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Little Cheops

Common & Imperial Styles
These two variants of Cheops were originally submitted for the Large Variant 99 Contest.  That contest favors 2D games, but these variants of Cheops are also a good way for beginners to become familiar with the new board dimensions and game pieces.

If you have come to this page via a link from another site, you might want to check out the Cheops home page in order to better understand what the following changes apply to.  While you are checking out the Cheops Web site, please note the following differences from the regular game:

  • In general, the 3D nature of Cheops is suppressed, which means there are some significant side-effects.

  • Games will only use the King's Level setups from either Common or Imperial Cheops. [The Common setup is displayed below.]
  • The oblique game movement is eliminated completely.
  • The Secondary Game Objective has been rescinded; since the Apex/Queen's Level is missing, it would not be possible to have a reigning Queen.  As a trade-off, it is possible to have multiple Queens.  [This will make these two variants more like regular/orthodox chess and probably slightly easier for beginners to relate to initially.]
  • Additionally, a Duchess cannot assume the role of the Queen; again, with the Apex/Queen's Level absent, this would not be possible.
  • There are only two (2) Civilians per side (in either Imperial or Common setups); that is, only the ones which start on the King's Level.
  • Without 3D, Castles can only be attacked by Assassins; thereby, making a Castle an even stronger defensive structure, as well as making an Assassin a far more valuable game piece.  As a result, it seems prudent to only allow Castles in the Imperial style of Little Cheops, since only the Imperial setup provides the players with Assassins right from the beginning.  In turn, that means that Deputies would only exist in the Imperial version.  [Of course, players could mutually agree (in The Parley) to allow Castles when using the Common style.]


The following character descriptions provide a name [including alternate names and abbreviations], the initial quantity of that character at the start of play (for a Common Setup / for an Imperial Setup), and a brief description of the character's powers. The parenthesized usage of the word special below indicates an Imperial character that may only be activated by appointment, Castle activation, or promotion in a Common Setup.

KING [K] (only 1) - A King may move one square in any direction (orthogonal, diagonal, or oblique) in a given turn. A King captures by occupying an adjacent square stationed by an unguarded enemy game piece; that is, in the same way it moves.

Also, a King may not move into check or be placed into check by friendly game piece movements, and a player must attempt to parry all imposed checks. Additionally, a mated King may abdicate power to an active Duke.

The King is one type of Nobility.

QUEEN [Q] (only 1) - A Queen may move any number of squares straight in any direction (orthogonal, diagonal, or oblique) in a given turn. A Queen captures by occupying a square straight in any game direction stationed by an enemy game piece; that is, in the same way it moves.

The Queen is one type of Nobility.

PRIME MINISTER [PM] (1) - A Prime Minister may move one square in any direction (orthogonal, diagonal, or oblique) or any number of squares straight in a diagonal direction in a given turn. A Prime Minister only captures by occupying an adjacent square stationed by an enemy game piece. A Prime Minister moves like the King or a Minister (with the additional ability to change the color of travel), but it captures like the King only.

MINISTER [M] (2) - A Minister may move any number of squares straight in a diagonal direction in a given turn. A Minister captures by occupying a diagonal square stationed by an enemy game piece; that is, in the same way it moves. A Minister may be referred to as "Black" or "White"; indicating the color of travel, regardless of ownership.

[A Minister is equivalent to a Bishop in traditional/orthodox chess.]

KNIGHT [a.k.a., HORSE] [N] (2) - A Knight may move in a special L-shaped pattern in a given turn. This L-shape is the combination of any adjacent orthogonal square (rank, file, or post) plus one square in a diagonal direction away from the initial station. A Knight always ends a move on a square of opposite color. A Knight may jump over game pieces (but not the walls of an active Castle) while moving. A Knight captures by occupying a square in the L-shaped pattern stationed by an enemy game piece; that is, in the same way it moves: Captures are not game pieces that are jumped.

TOWER [T] (2) - A Tower may move any number of squares straight in an orthogonal direction (rank, file, or post) in a given turn. A Tower captures by occupying a square straight in an orthogonal direction stationed by an enemy game piece; that is, in the same way it moves.

