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Dragonchess. A three-dimensional fantasy variant. (12x8x3, Cells: 288) (Recognized!)[All Comments] [Add Comment or Rating]
ChessAhmega wrote on 2007-08-27 UTCExcellent ★★★★★
Looks to try it!

Midna wrote on 2008-07-24 UTCExcellent ★★★★★
The game itself looks really really interesting, but the fact that the dragons can capture a Sylph in the opening of the game disturbs it for me. So I looked for an alternative in the internet, and I found one that I like: All you have to do is move the 4 gryphons and the 2 dragons one square to left, so that their new starting positions are b1, j1, b8 and j8 for the Gryphons and f1 and f8 for the Dragons. Note: I did not play the game yet, but I will do so very soon.

kw wrote on 2009-04-18 UTCExcellent ★★★★★
I love this game.  The Zillions version works pretty well, too.  I noticed
the game description mentions Chatranj, but it looks like Gygax, mhrip, was
also familiar with Courier-Spiel, conveniently listed here in the
Chessvarients vaults.  The middle board (Earth) of Dragonchess is almost
exactly the same as Courier-Spiel, if not identical.  I don't mean to
detract from Mr. Gygax's inventiveness: far from it! Adding the elements
of Underworld and Sky could not have been easy, especially having to
playtest it by himself.  I just wanted to point out a similar game for
anyone who's interested.  Unfortunately, Courier-Spiel doesn't yet have a
Zillions file written for it.

By the way, in reference to moving the Slyphs and Dwarves to line up on
top of one another, that would mean that they would only cover half the
rank of Warriors...

imma wrote on 2009-05-06 UTCExcellent ★★★★★

Etienne wrote on 2009-12-17 UTC
Are the Heroes freezed at the beginning, since they are over the Basilisks?
 It would seem strange since you could just leave the Basilisks there
rendering the Heroes useless...  But the rules do say that freezing is
automatic all the time.

If that's not the case, what would the rule become?  The basilisk's
freezing power turns on only after it has made his first move, and then
stays on automatically until the end of the game, or its capture?

Fergus Duniho wrote on 2009-12-18 UTC
The rules state, 'Though the Basilisk is restricted to the bottom board, it has the power to freeze any opposing piece on the cell directly above it on the middle board. Freezing is automatic whether an opposing piece moves over the Basilisk or the Basilisk moves under the opposing piece.' The key term here is 'opposing piece.' This means one of the opponent's pieces.

Etienne Forest wrote on 2009-12-18 UTC
Right! That makes perfect sense and I wonder why I didn't see that myself! Thanks! :)

Anonymous wrote on 2009-12-22 UTCExcellent ★★★★★

Victor Amuro wrote on 2010-01-07 UTC
The problem with the Dragon in the opening phase of Dragonchess is well
known. The Sylphs at 1a2 and 1a7 are sitting ducks and also the future of
the Oliphants at the a-row is looking bleak. In fact an unleashed Dragon
can be a devastating force and can whip out the entire left side of the
upper and middle board. 

Several solutions are given by different players ranging from minimizing
the ability of capture from afar (CAF)to the square directly below the
Dragon, reducing the maneuverability to a bishop in normal chess, to
changing the starting position of the Dragon or the Sylphs or a combination
of these solutions (see also Comments on this website). 
Although minimizing the CAFabilty will reduce the power of the Dragon it is
still possible to capture the undefended Sylphs at the a-row with the first
move. The Oliphants are also still in danger as are most of its neighbors.

Changing the starting position of the Sylphs to one square to the right,
keeps the Sylphs a little saver but postpone the problem for the pieces on
the left flank at the middle board. After 1. 1Sf2-g3, the Dragon can still
get to the undefendable square 1a7 and threat to roll up most of the pieces
on the back row of the middle board. 

In normal chess all the major pieces start safe behind the pawns. All the
pawns are defended by one or more pieces. Even the pawns on the relative
weak squares f2 and f7 are defended. Not so in Dragonchess, the undefended
squares 1a2 and 1a7 can form a stronghold from which a Dragon can capture
or at least threat to capture several enemy pieces right from the opening.

