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Amalgamated Chess. Incorporates some aspects of historical variants, but uses only usual equipment. (8x8, Cells: 64) [All Comments] [Add Comment or Rating]
💡📝James Gryphon wrote on 2018-05-15 UTC

Just when you think you've taken care of everything... ;)

Your comment on the opening array is exactly right. I'll see if I can get that fixed.

I guess when I say that it 'delivers check', what I really meant is something more like that it threatens, attacks or controls that square (so that the other king can't move there), so your interpretation is correct.

Chris Chradle wrote on 2018-05-06 UTCGood ★★★★

Still two things: "The King may not move back over the river; however, he still delivers check backwards." When the black king is on f4, the white king can't move to f5 giving the king on f4 check (it would move into check itself). I think you mean that when there is a black king on f4, the white king can't move to f5 or e5.

On e1 and d8 must be generals in the starting position, musn't they?

Greg Strong wrote on 2018-04-11 UTC

Update posted.

💡📝James Gryphon wrote on 2018-04-09 UTC

New and hopefully last revision is sent and should be up before too long. It includes the changes mentioned below and is considerably changed in presentation, but with what should be complete rule equivalency. I chose to adopt Gilman's standardized set of piece names, replacing the existing ones, with the hopes that this will help distinguish the pieces from the legions of different pieces with identical names and improve reader understanding.

Aurelian Florea wrote on 2018-04-09 UTC

Ok, now I get it, thanks :)!

💡📝James Gryphon wrote on 2018-04-09 UTC

I yield. I confess the existing rules make perfect sense to me, and I admit I have a hard time understanding from whence come the problems in following them, but apparently there are problems whether I see them or not. The Game Courier preset will help, but as I've reason to think it will take a while to make it, I'm going to prepare a third revision ASAP to rewrite the rules to make them more clear and include some movement diagrams.

To answer your question, though, the C.E. moves as an Alfil + Dabbabah (the Elephant's King move, as stated in the bold text, is lost when crossing the river).

David Cannon wrote on 2018-04-09 UTC

I still don't understand how the Charging Elephant is supposed to move.

💡📝James Gryphon wrote on 2018-04-08 UTC

Well, I bolded the parts in the text to try to help clarify this, but in any case I'll state it here; all promoted pieces, except for the Charging Elephant, gain the ability to move as Chess Kings, in addition to their existing move.

So as a result of this the "Flying Chariot" is simply a different name for the Crowned or "Rutland" Rook (also known as the Dragon King in Shogi). The Knight here is a Centaur (King + Knight hybrid). The Soldier is simply a Man/Guard, that is, a non-royal king.

Aurelian Florea wrote on 2018-04-08 UTC

I understand almost nothing here. For example how are the knight, flying chariot and soldier moving ?

Greg Strong wrote on 2018-04-05 UTC

Hi, James.  I've received it and will have it up this weekend if not before.

💡📝James Gryphon wrote on 2018-04-05 UTC

Hi Greg,

I finally got around to sending one in a few days ago. Excited to see it up soon.

Working on getting a Game Courier version of this up with rule enforcement. It's a tricky task but it should help address people's questions when it's done.

Greg Strong wrote on 2018-03-13 UTC

Hi, James.  If you email me your revised version, I can get it updated.  [email protected].


Aurelian Florea wrote on 2018-03-13 UTC

It is not clear which are the powers of all pieces in this game. Also the initial postion is not clear. I assume it is akin the orthodox chess, but this should be clear :(! The author should please correct these :)!

💡📝James Gryphon wrote on 2018-03-13 UTC

Sent an email in to get this updated -- hoping that'll be the case soon, and that I can turn my attention to making new variants, or a GC implementation of the game.

💡📝James Gryphon wrote on 2014-08-26 UTC
I'm sorry I took so long to get back to you. I saw your comment not long after it popped up, and I was going to respond, but other things and hobbies came up, and I kept putting it off. I haven't thought about this game in far too long, but I need to see it through to completion.

I guess my problem with A.C. was just that I had a different idea of what a sharp, attacking game would look like -- plus, I have to admit it was a little disconcerting that I turned out to be so bad at my own game! But I can't deny that the points you make about that are accurate.

Your idea with the Elephants is interesting. At the same time, though, it seems that those are a vital part of the game's offensive nature, and if we agree that the game does represent what I said it would (albeit not necessarily what I imagined in my subconscious), changing them so much might move things too far in the opposite direction.