A Tower is one type of Rook. [A Tower is equivalent to a Rook in traditional/orthodox chess.]

ASSASSIN [a.k.a., ENGINEER] [A] (special/2) - An Assassin may normally move three squares connected in any direction (orthogonal, diagonal, oblique, or any combination of those directions) in a given turn; however, each square may only be traversed once within a single move.  An Assassin captures by occupying an adjacent square stationed by an enemy game piece.  Also, an Assassin is the only game piece that can freely move into/between the halls of an active Castle (excluding the bastions/pillars) by traveling in its capturing manner (one square adjacent in any direction).  If a Deputy arrests an Assassin, it also looses the freedom of motion within an active Castle for two rounds.

PAWN [a.k.a., SOLDIER] [P] (9/17) - A Pawn may move forward one square orthogonally (only file forward or post down) in a given turn. However, a Pawn may optionally move one or two squares forward in its first move. A Pawn captures by occupying an adjacent forward diagonal square (which must be in the same rank as its possible movement) stationed by an enemy game piece. A Pawn cannot normally move backwards/upwards or capture to any diagonal square that is not in the same rank as its movement.

CIVILIAN [a.k.a., SHEPHERD] [C] (4/6) - A Civilian may move one square in any direction (orthogonal, diagonal, or oblique) or jump any number of game pieces in any direction (up to and including a single one of the enemy major game pieces, but not the walls of an active Castle) in a given turn. A Civilian cannot capture an enemy game piece, but may eclipse the enemy projection frontier. Also, a Civilian is the only game piece that cannot be captured, though it may be arrested. Additionally, the King of a Castle may appoint a Civilian as a Deputy.

CASTLE EFFECT [N/A] (special) - The Castle Effect field has no movements or captures: It is a special defensive field which obstructs external game piece fields, except for that of an active Assassin. The Castle Effect shields the eight squares surrounding the chair/seat/throne, plus the eight squares located one level orthogonal (post direction) above and below these squares. This defensive field shields and provides special powers to the player who activated the Castle, regardless of which player originally built the Castle.

Basic Rules of Play

The Basic Rules of Play describe the major parts of a Cheops game: 
The Parley, The Lot, The Dual Game Objectives (including Play Notes), and The Decision.  They have been written in a somewhat informal style, to help ease beginners into the differences from standard chess, to remind more experienced players of some basic considerations, to establish a common baseline for all players, and to foster more informal/at-home play.  However, players may choose a more formal style of play, and tournaments need to establish such details; standard practices from chess (e.g., FIDE Laws of Chess) or any of its variants may be adapted to supplement these Basic Rules of Play as needed.
The Parley
The Parley begins with an agreement to play Cheops; for example, mutual agreement between two players or acceptance in a tournament.

The type of setup and rules of play must be mutually agreed upon prior to the start of play (i.e., Common or Imperial setup; informal or official play; and whether or not any optional rules, regulations, or variations will be employed).  At this phase, the players are entitled to review any details of the accepted rules and regulations.

Also, the players must agree upon nature of The Lot.

The players must additionally agree upon what officially ends a move (e.g., removal of contact from relevant game pieces, registering with a clock or other device, informal verbal acknowledgment, submittal of correspondence, etc.).

Similarly, players must agree on how to handle game piece adjustments (e.g., allowing informal adjustments at any time, permitting adjustments to pieces only during a player's own turn, requiring notice of such action prior to contacting any pieces, etc.).

The players are entitled to review the physical nature of the Cheops setup.  Normally, the terms "White" and "Black" represent the lighter and darker colored game pieces, respectively; however, in cases where particular setups are not obviously lighter or darker, the players must agree upon which colors will be designated as "White" and "Black."  Also, if a particular setup depicts any of the game pieces in abstract, novelty, or unusual manners (as compared to The Modified Staunton Set), the players are entitled to review the pieces and their functions.

These and other game-related details may be set forth in tournament regulations that must be accepted by the players.

