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Game Reviews by Fergus Duniho

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This item is a game information page
It belongs to categories: Orthodox chess, 
It was last modified on: 2012-02-09
 Author: Hans L. Bodlaender and Fergus  Duniho. Shogi. Missing description (9x9, Cells: 81) (Recognized!)[All Comments] [Add Comment or Rating]
Fergus Duniho wrote on 2016-07-22 UTCExcellent ★★★★★

Shogi is an excellent game. Like Chinese Chess and western Chess, it probably evolved from the Indian Chaturanga. Despite being very different from Chinese Chess and from western Chess, it has too many similarities to them to be coincidence. The main evidence for the direction of evolution is that (1) it is a huge improvement over Chaturanga, and (2) its main differences from Chaturanga are not seen in other regional Chess variants. One of its main differences from other regional variants is its drop rule, which allows players to drop captured pieces back on the board as their own. Despite still having some slow-moving pieces like Chaturanga has, this rule greatly speeds up the game. because a captured piece can (with some restrictions) be placed on any empty space on the board. It also makes the game more dynamic. Instead the game being decided by a single-Pawn difference early in the game, there is a greater chance of material shifting between players, and the outcome depends more on the quality of play throughout the game. Shogi remains superior to Chess variants, such as Chessgi or Crazyhouse, that have added a similar drop rule to Chess. The reason for this is that its piece set is better-designed to work with the drop rule. In general, the drop rule works better with weaker pieces than are found in Chess. For example, the Chess Knight can be a formidable piece to drop, possibly forking several pieces, but the Shogi Knight can move in only two directions. Although it does include one Rook in the game, it has replaced the two corner Rooks with Lances, which move forward only. Also, unlike Chessgi and Crazyhouse, the Rook is the most powerful piece that may be dropped. In those games, you can drop a captured Queen. Shogi is also superior to Shatranji, my own attempt to apply the drop rule to the weaker piece set found in Shatranj. Besides the regular Chess Knight, Shatranji has a Ferz and some Elephants, which are both short-range diagonal moving pieces, instead of the Gold and Silver Generals. The two Generals, while being weaker than the King, both have the ability to change color. Also, like the Lance and Shogi Knight, they are more powerful going forward than backward. Having greater power for forward movement improves the offensive ability of pieces while weakening their defensive capabilities. Giving greater power to several pieces that reach the back three ranks also favors offense over defense. This favoring of offense over defense helps make Shogi more decisive and less drawish. Overall, Shogi is a fun, dynamic, and decisive game that can hold interest throughout the game, it is a huge improvement over Chaturanga, and among regional variants, it is my favorite.


This item is a game information page
It belongs to categories: Orthodox chess, 
It was last modified on: 2001-11-07
 Author: Peter  Aronson. Inventor: Frank  Maus. Cavalry Chess. A once popular variant from the 1920's where every piece has additional jumping moves. (8x8, Cells: 64) [All Comments] [Add Comment or Rating]
Fergus Duniho wrote on 2016-07-20 UTCPoor ★

I'm moving a comment I previously posted on the page before the commenting system was up-and-running to the comments. This comment is basically my review of the game, which I wrote in 2001.

Conceptually, this game is very similar to my own game Cavalier Chess, though it is completely unrelated, as I was ignorant of it when I created Cavalier Chess. Both games increase the power of the pieces mainly with additional Knight moves, hence the very similar names. Yet they are also radically different from each other. Cavalry Chess just soups up the power of each piece, whereas in Cavalier Chess I didn't make the pieces as powerful as I could have, because I determined through playtesting that really powerful pieces would hurt the game. For example, I originally replaced the Queen with an Amazon (as Maus did in Cavalry Chess), but I judged that it was too powerful. I also tried replacing the Pawns with Chess Knights, but they merely wiped each other out, clearing the way between the other pieces. I found Chinese Chess Knights much more interesting as Pawn replacements, because they could block each other, something like Pawns do, and unblocking them would sometimes create extra threats. In contrast, I find the Pawns in Cavalry Chess much too powerful. They make forward movement very difficult, because a row of Pawns covers the entire two ranks in front of them. Considering that Pawns are the soul of Chess, as I think Philidor once said, I had to replace them with just the right pieces. I think I succeeded with Chinese Chess Knights, though I don't think Maus succeeded with these super Pawns. I also tried to keep the same balance of power in Cavalier Chess as there is in Chess. Maus has not done this with Cavalry Chess. I replaced the Knight with a Nightrider, which remains less powerful than the pieces replacing the Rook and Bishop, and all new pieces remained less powerful than the Queen (which I didn't change). Maus changed the Rook and Bishop into the same pieces as I did, but he replaced the Knight with a terribly powerful piece that throws off the whole balance of the game. Once it has the opportunity to safely check the enemy King, there is little the King can do to get away from it. Checkmate, and maybe some heavy piece loss along the way, will soon follow. Still, Cavalry Chess may have some appeal if approached from a different perspective. If you approach it like a game of Chess or even Cavalier Chess, you will easily be frustrated. But if you approach it with the strategy of safely checking the enemy King with your Knight before he can do the same, it might be an interesting challenge for awhile.


