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Odin's Rune Chess. A game inspired by Carl Jung's concept of synchronicity, runes, and Nordic Mythology. (10x10, Cells: 100) [All Comments] [Add Comment or Rating]
H. G. Muller wrote on 2020-08-11 UTC

I made a rule-enforcing Game Courier preset for Odin's Rune Chess. I chose this as a test case for the GAME code that the Play-Test Applet automatically generated, because it is notorious for having pieces with very unusual moves (causing side effects of various kinds). This makes it a good test for how such moves with side effects can be entered by means of mouse clicks. The preset can be found here.

There already was a preset for Odin't Rune Chess, but it did not enforce rules. It is still there, but now it doesn't even know the initial position, and shows the one for orthodox Chess. Last month that was different, so I don't know what happened to it.

Two modes for entering side effects

After some experimenting it became clear to me that there are two mutually incompatible ways to handle side effects with the mouse. Because mouse entry is limited to normal moves (i.e. defined by two squares, the origin and destination) and 'pass' (through the new button), but cannot be used to enter suicides or piece drops, everything has to be disguised as moves. For pieces like the Chu-Shogi Lion, which capture 'in passing' as part of a double move, the natural method is to just make the two moves: the first leg captures the piece, the second leg moves from the square where that happened to the final destination. If you want to stay at the capture square, you can pass the second move.

This way of entering moves turned out to be quite unnatural for the Forest Ox, which is described as a Knight that can make a piece adjacent to its destination disappear. This doesn't suggest the disappearence is the result of a double move, as the first move you would then have to make to get to the victim is often a very strange one (Camel or Zebra), different all the time, and how you then should get to the destination is very much dependent on where you came from. It is much more intuitive to consider the Forest Ox a Knight that can optionally make a King-like rifle capture as second move.

Something similar holds for the Valkyrie, which needs to drop a piece (the friend it just 'captured') as a side effect, rather than remove one. It also feels very unnatural to first have to move to an empty square to 'mark it for unloading', and from there perform a swap with the piece at the destination. It is much more intuitive to just capture the friend you want to displace, and then select the square where it should go to.

To accomodate that, the GAME code can be configured by defining an array shooters', containing the piece types for which side effects have to be entered after the main move. In this preset for Odin's Rune Chess this is set like

set shooters (Q q N n);

because both the Forest Ox (N) and Valkyrie (Q) fall in this class. For such pieces you always move them directly to their destination. If the move has / could have a side effect, which is not yet unambiguously defined, you will be prompted for that side effect. You can then click the just-moved piece again, to turn on highlights of the squares that could be affected by the move, and click the square where you want to apply the side effect. For a Valkyrie friendly capture this would then put the captured piece there, for a Forest Ox it would remove the clicked piece. If the side effect is optional, and the move could be made without one, you can click the Pass button.

Pieces not mentioned in the shooters array will behave as double movers, which should first be moved to the square of the side effect, and then to their destination. If the side effect is not possible on the destination of the first move (e.g. because the side effect is a capture, but the square is empty) it will be considered the final destination right away. If a side effect at the first destination is possible, but the move itself would already be pseudo-legal by ending there without side effect, the Pass button can be used to leave it at that. Otherwise you just click one of the possible final destinations, after switching on their highlights through clicking the moving piece again.

If there is a single mandatory side effect (such as when the Valkyrie captures an adjacent friendly piece; then it has to swap places with the Valkyrie), the user will not be prompted for a side effect, but the move will be auto-completed instead.

H. G. Muller wrote on 2020-06-02 UTC
files=10 ranks=10 promoZone=1 maxPromote=1 promoChoice=QNBR graphicsDir= whitePrefix=w blackPrefix=b graphicsType=png startShade=#20C040 symmetry=mirror pawn::FflarFfralF::a2-j2 forest ox::NmpafsmpacabK:knight:b1,i1 bishop::::c1,h1 rook::::a1,j1 valkyrie::QudQafudQ:queen:d1,g1 king::xK::e1,f1

Odin's Rune Chess

This is a variant with really wild pieces. This made it a challenge to get it right with XBetza notation in the Interactive Diagram. With the aid of the newly implemented 'unload' modifier, and extension of the meaning of 'x' to cases were no move (to induce) follows the x-marked leg (where it then borrows moves from the target, instead of inducing the specified one), it became possible.

The King has the simplest XBetza description of the unorthodox pieces: just xK to indicate it borrows moves from friend a K step away. The Pawn was straightforward, but gets a somewhat lengthy description, because both paths to the square two steps in front of it must be specifies separately (because they bend in opposite ways).

The XBetza description of the Valkyrie uses the 'unload' operator for the moves that displace a friendly piece. There are two differnt kinds of such moves: a plain swap, which is specified as a simple move that unloads at the start whet it captures at the end; the 'd' mode in udQ indicates friendly capture. (First-time use in a real variant!) Then there is a more complex move, that involves a third square. The diagram considers this a two-leg move with the unload square as intermediate. So you first have to click the square where the other piece is to end up, and then where the Valkyrie goes.

