a 5. That player makes the first move using the 5. Play then becomes turn-and-turn about, each moving according to the throw of the die. The die is a long, 4-sided stick (chop stick?) with the numbers 2/3/4/5 on its sides.

A throw of 2 the player moves an Artillery piece.
A throw of 3 the player moves a Horse.
A throw of 4 the player moves a Camel.
A throw of 5 the player moves a Soldier or his Prince.

This is a modified version of the description from Stephen Leary's Xiangqi FAQ. The picture was made by Hans Bodlaender.
Version without graphics.
Last modified: October 30, 1996