This item is a game information page
It belongs to categories: Orthodox chess, 
It was last modified on: 2016-11-13
 By Fergus  Duniho. Gross Chess. A big variant with a small learning curve. (12x12, Cells: 144) [All Comments] [Add Comment or Rating]
Fergus Duniho wrote on 2016-06-30 UTCExcellent ★★★★★

Since inventing this game 7 years ago, I haven't been very active in creating new games. While part of this is due to having distractions and other interests, it's also because I have been very satisfied with this game. Instead of being an exploration into new territory, which can be an iffy prospect, this game takes what I like about Chess and increases it to a larger scale. Using the guidelines I set out in an article called On Designing Good Chess Variants, it stands up very well.

Playability (Simplicity + Clarity) & Interest (Depth & Challenge)

Because it uses familiar pieces, it is easy to learn, and because of its size and its number and variety of pieces, it offers great depth and challenge. Despite its size, the pieces move in fairly straightforward ways, which makes it easy enough to understand and evaluate a position. One of the reasons I like Chess much more than Checkers is its variety of pieces. Having different pieces makes exchanges more interesting. With this game's several more types of pieces, it has a greater variety of possible exchanges than Chess has. This increases the odds of uneven exchanges happening, where players exchange different pieces. This allows for a greater variety of unequal armies that might face each other during the course of the game.

Enjoyment (Excitement, Decisiveness, Duration, Satisfaction)

As inequalities develop between sides, the game can become more decisive, yet because of the greater variety of pieces, it may be harder to call the game during the mid-game, which can make the game more exciting. Although the large size of the game could delay attacks, the Cannons and Vaos enable attacking even before pieces have made it across Pawn lines. This allows the mid-game to start even sooner in this game than it might in other variants of this size. This makes the game quicker and more exciting from an earlier stage of the game. The triple Pawn moves and the three-rank promotion zone also help speed up the game, which is important for a game this size. Because the game is like Chess in demanding skill, and its larger size and greater number of uncertain exhanges increases the opportunities for players to make mistakes, a player who wins should feel satisfied at winning, and even a player who loses in the end may feel satisfaction in how he played the game.

Fairness (Balance + Control)

While moving first can give White an advantage, I think this advantage diminishes as a game grows larger, and it is also lessened between opponents who have not yet mastered the intricacies of the game. Also, this game offers no particular weakness for either player to exploit early in the game. All pawns start out protected, and most pieces can move someplace else even from the opening position. Because no piece is stronger than a Queen, there are no end-game surprises from a powerful piece like an Amazon getting loose. The game remains a team effort between different pieces rather than one where a star piece takes over. As with Chess, both sides start out equal, and the outcome is determined by the skill and choices of the players.


This item is a game information page
It belongs to categories: Orthodox chess, 
It was last modified on: 2002-05-28
 By Ralph  Betza. Chess with Different Armies. Betza's classic variant where white and black play with different sets of pieces. (Recognized!)[All Comments] [Add Comment or Rating]
Fergus Duniho wrote on 2015-03-28 UTCAverage ★★★
This game is interesting but unbalanced. Of the three new armies, the Nutty Knights are the most powerful. None of them are colorbound, and five non-royal pieces are major pieces. That is more major pieces than each side in Chess has, which is only three. The Remarkable Rookies are more balanced with the usual Chess army. A Chancellor is weaker than a Queen, a short Rook is weaker than a Rook, and a Half-Duck combines the colorboundness of the Bishop with the short-range of the Knight, making it weaker than both. The only advantage of the Remarkable Rookies over the FIDE army is that the Woody Rook, which replaces the Knight, is a major piece, giving this side five major pieces instead of three. The Colorbound Clobberers are the weakest of all. Each side has four colorbound pieces, and the only major piece is weaker than the most powerful major piece in each of the other armies. The Cardinal is weaker than the Queen and Chancellor and probably the Colonel too, because these all have Rook moves, and the Cardinal doesn't.