The Forest Ox is the worst of all. It combines a Knight move with a King-like rifle capture. XBetza cannot forge such different move types into a multi-leg move, so everything has to be reduced to a 'common denominator'. In this case everything is reduced to King steps, meaning that the initial Knight jump becomes two legs, where the intermediate square is made a don't-care w.r.t. the content of the square by allowing both moving and hopping. By using K as basic atom, each N square is reachable through two paths, but as neither is blockable that does not matter. After the first two legsfor the Knight jump, two more legs follow for the rifle capture, the first making the capture as a normal capture in any possible direction, the second one to move back (cabK). Because of this description, one has to click the locust victim first, before clicking the target square of the Forest Ox.

H. G. Muller wrote on 2020-05-29 UTC

Ah, I overlooked the addendum. So I guess what was really meant is "stalemate is a win". In fact stalemate is far more frequent here than in orthodox Chess. In the latter case the King has to be robbed of its legal moves by attacking all squares adjacent to it. Here you don't have to attack anything, as the King has no moves to begin with.

I guess you could also say that baring the King(s) is a win. But that is not the only way to get a stalemate. One or two Kings could block all moves of one, or even two Pawns.

Black to move is stalemated!

[Edit] This was very wrong; I failed to notice the Pawns also have backward moves. So I suppose the only stalemates are those where you have nothing but Kings.

Ben Reiniger wrote on 2020-05-29 UTC

I don't understand the phrase "Draws are possible; stalemates are not."  But in the addendum, point 3 is pretty clear:  

If you cannot make a move during your turn, you lose.

So the Vf1xf7 move H.G. brings up is actually a winning move.

dax00 wrote on 2020-05-29 UTC

In either case, since a stalemate draw cannot occur, the obvious conclusion, whether or not a king can pass, is that the side with a lone king (or 2 lone kings) loses, either by it/them being taken, or being unable to move.

H. G. Muller wrote on 2020-05-29 UTC

But turn passing is not allowed in this game. If you read back on earlier comments to this game, one even goes so far as to state that when you can make pseudo-legal moves that would not change the board, (like using a Valkyrie's swapping move to swap it with your other Valkyrie), such a move would be illegal, because it is equivalent to a turn pass. Of course you don't even have such a move here.

dax00 wrote on 2020-05-29 UTC

Seems clear to me. A player with only kings is forced to pass. "Checkmate" is not a thing. You just take the kings.

Vxf7 pass Vxg7 pass Kd6;-e6 1-0


H. G. Muller wrote on 2020-05-28 UTC

Why does it say stalemate is not possible? It seems the diagram of which it is claimed the best Valkyrie move is capturing the Forest Ox (Vf1xf7) actually leads directly into stalemate, through that move. After it black has no legal moves, and after hypothetical null move white cannot capture both his Kings at once, so he is not in check either. (And besides, the last black piece could have been taken elsewhere, so that neither black King would have been under attack.)

Gary Gifford wrote on 2019-11-20 UTC

There is (was) a Zillions version which grasps the game and plays it brilliantly. I lost all initial games to it... Thanks for commenting.


Calvin Daniels wrote on 2019-11-20 UTC

I made a set, painted runes on back of some wooden Scrabble pieces. Painted board on some soft leather. Love the game. I might have just called it Odin's Chess, and I'd have opted for priests with some twist, but overall I like its uniqueness. It has a root chess feel but is very much a rebuild from that foundation.

Erik Lerouge wrote on 2019-08-10 UTCExcellent ★★★★★

I am currently playing a game of Odin's Rune Chess, and I really like it, as much the rules and gameplay, as the runic theme. The Forest Ox is a terrific piece, maybe too powerful... I like the rather strong Pawns. I generally appreciate modern variants that use non-conventional Pawns, it effectively renews the dynamics of a chess game. And their initial colorboundness isn't a default at all, for me.

I was wondering if Pawn promotion could be integrated in this game - even if it is not necessary since Pawns can go back and the need for new material is less crucial, since the vulnerabiliy of the Kings without moving possibilities makes situations of insufficent material less likely. Promotion possibilities should be limited, since Pawns can reach the last rank in only four moves; for example, they could only promote to previously captured pieces of his own colour; or there could be limitations to the maximum number of pieces of each type present on the board (4 Valkyries, and 4 Forest Oxen, for example - which is already a lot). One can also think of the opportunity to permit the promotion to King (here too, the maximum number must be limited or promotion be only to previously captured Kings). But the game plays already well, I don't think it needs a promotion rule. I was just wondering how promotion could affect the gameplay, and if it could be interessant as a variant.

Edit: my comment about the possibility of promotion wasn't very pertinent. Promotion doesn't make much sense in this game.