This might be a good compromise -- perhaps the Elephants could be War Elephants on their home side, but would turn into ordinary elephants upon crossing the river. That way, you're encouraged to use them defensively, but they still have enough offensive value that it might be worth throwing them into an attack. This also reflects the historical reality that elephants were not typically the best at maneuvering once they were charging into the enemy's lines. The main thing I'm not sure about is that I don't think any mainstream Chess game features demoting pieces, unless you count the advisors/guards in Korean Chess (which, due to a unique layout for the palace, can move to squares where they are less powerful than on other squares).

The main page for the variant is really old by now. I haven't sent in an update for it in forever. I suppose I ought to, so that everybody's at least caught up to where the last game was. Are there any other changes that need to be made that I've forgotten about?

Cameron Miles wrote on 2014-08-16 UTC
Wow... sorry about this. I really should have mentioned (the last time I moved) that I was leaving for a much-anticipated 3-week vacation the very next day. While away, I did log in to G.C. every once in a while, but only for a few minutes at a time, to just move quickly in my current games so that they would all remain active. The problem was, the A.C. game never appeared on my list of current games, so I wound up not seeing what you'd written at the end of it until now (just got home earlier today, and was sifting through the "Finished Games" list when I finally found it).

Guess I ought to get back on topic now...

The vulnerability of the Wazir-Prince was something that I immediately expressed some concern over, but what worried me wasn't that it would make him too easy to attack; the issue was that he could be targetted right from move 1, leading to forced opening moves and tactics (rarely a good thing).

The new opening layout seems to have solved this problem**, however (and very nicely, I might add), which is why I'm going to have to disagree with your assessment that giving the Prince the Wazir move was seemingly a mistake. According to the introduction at the very top of the rules page, Amalgamated Chess is meant to be "a fast-paced, aggressive game". As it is now, the game accomplishes this about as well as any chess variant could ever hope to; it's about as close to pure attacking chess as you can get. Is this really "the opposite" of what you had hoped for?

Personally, the extremely sharp, dynamic, and non-materialistic nature of the gameplay is one of my favorite things about the version of A.C. we've been playing. Moreover, I think it is something that a lot, if not most, of chess variant players like to see - variants that are faster and more aggressive than FIDE chess. For this reason, I think the idea of weakening the royal pieces in this game was actually a brilliant one.

If A.C. has any shortcomings, it may be the lack of defensive resources available to its armies. Because of the way promotion works, every single piece on the board is 10 times more effective on the opponent's side of the river than on its own side. I did have an idea that may help to balance attack and defense in this game. It involves replacing the Elephants (which can be dangerous offensive pieces) with a useful defensive piece, that cannot cross the river. Because the invading pieces are so powerful (due to promotion), I would suggest making these defenders reasonably strong - perhaps the move of the "War Elephant" is a good fit.

The above proposal would give the game an additional similarity with the popular Xiangqi from the East, as well as preserve the game's ability to be played with a standard chess set. Most importantly, it would give both sides at least a sporting chance to fend off attacks, so that victory is not always guaranteed as soon as 1 or 2 pieces break through into enemy territory.

One last note: the rules page still gives the following description under "Setup": "Position the ... armies as in regular Chess." This should probably be edited, in light of the recent changes made to the initial setup.

** Admittedly, the playtesting we've done for the game's latest version has been very limited, with only one game so far from the correct starting position.

💡📝James Gryphon wrote on 2014-04-01 UTC
I agree with moving the c-pawn up in the new layout. It has a practical benefit in making it easier for casual players to set up the board correctly. There's enough people that accidentally switch the king and queen for one (or both) sides that it's probably asking too much to expect them to remember a non-bilaterally-symmetric starting position.

It seems that having all these pawns up in the second row might bog down the opening a little bit, but I suppose that's better than having only one "best" move for White. If we're agreed, then I'll send the rule revision to the maintainers in a bit.

Cameron Miles wrote on 2014-03-30 UTC
OK, so after thinking about it a bit, it does seem that a revised opening setup, with the undefended b, f, and g-pawns advanced forward one square, should solve the opening problems associated with the current version of the game. What convinces me of this is simply that Black can immediately cover all fifth-rank squares with the move 1...c7-c6, and it will be awhile before either side can come storming across the river to mount an attack. So the resulting opening phase should be very well balanced.