This item is a game information page
It belongs to categories: Orthodox chess, 
It was last modified on: 2006-06-22
 By Fergus  Duniho. Shatranji. Missing description (8x8, Cells: 64) [All Comments] [Add Comment or Rating]
Fergus Duniho wrote on 2009-01-22 UTCBelowAverage ★★

The idea behind the game may be a good one, but I now think the game is flawed. It does address the problem with Chessgi of the pieces being a bit too powerful for a drop game, but it has problems of its own. The main problem is that the King is now surrounded by pieces that can't defend it well against attacks from dropped pieces. In a game I just played, I checked the King with a dropped Pawn, and even though the King, the General, and the Elephants were all in their original position, only the King could have potentially captured the Pawn. The General and Elephants were worse than useless, for besides being unable to do anything, they impeded the King's escape. My Pawn was protected, the King had to flee, and it was checkmate on the next move in a very short game. I now understand why Shogi replaces the General and Elephants with Gold and Silver Generals. These pieces are much more useful for defending the King from dropped pieces. Chessgi could be improved by using weaker pieces, but I no longer think that using Shatranj pieces is the way to go. Shogi pieces are better, but if that is the direction Chessgi must go to get better then I may as well stick with Shogi and not bother trying to fix Chessgi. Perhaps Halfgi, which has already been done, is a better way to go.


This item is a game information page
It belongs to categories: Orthodox chess, 
It was last modified on: 2016-02-27
 By Fergus  Duniho. Grotesque Chess. A variant of Capablanca's Chess with no unprotected Pawns. (10x8, Cells: 80) [All Comments] [Add Comment or Rating]
Fergus Duniho wrote on 2009-01-05 UTCPoor ★
I think this is not such a great game. It is flawed by having opposing Bishops along the same diagonals, which makes it too easy for the Bishops to eliminate each other early in the game. Univers Chess and Ladorean Chess also share this flaw. Besides the problem with Bishop placement, it also places the Queens and Equerries too close to common diagonals, making it too easy for them to attack each other early in the game. Univers Chess and Ladorean Chess do not share this flaw, which makes them slightly better games. Schoolbook Chess and Embassy Chess share none of these flaws. Between these two, Schoolbook Chess seems to me to be the better game.

This item is a game information page
It belongs to categories: Orthodox chess, 
It was last modified on: 2008-10-29
 By Fergus  Duniho. Grand Cavalier Chess. The decimal version of Cavalier Chess. (10x10, Cells: 100) [All Comments] [Add Comment or Rating]
Fergus Duniho wrote on 2008-10-30 UTCExcellent ★★★★★
Among my own variants, this is one of my favorites. It has a very good balance between dynamism and clarity. Compared to Chess, it is more dynamic but less clear. The difference in clarity is due to (1) pieces being more powerful in general, (2) the greater difficulty in visualizing Nightrider moves, (3) the greater complexity of the Cannon over the Rook, including its ability to pin two pieces in a row, and (4) the blockability of Cavaliers and their resulting ability to pin pieces. The game is made more dynamic by (1) the ability of Cannons and Nightriders to reach beyond enemy blockades from a distance, (2) the greater freedom of movement the pieces have in general, and (3) the ability of Cavaliers to go backwards. In terms of gameplay, this game strikes me as a better blend of Chess and Chinese Chess than my own Eurasian Chess. The freedom it gives to the Cannons is more comparable to Chinese Chess. The Cavaliers, which replace the Pawns, are taken directly from Chinese Chess, and their inability to create Pawn structures leaves the playing field more open, as in Chinese Chess. Using a larger board with each side having fewer Cavaliers than total files also helps. Overall, the gameplay is faster and more tactical than Chess, more similar to Chinese Chess. But it also has its Chess-like elements, such as more powerful pieces, a roaming royal piece, and the race to promote.