I think I found a simple and elegant solution. To defend the squares 1a2
and 1a7 just swap the starting position of the Hero and the Unicorn on the
middle board. From the squares  2b1, 2b8, 2k1 and 2k8 the Hero defends the
squares diagonally on the upper and lower board.  It doesn’t change the
nature of the game, nor minimize or reduce the power of the Dragon. Somehow
it feels right, a hero defending a helpless sylph against a powerful

Fergus Duniho wrote on 2011-03-09 UTC
Looking over the comments to this page, it is good to see that Gary Gygax wrote a comment here ten months before he died. Since it hasn't been done yet here, I thought I should note his passing here and comment on his life. Gary Gygax died on March 4th, 2008 at the age of 69. I've known who Gary Gygax was most of my life, because as a teenager I played Dungeons and Dragons, the game he is most famous for inventing. Even though I stopped playing D&D in high school, mainly due to the lack of a good gaming community to support my interest in it, I always appreciated D&D and admired Gary Gygax for creating D&D and for founding TSR. I had a subscription to Dragon magazine when the Dragon Chess article appeared in it, and I can recall reading it. At that particular time, I had created a Chess variant based on D&D, which involved dice-controlled combat between pieces, which I used to play in study hall with a friend of mine. Unfortunately, I've lost the rules to this game. However, I was not into Chess variants at that time as much as I am now, and lacking the equipment for Dragon Chess, I never thought to play it. But I'm glad he did create a Chess variant. It hearkens back to his roots with war games, which is more closely connected with what we do here, and which is the link that connects Chess variants with D&D. Chess variants are abstract, simplified versions of war games, whereas D&D is an RPG extension of wargaming. I'll also add that it was good to see Gary Gygax in Futurama: Bender's Game. Even though I no longer play D&D and never knew Gary Gygax myself, it's still sad that someone like him has passed away. He will be missed.

snark wrote on 2012-12-02 UTCExcellent ★★★★★
I love the game, and built myself a wooden set back in '85 (still have it)-- used 3/4" wooden dowels of various lengths for the pieces, with woodburned letters on their top ends.

I also find the dragon to be rather overpowered; too many games seem to devolve into "dragon wrestling." My own suggested solution has three parts:

First change: reduce the dragon's capture-from-afar ability slightly, so that it can't capture the square directly underneath it-- only the squares orthogonally adjacent. (This differs from the usual suggestion of restricting it *only* to the square directly underneath). Rationale: One of the things that makes the dragon so overpowered is that there are so few pieces on the middle board that can threaten it without being gobbled up-- just the hero and paladin. Several pieces can capture straight-up, though, so this makes it more possible to threaten the dragon. By keeping the orthogonal squares, the capture ability isn't lessened all that much (still 4 out of the original 5 squares).

Second change: As others have suggested, shift the row of sylphs sideways by one square, so they're lined up over the dwarves. Not only does this take the endmost sylph out of the dragon's line of fire, but it also has the effect of caging the dragon behind its own sylphs-- unblocking it requires moving a sylph first, which is a nice mechanic to have. (I know that some have objected that this leaves half the warriors "uncovered," but in my experience, this isn't a problem. First, they all have pretty good cover from the back-rank middle-board pieces anyway; second, it's easy to slide a dwarf sideways if needed; third, the ability I describe below mitigates this issue further.)

Third change: Give warriors a new ability, "sacrifice."  A warrior can capture a piece directly above or below it... but dies in the process. Each player can do this only once per game (like castling in chess).

I've found that doing this leaves the dragon as a very powerful piece, but prevents rampages, and keeps an interesting balance with the other pieces.

Disciple of Zagyg wrote on 2014-04-30 UTCExcellent ★★★★★
Ive been playing D&D for decades, and have enjoyed MANY games of Dragon
Chess over those decades... I really dont have much to add other than
seeing the the man Zagyg himself posted (Gary Gygax) about the game hit me
with a wave of nostalgia, and I just wanted to post in memory of him

Long live Dragon Chess!

John Whelan wrote on 2015-12-19 UTC
The text here correctly says that the Dragon cannot move and use his "capture from afar" ability in the same turn. However, it would be clearer if it specified that the "capture from afar" ability counts as a move. Hence, not only can the dragon not move that turn, but none of your other pieces may move either. The capture is your move.

cam wrote on 2016-06-06 UTC

Is there any license regarding this chess variant and its rules? Can someone make a computer game for Dragonchess and sell it without any copyright/trademark issue?

