Check out Chess with Different Armies, our featured variant for July, 2024.

This page is written by the game's inventor, Joe Joyce. This game is a favorite of its inventor.

Chieftain Chess

This is a large variant using 4 royal pieces. It features command control and multi-piece moves. The current active page, containing some half-dozen or more variants, is: HERE This page stopped updating at version 3.04. It is maintained for the game ratings and comments made [see bottom of this page] and as a permanent record of the original game [for the historically inclined].


The original shortrange chess game most of us were exposed to was Edgar Rice Burrough's Jetan. I read the John Carter on Mars series about age 10-12 or so, and thought Jetan was a great game idea. While I never consciously thought of Jetan in the design of these games, I have to believe that Jetan planted a seed in my unconscious that grew into part of my thinking about shortrange games in general. With this game in particular, I am lucky to not have re-designed a Jetan piece, especially as they are envisioned by LL Smith. Finally, I would like to thank Mike Nelson and George Duke for pointing out the correspondences between games.
I have just become aware [5/22/08] that Fred Lange used 6 kings per side in Megachess [copyright 1994, 1999] with the rule that each player could move as many pieces as there were friendly kings.


Click on this picture to get the preset.

The board has a dozen rows, numbered 1 to 12, and sixteen columns, lettered a to p. In whatever this notation is, the pieces are:



C - the Chieftain. This is the royal piece. It slides 1 or 2 squares. It may not jump. It may change direction during its move, but may not move back to the square it started from. It has the special power of activating pieces so they may move.

H - the Hero. It may move 1, 2, or 3 squares in a turn. This piece is a combination of wazir and dabbabah, able to move orthogonally only, in a straight line only, as either or both. When activated, it may slide 1; or jump 2; or slide 1 and jump 2; or jump 2 and slide 1, horizontally or vertically only.

S - the Shaman. This is the diagonal analog of the Hero. It slides 1 and/or jumps 2 in a diagonal line. This piece is a linear mover. It may not change directions during its move.

N - the standard chess kNight. It moves as in FIDE.

M - Man - the standard 1-step non-royal piece. It captures as it moves, 1 square all around.

Optional Pieces

bent Hero. This piece moves like the hero, but may also change directions during its move.

bent Shaman. This piece moves like the shaman, but may also change directions during its move.

Knight-Ferz (NF) - This piece combines the moves of the knight and the ferz. It moves one square diagonally, then, optionally, one square orthogonally outward. It jumps any piece in its way.

Knight-Wazir (NW) - This piece combines the moves of the knight and the wazir. It moves one square orthogonally, then optionally, one square diagonally outward. It jumps any piece in its way.

The piece icons for the bent hero and bent shaman were created by Jeremy Good.


Victory: The game ends when all 4 Chieftains of one color are captured.

All pieces capture by replacement.

Movement: Each player may move up to 4 different pieces per turn. A player may move as many pieces as that player has Chieftains. No piece may move more than once in a turn. At least 1 piece must move each turn.
Pieces are moved sequentially, in the order listed by the player. All moves must be legal when they are made.

Command Control: Pieces [except Chieftains] may not move under their own power. They must be activated by a Chieftain to move.

There is no castling, en passant, or promotion. Draws are allowed, half a point each in scoring.


This game grew from so many different sources I cannot even begin to name them. Games, from the oldest to the newest; conversations with numerous people; old wargame concepts all came together to form this game. I have to thank many members at ChessVariants for great conversations on related topics. David, Gary, James, Jeremy, Mike. Christine and David [another one] for pieces, Fergus for the site; heck, Charles Gilman's new game, a limited-3D extinction chess variant, got me thinking consciously about groups of pieces; some frustration with several incomplete designs also played into this game. Command control is an obvious wargame concept from decades ago. From beginning to now, it's taken me either less than 12 hours, or years and years, to complete this. It is being playtested by Gary Gifford and Jeremy Good. I hope you enjoy it.

Optional Rules

Optional Movement Rule: It is not required that any pieces are moved in a turn; a player may "pass" and move no piece. If both players pass in a turn, the game is a draw.

Optional pieces 1. Use of the zig-zag pieces. Use the bent versions of both the hero and shaman. Keep the knights as FIDE knights.

Optional pieces 2. Use of the augmented knights. Replace each of the two outside knights with a Knight-Ferz. Replace each of the 2 inside knights with a Knight-Wazir. The NFs would start on files B and O; the NWs on G and J.

Optional pieces 3. Combine options 1 and 2.

Optional "color-changing" move: Should both parties agree, the shaman may gain an additional "1-step-backwards", move, allowing each shaman to cover the entire board. This would be a backwards wazir move, where each shaman moves one square orthogonally "backwards": toward its own rear rank.

Game design by Joe Joyce.

This 'user submitted' page is a collaboration between the posting user and the Chess Variant Pages. Registered contributors to the Chess Variant Pages have the ability to post their own works, subject to review and editing by the Chess Variant Pages Editorial Staff.

By Joe Joyce.
Web page created: 2006-07-30. Web page last updated: 2006-07-30