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This page is written by the game's inventor, Ralph Betza.

Hitpoint Chess 1



Many wargames have a concept of hit points and firepower; this is a first-draft attempt at using these concepts in a Chess Variant, and seems to be a playable game.

Basic Premise

Every piece has a number of "Hit Points" equal to its standard material value (using the "beginner's" reckoning, Pawn = 1, N or B = 3, R = 5, Q = 9; and K = 3).

Every piece has a "Firepower" which is equal to its standard material value.

A piece's Firepower never changes, but its Hit Points can be reduced. Lots Hit Points cannot be regained (there is no "healing" or regeneration).

When one piece captures (or attempts to capture) another piece, two things happen:

  1. The defending piece has its Hit Points reduced by the Firepower of the attacking piece; if the defender now has no hit points, it is removed from the board and the attacking piece occupies its square.
  2. The attacking piece has its Hit Points reduced by the number of Hit Points the defending piece had at the start of the move; if the attacker now has no Hit Points, it is removed from the board.
  3. Please notice that both things could happen on the same move: for example, 1. e4 d5 2. e4:d5 (:e4 :d5) is mutual annihilation.

The object of the game is still checkmate, but "pictorial" checkmate is not good enough. By "pictorial" checkmate, I mean a situation like (White Ke6, Pe7, Pd7; Black Ke8), where the Pawn on d7 appears to give check to the King but it hasn't got enough firepower to kill an undamaged King. I adopt this interpretation of the rules both because it avoids adding a special rule about check, and because it permits you to get into strange and unusual positions.

Strategy Ideas

The total number of Hit Points possessed by each side is about as important as the standard material value of the pieces on the board; for example, after 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 d6 3. Nf3:e5 d6:e5 (:d6), Black has lost two Pawns but (because the Ne5 is down to just one hit point) Black does not have such a bad game, at least not in principle.

After the further move 4. Qh5, White's superior development looks very frightening, but in fact 4. Qh5?? Q:d2 is checkmate. Black's Q has been reduced to 8 Hit Points, and 5. Nd1:d2 would only reduce it to 5, therefore the Q would still be on the board and could play 5...Qd2:e1; in fact, it is checkmate, the game is over, and these moves are not to be played.

After the moves 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 d6 3. Nf3:e5 d6:e5 (:d6) 4. h2-h3? Nb8-c6?? 5. Ne5:c6 (:e5 :c6), White has two more hitpoints remaining on the board than Black does. This illustrates that the only way to gain hitpoints is to capture something with an already-damaged piece.

Another example game would be 1. e4 e5 2. Qh5 Qe7 3. Q:h7? Nf6 4. Q:h8 N:e4; now the White Queen has been damaged seriously (she has only 3 hitpoints left), and Black is ready to attack with N and Q. This illustrates that the game is interesting and playable because the heavy pieces (R and Q) cannot be killed by a single shot from a weaker piece, and therefore can break through with powerful attacks; but at the same time it is important to keep these pieces from being damaged in order to preserve their strength for such attacks.


Perhaps pieces could "entrench" or "fortify" at the cost of a move, improving their defensive strength. Most of the wargames gave this feature.

In most war games, defensive strength can be improved by certain types of terrain.

In almost all war games, damaged units can regain their strength at the cost of some period of immobility, sometimes only in friendly territory. (I think I will never want to add this feature, though.)

Hilly squares could be randomly generated before the start of the game, and give a 50% defensive bonus; entrenchment could take one turn and give a 50% bonus.

In order to allow these features, I would multiply the hitpoints and firepower by 100 (avoiding fractions), and so for example a Pawn that is fortified on a hilly square could have a defensive strength of 225, instead of its normal strength of 100.

Of course, adding entrenchment and hills would tilt the balance too much towards the defense, unless some advantage were given to the offense.

Although Hitpoint Chess 1 seems to be both interesting and playable, I see it as a weakness that it is so hard to gain or lose whole-army hitpoints. For example, after 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 d6 3. N:e5 d6:e5 (:d6), each side has lost 2 hitpoints -- nobody has won or lost anything yet. The answer to this would be to have the attacker lose fewer hitpoints than the defender; and once again, multiplying all the numbers by 100 to avoid fractions seems like a good idea.

(Notice that I am specifically NOT saying how much of an edge the attacker should be given. This is general speculation, not specific rules.)

As things stand now, after 1. e4 d5 2. e4:d5 (:e4 :d5), it is sort of reasonable to play 2...Bg4 because 3. Qd1:g4 weakens the White Queen (for the sake of discussion, we'll ignore 3...Qd8:d2!). This seems wrong, although this way of playing would have a certain special charm of its own. Giving some advantage to the attacker would make such moves less attractive. Allowing units to heal would make such a sacrifice almost unthinkable, and thereby ruin the "specially charming" nature of this possibility (this is why I think I will not add healing).

As things stand now, after 1. e4 d5 2. e4:d5 (:e4 :d5) Nf6 3. Nc3, it is sort of a sacrifice to play 3...Bg4 because after 4. Qd1:g4 Nf6:g4 (:f6), two Black pieces are gone from the board but the White Q is badly damaged. Again ignoring 4...Q:d2, one wonders whether (as a general rule) the damaged Q is worth two pieces.

Notice that after 1. e4 d5 2. Qd1-g4 would make sense if g4 is a hilly square.

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