This item is a game information page
It belongs to categories: Orthodox chess, 
It was last modified on: 1999-12-18
 By Kevin  Scanlon. Grander Chess. A variant of Christian Freeling's Grand Chess. (10x10, Cells: 100) [All Comments] [Add Comment or Rating]
Fergus Duniho wrote on 2006-02-27 UTCPoor ★
I've never really paid attention to this game before. The name and the description both suggest that this game is supposed to be an improvement over Grand Chess. But, in Humpty Dumpty's sense of the word, there is no glory on this page. None of Kevin Scanlon's arguments for his changes to Grand Chess are convincing. (1) Making stalemate a win does not maximize the logical consistency of the game. This claim is empty sophistry, using important sounding words to describe something of no significance. The only way in which making stalemate a win maximizes consistency is by making the winning condition consistent with the alternate winning condition of capturing the King. (2) Likewise, how is the elimination of en passant supposed to make the game more consistent? If we follow Scanlon's logic to its conclusion, every piece will move the same in a fully consistent game, and we may as well play Checkers. En passant exists in Chess to keep Pawns from bypassing each other. Other pieces don't need the power, because they will have other opportunities to capture Pawns that pass by on a double move. (3) The new array leaves a Pawn unprotected. This is not good for a game with powerful compound pieces. In conclusion, I remain unconvinced that this game is grander than Grand Chess.

This item is a game information page
It belongs to categories: Orthodox chess, 
It was last modified on: 2006-02-26
 By Namik  Zade. Amazon Grand Chess. A combination of Grand Chess and Amazon Chess. (10x10, Cells: 100) [All Comments] [Add Comment or Rating]
Fergus Duniho wrote on 2006-02-26 UTCPoor ★
I sure hope no one ever makes an inferior knock off of one of my own games and calls it [name of game] 2. It's bad enough to have something like Wildeurasian Qi around, but it would be worse, say, if someone added an Amazon to Cavalier Chess and called it Cavalier Chess 2. An Amazon is a bad piece, because it can force checkmate on its own. Its presence in a game routinely makes a game worse for having it, and I, for one, purposely left it out of Cavalier Chess and other games to avoid making them bad. Therefore, this is a worse game than Grand Chess, and calling it Grand Chess 2 is disrespectful to its creator, Christian Freeling, who, we should remember, is still alive and may not like to have his creations trampled on like this.

This item is a game information page
It belongs to categories: Orthodox chess, 
It was last modified on: 2006-02-07
 By (zzo38) A.  Black. Xorix Shogi. Shogi where piece movement are XORed with captured pieces. (9x9, Cells: 81) [All Comments] [Add Comment or Rating]
Fergus Duniho wrote on 2006-01-20 UTCGood ★★★★
A. Black, This comment concerns your whole output here, not just this game, though it seems to be a prime example of what I'm talking about. In general, you should playtest every game you post here before you post it. When you post using a system that allows you to bypass editorial review, it is up to you to review yourself. Instead of posting every one of your ideas, put your best face forward by posting only stuff you can stand behind and say 'I know this is good.' Given that this game requires a computer to play and you have not provided a ZRF, a Game Courier preset, or a program that plays it, I assume you have never played this game. Let me recommend that you get Zillions of Games and use it to try out and develop your games before posting them here. It is an invaluable tool for Chess variant designers. Unlike Michael, I think I understand the rules. But they could use clarification for readers who are not computer programmers. When one piece captures another, it gets all the powers of movement that the two pieces did not share in common, and it loses any they did share in common, except for the ability to move one space forward, which all pieces retain. So, for example, if a Rook captured a Bishop, it would be able to move as a Queen; if a Rook captured a Queen, it could move as a Bishop or a Pawn; and if a Rook captured another Rook, it could move only as a Pawn. This might be an interesting game, and it might be a good one, but without a ZRF available for it, I'm not going to try it out.