For aesthetic and practical purposes, it might be best to also advance the c-pawns forward one square. This would restore mirror-symmetry to the pawn formations, as well as sparing players the monotony of mindless c2-c3 and c7-c6 moves at the beginning of every game.

💡📝James Gryphon wrote on 2014-03-15 UTC
The rule draft I have right now incorporates the following notable changes:

1) King valued at 2 points.

2) Stalemates are draws.

3) Fifty-move rule tweak.

4) Wazir-Prince, normal King.

I sent this in to the editor for the main page. If the Wazir-Prince doesn't work, then that can be fixed later; the others'll likely stay as they are.

Your commentary on the opening phase with Wazir-Prince is intriguing and, if accurate, disturbing. I suppose the easiest way to find out whether this breaks the game is for you to try out that opening (this also saves me some of the trouble of analyzing it on my own time).

One intriguing way of patching up the undefended pawn problem could be to move each of the unprotected pawns one step forward in the opening array. This is reminiscent of the pawn positions in some forms of eastern Chess (and also bears resemblance to the appearance of the board after the "forced moves" present in many pre-modern forms of Chess, like Courier Chess). This is an off-the-cuff idea, though; I haven't put much thought into how it would affect play. It could very easily be terrible.

Cameron Miles wrote on 2014-03-15 UTC
Your adaptation of the 50-move rule for A.C. looks good. It's simple, logical, and is pretty much optimal in terms of its main purpose of limiting the duration of the game.

Regarding the marathon game, the main concern involved dual-King positions, so ending the game immediately in such situations should obliterate that problem entirely. It will also lead to a sharper, more volatile game, due to many strange cases where the action seems to just "end" suddenly in the middle of a major skirmish; not sure whether that's a good thing or a bad thing.

If the King is in the corner, then only 13 points of material are needed for checkmate (assuming you are referring to the points used in A.C., and that the friendly King, to avoid ambiguity in the point counting, doesn't participate). For instance, with Black King on f4, and White having "soldiers" on d3, e2, and f2 and an "Advisor" on d4, moving the Advisor to e3 results in checkmate. Of course, this doesn't really add anything relevant to the discussion, as the fact remains that checkmate is a highly unrealistic possibility in a two-Kings endgame.

It's not easy to even weigh the pros and cons of weakening the Prince's and King's powers, let alone to compare the various possibilities on how to do this. One thing I've noticed, though, is that taking away the Prince's diagonal move will leave the f-pawns unprotected in the starting position. Because the b and g-pawns are also undefended, this is going to make the opening phase extremely unbalanced. White will almost always open with  1. E f1-d3, and play will inevitably center around targeting the f-pawn (Black will try to counterattack in the exact same manner, at the first opportunity), and an early Nh6 will likely be forced from Black just about every time. And I'm pretty sure White can force the exchange of a Black Chariot for a White Elephant, in fairly short order.

The other two proposed Princes are rather similar. Either way, removing the "dual-Kings rule" should still result in some long, usually very drawish endings, because such situations will most likely occur in relatively simplified positions (in addition to the nature of promotion and demotion; late in the game the opponent's side of the river will often be considerably safer). Of course, weakening the royal pieces WOULD significantly lower the percentage of games decided by the point system (because it will be a lot harder for the Prince to make it across the river in one piece).

That's pretty much all the input I have to offer. It really just amounts to a few things that you may want to consider when trying to decide on one rule over another. At the end of the day, it comes down to subjective choices such as how many moves should the average game last, how often should the point system decide the game, or how well-balanced should the game be in each phase, and as a whole - these are all up to you.

By the way, I've accepted your invitation (and chose White since I played as Black in my first game), but have yet to move - the reason being that all this talk of rule changes left me unsure what version of A.C. I was actually playing. I'll make the 1st move once the rules have been finalized. The amount of time I can afford to spend on my G.C. games is very limited as well, so don't worry about moving slowly. Just don't expect my moves to necessarily come in any faster :p

💡📝James Gryphon wrote on 2014-03-12 UTC
I'd like to say that I absolutely love your over-analysis. You wouldn't believe how hard it can be to find someone that can consider and evaluate concepts and possibilities like this.

I want to think a marathon game wouldn't happen, but the truth is that I never even considered the possibility when I was developing this variant. Since you pointed it out, I can definitely see the gap in the rules. The thing isn't that it's completely unaccounted for -- after all, there is the 50-move rule. The trouble is that I didn't think about how to translate that rule into the context of this new variant. All of the pieces in A.C. can promote, so that messes up the intent of the pawn move clause. However, I think I have an idea as how to handle this.

