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Catalonia

Introduction

Minor pieces have groaned under unending and constant warfare, planned by the ruling elites of White and Black to expand their dominion. The populace has decided to revolt against their Kings and Queens, and the revolution was successful. Now that the dust is settled, the pieces raise the black flag of anarchism over their respective lands, and resolve to cooperate in peace and harmony to produce for the good of all. But foreign powers are keen to take over this ruler-less utopia, and are not above using bombers for that purpose...

The name "Catalonia" was chosen for this game as a reference to the Spanish Revolution and Civil War, especially as a reference to George Orwell's famous eyewitness account of the period, called Homage to Catalonia. Catalonia and Aragon were the two regions most collectivized, and they were able to maintain high standards of production despite the civil war. The mechanics of this game are obviously inspired by this process. What better topic for the first cooperative game on this site than the most famous example of free cooperation in modern times?

I would like to encourage everyone who likes to make chess variants to make some cooperative Chess-like games. It is a very challenging process but one which, I believe, profoundly changes how we play games. Chess is perhaps most well-known as an analogy for war, but there's no reason why it can't be transformed into an analogy for peace or cooperation as well.

Setup

You will need:
A chess board with standard pieces.
Up to 20 Checkers pieces (colour not important).
Two d6 dice, or access to an online randomizer (such as random.org). No dice required for the non-random variant.


Here are the starting positions.










From b1 to g1: Knight, Bishop, Lady (represented as Queen), Gentleman (represented as King), Bishop, Knight
From b2 to g2: Six Peasants (represented as pawns).

Pieces

Knight, Bishop and Lady (alternate name for Queen) move as in orthodox Chess.













The Peasant moves one step forward and backwards. It may also double step forward from the second row to the fourth row, or double step backwards from the fourth row to the second row. It defends one square diagonally forward, like the pawn. There is no en passant (because there is no capture) or pawn promotion (because pawns cannot reach the last rank) in Catalonia. In this diagram, green denotes movement and red denotes defense.









The Gentleman moves as King, Alfil and Dabbabah, meaning that it can move either like a King or jump two squares orthogonally or diagonally. It is not a royal piece. In this diagram, green denotes sliding movement and black denotes leaping movement.

Rules

A turn in Catalonia is composed of three phases:
1. Movement phase
2. Scoring phase (see "Point Values" section)
3. Pit/escape phase

The scoring phase and pit/escape phase take their place in this lineup after the first chain has been formed. Before either of these conditions is reached, there is only the movement phase.

Five turns rule: If players are still unable to form their first chain at the end of the fifth turn of the game, they are considered to have collectively lost and the game is over (if production takes too long to organize, the people will surely starve).

End of the game: I recommend that the game end at the end of the fifteenth turn, but other turn limits may be adopted (twenty is also a good candidate, as players seem to often get a "second wind" between 15 and 20, making the end more interesting).


1. Movement phase

It is of course traditional for White to move first, but if, on a given turn, White wants to get a piece out but its way is blocked by a black piece (for example), both players can agree for Black to move first.

Since there is no capture, pieces can only move to unoccupied squares. Leaping moves or escape moves are not stopped by pits, as long as the piece does not land on a pit or an occupied square (see escape move in the pit/escape phase), but otherwise pieces cannot move over pits. Here are some examples:





















The Peasant can only
move backwards, and
defends no other piece.
The Lady defends the
Peasant and the
Gentleman.
The Gentleman defends
all three other pieces.

The Knight defends the
Lady, but has only two
other squares available.


2. Scoring phase

The score for the turn is solely determined by the length of the longest chain on the board. Players must here carefully consider which chain on the board, if any exist, is the longest. You are not allowed to modify a previous turn's score, so make sure you have indeed found the longest chain possible. Trying to find the longest chain possible is part of the challenge of this game. While you check for a chain, it will be easier for you to move the pieces you have gone through so far closer to an edge of their square, so you don't use the same piece twice; however I don't recommend keeping them this way for the next turn, as this might make you score a chain higher than it actually is, on the often false assumption that no link has been disturbed by your moves or the latest pit. Special case must be taken to remember the arbitrary starting point of your prospective chain.

