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Catapults of Troy. Large variant with a river, catapults, archers, and trojan horses! (8x11, Cells: 88) [All Comments] [Add Comment or Rating]
Anthony Viens wrote on 2018-10-09 UTC

Aurelian Florea, I will try to explain why I like this variant.  

First, though; I generally don't like variants with one idea....if someone thinks of a cool piece and slaps down two per side on a 8x10 board (everything else standard chess) I usually find that uninteresting.  I may like the new piece, mind you, but I generally like a few new ideas in a game.  Preferably, the new ideas don't feel like a bunch of random new pieces stuffed on a board.  Bonus points if the new ideas work together.  

Basically, my favorite variants push the envelope away from standard chess, and work as a cohesive whole.

Catapults of Troy succeeds at both of those things much better than most.  The river terrain makes this very different from chess, but it functions as a cohesive whole because everything is based around that one thing--the river.  

1) The river is not a total barrier--Archers can shoot across it and the Trojan Horse can jump it.

2) The river is a 'promotion' line; after crossing it the Trojan Horse can drop the archer.

3) The bridge builder is the primary way across the river, essentially adding in squares for use.  Building the board adds a whole new, rarely explored, dimension to the game.  This also means there will be a great deal of variety between games, as the board varies in shape from game to game.

4) The catapult is a new, very different, very interesting piece.  (To me, anyway.)  But it's not just new and different--it acts as the alternate way across the river.  This keeps the game from becoming a one-dimensional game of attack-the-bridge-builder.

5) The ram is a new, different piece.  At first glance it appears to be a random idea, but that is incorrect.  It would probably be too overpowered, except for one thing--the river.  By limiting the number of files the ram can threaten to bridges, the river makes it possible to defend against it.  It would be difficult to use the ram in a different variant, without a river.
Honestly, I didn't like the piece at first.  Too powerful and game changing.  However, I eventually realized how the ram and river function together, and I cannot help but admire the cleverness of the design.  The ram requires the river to function properly, and yet has nothing to do with fording the water!  This adds another dimension to the river's usefulness.
I still wonder if the ram is a bit overpowered, though.  I'm tempted to say the catapult should not be able to toss it--it's a devastating piece.

You'll also note that it's a very lean game--Gary didn't add anything that didn't have something to do with the river, and he removed a bunch of usual chess pieces.  There is only six pawns, one rook, and the two bishops.  (The single Trojan Horse with archer inside is vastly different and more powerful than a knight.)

Excellent, different, and cohesively designed game.

 

It's not perfect, mind you.  Having that many ranks on the board weights the game too heavily toward the catapult for no good reason, IMHO.  It should be only 8x9, including the river.  (See my previous comment below.)  Archers should probably have less squares they can shoot, they are quite powerful.  The starting pawn structure seems arbitrary.  And I really feel that it should have a palace (like Xiang Qi, the inspiration for the river) where the Trojan Horse must reach to allow the horde of troops inside to dismount.

However, it's easier said than done.  I've fooled around with designing something like Catapults of Troy plus palaces, but it's giving me new appreciation for Gary's clean design. Having two driving ideas behind a variant (river&palace instead of just river) really multiplies the number of pieces.  It doesn't help that I have a tendency to throw everything and the kitchen sink at a variant....

One more time: it's an excellent, different, and cohesively designed game.

My one gripe is that Zillions of Games isn't letting me upgrade the program, so I haven't been able to play Catapults of Troy yet!