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GraTiA. A blend of two historic variants. (13x12, Cells: 156) [All Comments] [Add Comment or Rating]
Greg Strong wrote on 2011-03-19 UTC

Interesting synchronicity that this topic comes up right now. Am playing a game of Hex Shogi 91 now with Fergus and immediately started thinking about hexagonal shogi with vertically stacked hexagons for a very specific reason, which is almost the opposite of Fergus' reason for chosing the opposite orientation...

Going from squares to hexagons leads to more mobile pieces generally. With horizontally stacked hexes, and with the conventional mapping of orthogonal and diagonal moves, The Rook then travels in 6 directions and the Bishop in 6 (although the Bishop becomes colorbound to 1:3 of the board instead of 1:2 on a rectangular board.) The stepers also become more mobile. In Hex Shogi the Gold travels to 9 cells instead of 6, the Silver to 8 instead of 5, the Knight to 4 instead of 2. The Lance slides in 2 directions instead of 1. And, to me, the biggest difference is that pawns step in 2 directions instead of 1. Everything becomes more mobile, and therefore more powerful, hopefully maintaining the balance.

Given this, Fergus observes that with vertically stacked hexagons, not all pieces become more mobile. The Lance and the Pawn only travel in 1 direction instead of 2. Hence they get left behind in the mobility upgrade. Seems like a good reason for horizontal hexagons. (Also note the Silver moves to 7 instead of 8, Gold to 8 instead of 9; still an upgrade but not as large of one.)

Now when I looked at this, I thought that, with vertically stacked hexagons, the pawns stayed the same, which, not seeing the larger picture, I saw as advantageous. In Chess variants, the pawns are what to me is fundamental about Chess. In Shogi I wouldn't say the exact motion of the pawn is quite as fundamental to the nature of the game as in Chess, but it made sense to me to try to preserve the pawn.

So I quickly came up with a board and setup that seemed obvious to me. (see preset here). But now reading the comments I see mention of George Dekle Sr's HEXSHOGI, and looking in Pritchard's I see the almost identical board layout. (Very slight difference, board with 85 hexagons instead of 86, and bishops and rooks slid in one more.) And I've had Pritchard's Encyclopedia for seven or eight years, and flipped though it a lot, so I've probabaly seen this game and had it in my subconscious...

The biggest thing I notice with this arrangement, is that the Rook can no longer slide along the bank rank to protect the promotion zone. Instead, until pieces move out of the way, the Rook cannot move more than one space at a time! This I see as a definite drawback. I have a different vision, though, of how the Gold and Silver should move that makes them slightly weaker and also more reminicant of regular Shogi that should help to remedy the piece value problem that Fergus correctly identifies. (The Gold still moves to 8, and the Silver to 7, but the arrangement is different. Need to make a diagram...) But, yes, the Rook is made even more powerful compared to the rest of the pieces with the vertical stacking, and he was already pretty powerful.