The 50-move rule states that a draw may be claimed if a capture, or a pawn move, has not been made in the last 50 moves. I'm thinking that we replace the pawn movement clause with a Prince promotion clause. If the Prince crosses the river, this is counted the same as a capture.

I feel this is the closest match to the context of the original rule. The reason why a pawn move is given such treatment is that it is expected the pawn is advancing towards promotion -- and a chance to permanently alter the landscape of the game. Once the pawn has promoted into a piece, it cannot return to its former state. The game is going to change. The Prince is similar. Once he crosses over the river, there's no return, either to his former position on the board or his level of power. The game is different from that point on. However, we can't reward just *any* Prince move. After all, there's no guarantee that a move gets him closer to promotion. He could just be shuffling back and forth between a few squares. Therefore, for the sake of simplicity, the only move that is rewarded is the one that actually takes him over the border. Since he can't go back over the border once he's crossed it, this means that each team has only one non-capturing move that counts against the 50-move rule. I hope this will kill the marathon game.

Insufficient material is a little harder to decide. It's obvious that one piece of any kind is enough to give a King a mate over an opposing Prince. The two-King scenario is a different story, though.

A King can reach no more than 12 squares at a time, counting the square he is in. But the difficulty of getting him pinned down probably means that unless you have Chariots, you'll need to be able to hit all 16 squares at once to get the mate. A position I just concocted that uses only one Chariot requires that he be in the corner, and even then uses no less than 33 points of material to bring the pesky fellow down. I'm not a Chess genius, and it's possible there might be more efficient solutions, but it doesn't look like it will be easy in any case. Probably the simplest thing to do, if the King remains the way it is now, would be to say that promoting your Prince when the other player has a King results in a draw (causing the tie-breaking point tally).

But I'm wondering if making the King so powerful was another mistake, as it seems to be the chief source of our problems. I'm considering the merits of weakening the Prince's move. I see three possibilities here: taking away his diagonal moves, taking away his orthogonal backward and sideways moves (which makes him equivalent to the Silver General from Shogi), or taking away all of his backward moves.

Taking away the diagonal moves is the best in terms of merging Western and Eastern Chess, as the royal piece in Xiangqi uses the resulting move (one orthogonal step). It also works in that the Advisor has a diagonal move (like the Xiangqi Ministers or Guards), which balances out the Prince's new weakness.

The other two proposed Princes are different from anything in any main Chess game, and that decreases the likelihood that I'll use them. I'd prefer for A.C. to use existing Chess rules and pieces in most cases, with only a few entirely new rules or pieces. That said, though, I do like the Silver General move, and no-backwards-movement is an unorthodox possibility that could make for a more combative game. I'm not likely to go with these options, but I still think both deserve a little consideration.

Regardless of which of those is picked, the new promotion would then only entail gaining the full range of normal Chess King movement (though still not being able to retreat behind the river). It somewhat fits the Eastern Chess tradition of weak royal pieces to do it this way, and it makes checkmate a much more reasonable possibility. It would also eliminate the need for a rule making two-Kings an automatic stalemate. I'd appreciate hearing your opinion on this.

I'll send the invite once I can work out how to do it (I haven't really used G.C. before). I think it's fair to warn you that my moves might be a little slow, as I have a lot of different things taking up my time. I will get them sent in at some point, though.

Cameron Miles wrote on 2014-03-09 UTC
That's a good point about the resemblance to OTB play. That a game involving so many non-standard elements is still playable with a standard chess set is pretty impressive.

If it's up to me, I prefer the revised version, only because it seems a bit more logically consistent. Of course, the effect of those rule changes should be negligible in practice. A potentially more significant drawback to the current ruleset, which occurred to me recently, is the possibility of "drawn" positions being stretched out for hundreds of moves by the player with fewer points. 
Such a situation highlights the difficulty of converting draws into decisive results via point-based tiebreakers: most draws in FIDE chess are by mutual agreement, which has no equivalent in a drawless variant. So in positions where a draw would "normally" be agreed, there are only two [realistic] winning conditions, both of which need some form of clarification/redefinition for A.C. : 

(1) 50-move rule (since pawn movement and promotion work differently, how would moves be counted?)  and 

(2) insufficient material (if one or both princes have promoted to King, then what, exactly, would constitute insufficient material for mate?).