John Davis wrote on 2016-06-07 UTC

Cam, I wish you luck in putting something together. Dragon 100 is the only of my old Dragon magazines I have kept. I am not a lawyer, but if you want to  make money off of Dragon Chess,  you will probably have claims against you. The good news is that as far as I can tell, Hasbro doesn't hold the rights to it. According to a 12-12-2012 article in Forbs by Michael Peck, Gail Gygax, his second wife, holds all rights to his property. The article also mentions his sons Eric and Luke are still active in gaming. Another consideration is the Dragonchess (one word) game, they might also wish to fight over the name. If I were you, I would certainly put in plenty of due diligence in research before put alot of time and money into the project only to have it swamped with cease and desist letters.

cam wrote on 2016-06-07 UTC

Thanks for your reply and info, John Davis! Yes, from what I've found the name is most likely what I can't use. But the rules it seem that they can't be copyrighted: .

So, while not ideal, I'm fine with changing the name. But I would have liked to keep the name of the pieces, like Oliphant or Paladin. The reason I like this game is because it has cool fantasy characters. Dungeons and Dragons fans would have liked that more. If they need to change, I would have to find other fantasy characters names that I could use. I love the idea of air, land and underground for the 3 boards.

Regarding the actual game, I was intending to make it free to play online. The money possible being made from ads, membership or donations. That would allow me to put more time in improving the platform if people would like to play on. Other than that, there will also be server expenses that would need to be covered.


Greg Strong wrote on 2016-06-08 UTC

If you are looking to turn a profit, I'd advise you to forget it.  There is remarkably little interest in chess variants in general, and almost none in Dragonchess despite the fact that it's been around for a long time.  And there's a number of places where people can already play tons of variants for free.

Fergus Duniho wrote on 2016-06-09 UTC

If this is just out of personal interest in the game, this site provides the means and infrastructure for you to make the game available for online play. Check out Game Courier in the Play menu. All it requires of you is to design and program the game. The hosting and administration of games is handled by scripts on this website. Calling the game Gary Gygax's Dragonchess might be sufficient to distinguish it from the other Dragonchess. This game has already been programmed for Zillions-of-Games, and it has been programmed in Java.

John Davis wrote on 2016-06-12 UTC

So, there is nothing prohibiting someone from making a game courier page. I like Alfaerie graphics, I'm thinking, X, .ZF, .BW, for the upper board. For the Courier-Speil middle board, .EF, GU, .NGU, and SE, ~CO, _JG_.DW, for the lower board.

John Davis wrote on 2016-06-12 UTC

So, there is nothing prohibiting someone from making a game courier page. I like Alfaerie graphics, I'm thinking, X, .ZF, .BW, for the upper board. For the Courier-Speil middle board, .EF, GU, .NGU, and SE, ~CO, _JG_.DW, for the lower board.

Greg Strong wrote on 2016-06-12 UTC

Done.  Something like this what you had in mind?


Greg Strong wrote on 2016-06-13 UTC

OK, there's one thing about this preset that's not ideal, but I don't think there's anything that can be done about it.  I've stacked the three boards (air, land, underground) on top of one another.  The problem is that when it's the second player's turn, the entire set of boards is rotated and so from his perspective, the air board is on the bottom and the underground board is on top.

As far as I know, the only alternative to this would be to put the three boards side-by-side, but would be less intuitive and the rendering would be far too wide.

Greg Strong wrote on 2016-06-17 UTC

I noticed that this page doesn't actually mention the victory condition.  I consulted Dragon Magazine #100 and confirmed that the goal is to checkmate the King.

Jeff Coutu wrote on 2019-03-12 UTC

There is a mistake for the Elemental. The original text for the Elemental has “The upward move can only be made if a capture is involved, but the downward move can be made without capturing.” The descriptive text above for the Elemental matches the intent of the original text but the diagram for the middle board does not. The four “x” on the middle board should be “c”.

wd wrote on 2020-05-12 UTC

Along the lines of piece values and relative rank, I would submit:


Dragon: 10

Mage: 9

Cleric: 8

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