Check out Symmetric Chess, our featured variant for March, 2024.

This page is written by the game's inventor, Glenn Overby II.


By Glenn Overby


Ziggurat was designed as an entry in the annual 2002-2003 Chess Variant Pages design competition. The task this year is to design a variant played on a board of exactly 43 spaces. In the months since it was designed, I became competitions editor of the CVP, and therefore Ziggurat has become a non-competing design.

With Ziggurat, inventing the board came first. I played with a number of weird shapes before I thought of the ziggurat. Once I had a board, the idea of doing a piece set that felt like an ancient army came naturally. Archers, horsemen, chariots, and spearmen were in fact typical for Mesopotamian armies.

Add the temple on top, make the kings priests as well, and an idea became a game.


Ziggurat setup

Red: Priest-King a1; Horse c1; two Archers d1, d2; three Chariots b1, b2, c2; five Spearmen c3, d3, e1, e2, e3.

Gold: Priest-King m1; Horse k1; two Archers j1, j2; three Chariots l1, l2, k2; five Spearmen i1, i2, i3, j3, k3.

Most piece graphics originally by David Howe, with size manipulations by Glenn Overby.



An Archer can move without capturing one square either horizontally or vertically. An Archer can capture without moving by shooting the first piece in line diagonally, if that piece is an enemy, in any of the four diagonal directions.


The Chariot moves one or two squares along a row or column, jumping over anything in the intermediate space of a two space move.


A Horse moves like an `L`, two squares vertically plus one horizontally, or two squares horizontally plus one vertically. It hops over any pieces on the way.


A Priest-King can move to any adjacent square. If your Priest-King is captured, you lose. If your Priest-King occupies the top center square marked with an X, you win.


A Spearman can move one square in any of three directions. It can move up the board, or horizontally toward the opponent's side of the board, or diagonally combining those directions.


Aside from the new pieces and board, changes from orthodox chess are:

  1. Red moves first.
  2. The Priest-King is actually captured to end the game.
  3. If a Priest-King occupies the top-center temple square g5, marked with an X in the diagrams, that player wins.

Computer Play

If you have Zillions of Games installed on your computer, you can play this game. Download file:

Playing Tips