The above winning conditions may or may not be enough to avoid having games that go on for 300-400 moves after they have been decided. Of course, in a friendly game the player on the losing end could just resign, resolving this altogether. However, it would not be so simple in a more competitive scenario where the 1st priority of both players is to win the game.

... OK, that's definitely enough over-analysis for one post. Actual playtesting may well prove all these small details to be completely irrelevant - send the invite whenever you're ready!

💡📝James Gryphon wrote on 2014-03-03 UTC
I started watching y'all's game after you mentioned it the other day. I admit that I was disappointed with the quick finish as well, but I suppose games like that will happen when you're trying to get used to a new set of rules and pieces. I would have expected to see that more over the board, though, than in something like Game Courier (where you can have hours or even days to ponder your moves).

I was happy to see that there was a preset at all, though it would certainly be nice if it had all those extra frills added to it. I wanted to make such a preset, but I have no G.C. coding experience, and doing anything with it seemed to elude me when I messed around with it. In any case, one of the design goals of A.C. was that it could be played with a regular Chess set, so having it this way does accurately reflect what a game would look like over the board (though I'll grant that it makes it a little harder to keep track of what's going on).

I'm thinking about getting that rule modification that I mentioned in my last comment implemented. This would get rid of the losing stalemate and make Kings worth some points (I'm thinking 2). I'd love the opportunity to play a game; it's up to you what rule set you wish to use, whether the one that's up now, or the revision.

Cameron Miles wrote on 2014-03-01 UTC
Wow, 3 weeks... I guess I should check the comments section a little (or a lot) more frequently!

I would generally agree that it's best to avoid over-complicating a ruleset if at all possible, as long as nothing is left ambiguous or open to interpretation. Of course, when designing new chess variants, it's not always possible to foresee every potentially unclear situation that may arise in a game - which is where playtesting comes in.

My first A.C. game on Game Courier ended last week. It really was quite a short game, disappointingly; a few early missteps by White compounded into a lost position within the first 15 moves, so not as much was learned about the middle and later phases as I would have liked. 

The G.C preset for this game has some shortcomings, as well: there are no promoted forms for any of the pieces, nor are the river or side boundaries (for the royal pieces) marked in any way. And obviously, no rules are enforced, either. Nevertheless, I'd be happy to play a game, if you're still interested.

💡📝James Gryphon wrote on 2014-02-09 UTC
There's almost always an unintended consequence to a ruling, and in this case it seems to affect the Prince losing conditions. Your reasoning on the King being able to cause bare prince and winning the game (while still technically "risking" itself) is logically sound. I could specifically address these situations and make special rules, but that seems to me to be a bit of a copout, and that it complicates the ruleset without need. It seems that the best way to handle the situation is to leave it alone -- if that results in a few strange things that I hadn't thought of when I wrote up the rules, that's the way it rolls.

Your speculation on the meaning of the draw rule is correct. I hoped that that was what was implied, but apparently I didn't make it as clear as I should have. There actually is a segment that says "All rules not mentioned or altered above are presumed to be as in normal Chess", but that's at the very end of the document, and maybe doesn't cover all these little situations as well as I'd have liked.

The rule on stalemates is an artifact from the time when the game did not have the komi (point) system to resolve draws. I had a different system that went basically like this: all (other) draws are resolved in favor of black. I realized as soon as I thought about it for more than a few seconds that there was too much compensation for the second move and changed the game to use the system that you see now, but the stalemate thing somehow stuck around (probably because it didn't have anything to do with the side's color). If I was going to change the rules again, I think I would take out the bit on stalemates (making it a normal draw), and simply make the King worth points.

Regrettably I doubt I've playtested it much more than you have. I don't have anyone to try it out on in the real world, so I only had my own thoughts and experience to judge it. I would have played the computer, if I could have, but there's just enough non-standard elements to make it impossible to implement in any free Chess variant app. I guess Zillions of Games would be able to figure it out, but I haven't registered that at this time, so I was stuck. If you're up for playing it sometime, I'd definitely appreciate the opportunity.

I'd be surprised if any phase of the game directly corresponds with FIDE Chess. The opening is different (thanks to decreased pawn movement), the end will be very different... even the midgame is different, since piece promotion is rampant. I suspect that the stages of the game will have the most in common with Shogi, since that game also has a lot of promotion, but really it's anyone's guess. It has Western and Eastern Chess genes, and the result is a game that resembles but isn't quite like either of them.

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