At this phase in official tournament play, the Umpire and players shall be formally introduced; then, the Umpire shall review any rules, regulations, information, or standards of conduct deemed relevant, necessary, or prudent to insure proper sportsmanship and game play.  Also, the Umpire shall respond to any reasonable, game-related petitions from the players prior to the start of play (e.g., last minute questions); however, once play has begun, the Umpire's responses are limited to brief and necessary remarks only.
The Lot
Players determine who has the opening initiative by lot; that is, which player starts and uses the "White" game pieces.

The nature of this lot must be determined in The Parley and may take any mutually agreed upon form, including tournament regulations.  Commonly, one player discretely shuffles a Pawn of each color between his/her hands and allows the opponent to choose a hand; thus, the color of his/her pieces.  Examples of alternative methods include:  tournament seeding, coin toss, selection of a higher-valued card from a properly shuffled deck, highest roll of dice, drawing straws, etc.

The Lot is not required in the following situations:  1) one of the players waives the right to a lot and yields opening initiative to the opponent, 2) two players are engaged in a series of games in which a lot need only be held before the first game or after a previous game has ended in a draw/tie, or 3) tournament regulations provide the means for determining which player has the opening initiative.
The Dual Game Objectives
In life, success rarely depends upon the achievement of a single goal; Cheops mimics this real-world condition with its double game objectives... winning a battle does not necessarily win the war; more accurately, victory on the battlefield by itself will not resolve a conflict.

The dual objectives of Cheops are as follows:

    1. To checkmate the enemy King.
    2. To have the friendly Queen reigning at the moment of mate.
  • As noted above, play begins with the initial move by the player controlling the "White" game pieces and then alternates between the players until completion (i.e., mate, forfeiture, or annulment).
  • In basic play, a player may move only one of the friendly, active game pieces per turn, with exceptions for Castling, captures, and adjustments.
  • A game is considered to be officially started after each player has completed his/her opening move.
  • While moving to achieve the game objectives, a player must not violate accepted rules and regulations.
  • If a player retires or commits an extremely severe infraction at any time, the game will be forfeited to the opponent.
  • In official tournament play, an Umpire is the sole judge of play during a game, and the Umpire's decisions are final.
  • In informal play, unbiased bystanders may be petitioned to arbitrate specific matters, when the players cannot agree amongst themselves.
The Decision
If one player achieves both game objectives, then that player is the undisputed winner.  Similarly, if one player forfeits for any reason, the other player shall be declared the winner.  In either case, the player not recognized as the winner must score the game as a loss.

If each player achieves one of the dual objectives, then the game ends in a tie.

If both objectives remain unachieved by the players, then the game ends in a draw [with no winner].  This occurs when there is no reigning Queen and a stalemate exists, which includes when the players mutually agree to cease play.  However, if both players forfeit the game (due to severe infractions to the accepted rules and regulations), they must both score the game as a loss.

The difference between a tie and a draw is that a draw is a completely neutral result, whereas a tie indicates scoring achievements by both players.

If a game is annulled for any reason, then it is not scored in any manner.

If only one of the dual objectives is achieved (i.e., checkmate without reign or stalemate while reigning), then the game is decided by a tally of points.  Game points are awarded as shown below; however, even strength in a particular category results in no point award to either player for that category.  The player with the most game points wins the game; the other player must score the game as a loss.  If both players have an equal point total, then the game ends in a tie.  The points are awarded as follows:

3 points for checkmate
2 points for reigning
1 point for most active Civilians (including uncompromised Deputies)
1 point for most active game pieces (including Deputies but excluding Civilians)
1 point for most active Castles


  • If one side sacrifices more of its army, civilians, and production capacity (i.e., Castles) to only achieve victory on the battlefield (i.e., checkmate), it is not a stable victory, and the conflict ends in a tie.
  • If one side can only achieve the secondary goal (due to stalemate) at the expense of the army and production capacity, then it is up to the civilians to determine who has won the conflict.

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This variant is an entry in the 1999 Large Variant contest.

Written by B. Gregory Johnson. Some HTML editing and consolidation by David Howe.
WWW page created: June 10, 1999.