Gary Gifford wrote on 2019-07-23 UTC

Many thanks for the fix Erik, it is much appreciated. I was not aware of the issue. Regards, Gary

Erik Lerouge wrote on 2019-07-23 UTC

Since the old GC preset for Odin's Rune Chess doesn't seem to work anymore, I've created a new one which can be accessed here.

Gary Gifford wrote on 2011-03-05 UTC
Hi Calvin: To answer your question from a few days back.... The introduction to the rules explain how this game resulted from an experiment in synchronicity (a term coined by Carl Jung). And that is why there is a piece that moves like a Bishop. However, Beorc is the runic name for that piece. So, you can call it Beorc if you want. As for piece images, you can buy runes on-line or download graphics and re-size them.

Calvin Daniels wrote on 2011-03-03 UTC
A question on piece names.

If this is Odin chess, a Norse god, why would there be a bishop piece,
which is a Christian 

Also is the Rune art available in other than bitmap, to make a set at


George Duke wrote on 2008-04-05 UTC
What was meant of course is not Game scores but Game Courier logs. It appears Odin's Rune has not been played there. The best Game-scores contributors are still Ralph Betza and David Short from 5 years back. It is not done much right now except for Dr. Rene Gralla on Thai Chess and Shogi.

Gary Gifford wrote on 2008-04-05 UTC
Graeme, yes, I see that 'e' includes castling and the Valkyrie maneuver is related to that.

'(e) be teleported to another cell on the board (example: castling).'

George takes it further by stating, 'The Castling comparison is apt among the 'a' to 'e' definitions of 'Gating'.'

Of interest is George's follow up statement,

'Castling is now-necessary encumbrance, complication, accepted widely in majority of CVs as making better play.'

And that sentence belongs in a book.

George Duke wrote on 2008-04-04 UTC
Unlike Medusa in 'Pillars of Medusa', original, interesting piece Valkyrie has unique mechanism from year 2005. The own-pieces' Valkerie affects (moves) already being on board are similar to Roberto Lavieri's Altair pieces, also already on board, from year 2003. Most Altair types have the right to be dropped along a different rank, rather than O.R.'s back-path of Valkerie itself. [The longtime norm is not to introduce pieces by way of 'Gating', or 'Back-rank Gating', very good terms for the ideas. So, Gating is added element, or complication, for questions of priority. The Castling comparision is apt among the 'a' to 'e' definitions of 'Gating'. Castling is now-necessary encumbrance, complication, accepted widely in majority of CVs as making better play. Last couple sentences will eventually be developed at 'Gating' threads.] In further relevance to Odin's Rune: not fully analysed, rate it good, not too many piece-types and modestly paired, nice artwork, diagrams like 'What's the best move?'; obviously lots of time and effort involved here. But where happen to be the game logs?

Graeme Neatham wrote on 2008-04-04 UTC

.. so this would not be conventional gating.

Yes, it would seem to be a combination of (c) and (e)

Gary Gifford wrote on 2008-04-04 UTC
GATING - I was thinking that the Valkyrie piece in Odin's Rune Chess might be the initiator of Type C gating, or at least something related to it i.e.

(c) a vacant cell which is under the influence of a pawn or piece (a projected gated piece)

The Valkyrie moves as does a Queen, but can essentially capture one of its own pieces and then relocate that piece to any space that the Valkyrie had just traveled through. Of course, the relocated piece was already on the board... so this would not be conventional gating.

Gary Gifford wrote on 2006-12-16 UTC
Frank, thanks for the follow up comment. You write, 'My 'stalemate'
means any other move is worse than null move. Can you prove that's

Answer: Moves can be worse than null moves - such as moving your last
remaining King into a line of attack (legal in this game) and then losing
your last King and the thus game.  So, that a move can be worse than a
null move is a fact. But, null-moves are illegal in this game, and that
(and the fact that Kings are captured) is why we can't see a stalemate in
Odin's Rune Chess.

Frank Strong wrote on 2006-12-15 UTC
My 'stalemate' means any other move is worse than null move. Can you prove that's impossible?

Gary Gifford wrote on 2006-12-15 UTC
Frank, thanks for taking time to comment. Please note that null moves are not permitted in Odin's Rune Chess and stalemates are not possible. Kings are captured, so what would be a stalemate in Fide chess would be a situation in this game where a King would become exposed to capture and then be captured. Each player has 2 Kings, so if you lose one you are still in the game. Best regards, Gary

Frank Strong wrote on 2006-12-14 UTCExcellent ★★★★★
However, when king's move/relocate move is a null move it might be useful
to get out from stalemate-but I cannot give an example.
The game is really good!

Gary Gifford wrote on 2005-11-26 UTC
I have just completed a non-enforcing pre-set for Odin's Rune Chess.  It
can be reached via the following link.  The pieces retain the correct
orientation for black and white when the board flips.  This is important
because the pawns move in their depicted vector pattern.


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