See the "Point Values" section for the value of chains depending on their length. You must keep track of scores for each turn, so write down the turn number as well as the score, so you know when the game ends.


3. Pit/escape phase

Your production area is being bombed by the enemy. One player rolls a d6 dice twice. The first number is column, starting from b, and the second number is rank, starting from 2. If a pit is already present there, reroll the dice. If a piece is present at this square, mark the square as being a pit and consider the piece's escape routes (see below). If no piece is present at this square, but one or many pieces are present on an adjacent square (the bomb's blast radius), the players must choose one of these pieces as the target. Mark its square as being a pit and consider the piece's escape routes (see below). If no piece is present in the blast radius either, then mark the central square as being a pit and skip the consideration of escape routes.

Pits may be represented by placing a Checkers piece of constrasting color (e.g. a black piece on a white square), in order to maximize board readability.

Here are some examples where the center square was rolled:













Bomb falls on
occupied square.


Result: pit added
on square.


Bomb falls on
unoccupied square
with pieces
around it.
Result: players chose
the Peasant. Pit
added to its square.


Escape routes: Consider all the squares to which the piece can go, assuming that the piece can leap (i.e. the Peasant, the Bishop and the Lady are treated as if their moves were leaping, for the purposes of this phase only). If, for any of these squares, any chain can be made which involves the piece if it was at that location (it does not have to be the longest chain that you scored in the previous phase), then the piece must be moved there. If no square fulfills this criterion, then the piece must be removed from the board. If more than one square fulfills this criteron, then the player whose color the piece belongs may decide which square the piece is moved to.









The bomb lands on c4, targeting the Black Lady. Her possible escape squares are noted on the board. As it turns out, many of these squares permit the Lady to form a chain, so the player has plenty of choice as to where to move her. A pit is placed on c4 and the Lady is moved to the square chosen.

Removal of trapped Peasants: A trapped Peasant, i.e. a Peasant which is blocked by pits both one square forwards and one square backwards, or blocked between a pit and an edge of the board, may be removed from the board at the player's discretion (one may not remove a pawn which cannot move due to other pieces). These removals are optional, and must take place at the very end of the turn. For these examples, assume that the bottom rank is the first rank (an edge of the board):
















A Peasant trapped in a pit
corridor. Can be discarded.
A Peasant trapped on the
first rank. Can be discarded.
A Peasant caught between
another piece and an edge.
Cannot be discarded.

Chains

In combat, pieces act along clearly-defined lines (lines of movement and capture), and they cooperate in the same way. A piece joins its productive energies to another's by, as we say in combat terms, defending it. A group of 4 pieces or more, where each defends the next, forming a loop, is a chain of production (from here on simply called a chain). A chain must incorporate at least one white and one black piece. Here are examples of chains:


Note that direction is important here. A chain may only work in one direction but not the other; chains do not have to loop in both directions. The second example chain would not work in the opposite direction, since the Lady cannot defend the White Knight, and the Black Knight cannot defend the Black Gentleman. One can build a chain of equal size going the other way by changing the path, but this is not always possible.

A loop of less than 4 pieces is not worth any points and does not count as a chain.

Point Values

In Catalonia, pieces may be more or less capable, but all pieces are worth the same. This is, after all, an egalitarian society. The point value of a chain is determined by squaring the number of pieces that compose it, demonstrating the benefits of the division of labor. If you don't feel like calculating these during play, here is a handy table:

#piecespoints #piecespoints #piecespoints
416 11121 18324
525 12144 19361
636 13169 20400
749 14196 21441
864 15225 22484
981 16256 23529
10100 17289 24576

The final score is obtained by adding up every turn's score.

Non-Random Variant

For those who want to play Catalonia without the random element (if random rolls are not available, or simply because you dislike randomness in your games), a variant can be played where, instead of rolling dice to know where the pit will be placed, one chooses one of the pieces involved in the maximal chain to be targeted. The pit is applied to its square, and its escape route is considered as explained for the regular game. This variant is equally challenging but involves very different decisions.



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By Francois Tremblay.
Web page created: 2010-09-15. Web page last updated: 2010-09-17