This item is a game information page
It belongs to categories: Orthodox chess, 
It was last modified on: 2005-05-01
 By Michael  Nelson. Decima. Variant on 10 by 10 board where you win when you have 10 points on the 10th row. (10x10, Cells: 100) [All Comments] [Add Comment or Rating]
Fergus Duniho wrote on 2005-07-01 UTCGood ★★★★
This looks like a good game. The learning curve is low, and the game includes an intriguing new winning condition that incorporates the number 10.

This item is a game information page
It belongs to categories: Orthodox chess, 
It was last modified on: 2005-05-02
 By Bruce  Leban. d10 Chess. Roll a ten sided die (d10) every turn to determine which pieces may be moved. (8x8, Cells: 64) [All Comments] [Add Comment or Rating]
Fergus Duniho wrote on 2005-07-01 UTCGood ★★★★
I'm impressed by the fact that this game rose above the expectations I initially had when I saw that it was played with dice. I haven't been very impressed with other dice games, such as Vegas Fun Chess. But this game seems to be better thought out and looks like it will require more skill than some of its cousins.

This item is a game information page
It belongs to categories: Orthodox chess, 
It was last modified on: 2005-02-24
 By Reinhard  Scharnagl. Capablanca Random Chess. Randomized setup for Capablanca chess. (10x8, Cells: 80) [All Comments] [Add Comment or Rating]
Fergus Duniho wrote on 2005-07-01 UTCGood ★★★★
This looks like a good game. I like Fischer Random Chess, as well as some of the variants played on this board with these pieces. So I expect the combination to be good.

This item is a game information page
It belongs to categories: Orthodox chess, 
It was last modified on: 2002-05-01
 By Peter  Aronson. Anti-King Chess. Each player has both a King and an Anti-King to protect; Anti-Kings are in check when not attacked. (8x8, Cells: 64) (Recognized!)[All Comments] [Add Comment or Rating]
Fergus Duniho wrote on 2003-09-23 UTCExcellent ★★★★★
I recently finished a game of Anti-King Chess II with Andreas Kaufmann. This game can be found on the Game Courier logs page. I like Anti-King Chess II a lot. It seems to be a very positional game. At the end of our game, only a Pawn on each side had been captured. From the first move, I followed the strategy of moving away any pieces that were attacking the Anti-King. Instead of focusing on material advantage, I was counting up tempos, making sure that I remained several tempos ahead. A tempo advantage meant that in a race to eliminate attacks on each other's Anti-King, I would get done first. As it happened, moving pieces away from the Anti-King also served the goal of piece development. Toward the end of the game, I was positioning pieces in a manner that I hoped would let me win with a move that checked the King and simultaneously removed the last attack on the Anti-King. But Andreas resigned before this could happen.

This item is a game information page
It belongs to categories: Orthodox chess, 
It was last modified on: 2005-04-22
 Author: Hans L. Bodlaender and Antoine  Fourrière. Marseillais Chess. Move twice per turn. (8x8, Cells: 64) (Recognized!)[All Comments] [Add Comment or Rating]
Fergus Duniho wrote on 2003-02-25 UTCGood ★★★★
This looks like an interesting game, but I don't wonder why no Zillions file is listed for it. This one would seem to be a difficult game to implement. The rule against checking on the first move may be difficult to implement, unless it's just impossible. I haven't analyzed the matter far enough to know whether it's possible. For each possible move, Zillions would have to check whether the enemy King would be in check. There is no query function for this, and even if there was one, it might be very costly. One might note the enemy King's location, then keep checking whether it is defended. But I'm not sure that this will work.

This item is a game information page
It belongs to categories: Orthodox chess, 
It was last modified on: 2003-01-24
Millennium Chess This item is a game information page
It belongs to categories: Orthodox chess, 
It was last modified on: 2003-01-24
. Commercial variant on 15 by 8 board with almost twice the normal set of pieces.[All Comments] [Add Comment or Rating]
Fergus Duniho wrote on 2003-01-24 UTCPoor ★
A hyped up commercial variant that doesn't even offer a single fairy piece. If it's true that 'THIS IS THE ONLY CHESS GAME PATENTED IN THE UNITED STATES AND CANADA THAT WAS DEVELOPED TO IMPROVE YOUR EXISTING CHESS SKILLS!', it's probably because Gothic Chess was patented only in the United States, and most variants have not been patented at all. After all, just about any Chess variant can help you improve your Chess skills.

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