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Armies of Faith 2: Later Antiquity

Introduction

This page continues a series of themed variants. Many armies are used over the series. One page's armies cannot generally compete with another's as each page has its own distinctive board. What they share is:
* all boards are 3d;
* all variants have 4 players;
* all armies include the King, Rook, Knight, and Pawn common to standard Occidental Chess through history;
* armies in the same variant have the same number of Kings (always 1), Rooks, Knights, and Pawns.

The theme is different religions that have appeared and, in many cases, disappeared over the history of the Old World north of the Sahara and west of the Urals and Himalayas. My reason for confining it to that region is personal modesty - I know too little of historic religions elsewhere to feel qualified to theme variants on them. A secondary reason is that many, though not all, standard games east of said mountains have abandoned the Knight and Pawn common to all armies in this series. The overall series title, Armies of Faith, I chose to keep to a limit of 13 characters, leaving the 14th free for the number. I do not anticipate going into double figures!

Additional pieces express elements of different religions over the series, often combined with a board barring them from other religions' regions to represent religions with no tradition of proselytising beyond their founding ethnicities. They may be named...
* directly after deities - the Mesopotamian pieces on the previous page;
* after animals with whose heads deities are represented - the Egyptian pieces on the previous page and Chaturanga Elephant (Alfil) here;
* after types of mythical creature - the Elf, Gryphon, Simurgh, and Unicorn here;
* after religious titles in Judæochristian-monotheism armies (which by definition would be short of other options) - starting with the Rabbi here;
* after real creatures related to the area continuously through changes in religion - most typically the Camel but here also the Peacock.

Following on from the previous page in the series, covering long dead religions of Egypt and Mesopotamia, I move on to later civilisations in Occidental antiquity. India I obviously include, as home of the oldest form at least of Occidental Chess, including traditional Indian pieces. The Jewish civilisation, though small in population, I include for its wider influence through later offshoots of its religion. As my 2d hex variant Anglojewish Chess introduced some Jewish-themed pieces this influenced my decision to make this variant a hex-prism one, and has since inspired me to add an offshoot 2d variant with this variant's Indian army, Guru Mahachaturanga. My Star of David 2 Level Chess uses a modified form of the Jewish army, and Flatstar comes full circle by combining pieces from that variant and AJ Chess. As European religions are no longer practised a single army represents them generically. This inspired a variant just using that army, Heathen Europe Chess. Finally I include what is traditionally called Persian civilisation over this period. In modern times Persia took the name Iran, actually an even older name but now gaining currency even in a historic context. Wondering which to use here I settled on Persia as it is still more usual in reference to the period covered here, especially as an imperial power, and also starts with a different letter from India!

Having chosen a hex-prism board I designed it to bind army-specific pieces to the level where their King starts, or to alternate levels, as in the previous page. I kept array armies representable by an army each from two distinguishable pairs of identical sets, inverting one Rook. This gave three extra piece types per army including a one-aside King's Partner (like the Ferz in Chaturanga, Gryphon in Grande Acedrex, FIDE Queen, and Wazir in Ashtaranga) starting immediately above or below the King, able to reach all levels, and being a Pawn promotee for everyone. As it was a time of empire and of Christianity's emergence, Emperors and Bishops appear later in the game. Bishops join the array in the next page.

Setup

The board has 5 numbered levels. Their basic shape is a triangle of side 10, making 55 cells per level, but odd ones have 6 cells removed from one or two corners. Each letter represents a series of 10 columns, either in a single plane (a and k) or split between two (the rest). A column has its coordinates specified in reverse alphabetical order. Columns can be grouped into the Drum, the central hexagonal block of side 4 that has cells on all levels; and the Subcamps, the three 6-column triangular blocks with cells only on the levels of the relevant armies' camps. If anyone can better these terms I would be grateful. Boundaries of these groups are marked in brown. Odd and even levels are coloured differently to reflect the relevant bindings.

Level 1, King level for the Jewish army, has pieces from that army only. It has no cells in the Indian and Persian Subcamps, which therefore cannot be reached by a direct step or leap from this level.

Level 2, King level for the Indian army and Partner level for the Jewish army, has pieces from those armies and the Persian one. It has cells on all columns.

Level 3, King level for the Persian army and Partner level for the Indian army, has pieces from both. It has no cells in the Jewish/European Subcamp, which therefore cannot be reached by a direct step or leap from this level.

Level 4, Partner level for both the European army and the Persian army, has pieces from those armies and the Indian one. It has cells on all columns.

Level 5, King level for the European army, has pieces from that army only. It has no cells in the Indian and Persian Subcamps, which therefore cannot be reached by a direct step or leap from this level.

Pieces

Pieces constant in the Occidental game and so in every army in the series:
The KING (K) moves one step in any of the 6 horizontal orthogonal (one column but on the same level), 2 vertical orthogonal (one level but on the same column), and 12 root-2 diagonal (one level and one column) directions. When moving diagonally it must do so between opposite corners of a vertical block of 2x2 cells, whose other 2 cells may be empty or occupied but must not be missing. It must be kept out of Check. There is 1 King aside.
The ROOK (R) moves any distance through empty intermediate cells in any of the 6 horizontal, and 2 vertical, orthogonal directions. There are 3 Rooks aside.
The KNIGHT (N) makes 2:1 leaps, that is, between opposite corners of any vertical block of 3x2 cells whose other 4 cells may be empty or occupied but must not be missing. It can move 2 levels and 1 column or 2 columns and 1 level, but cannot move within a level. Unlike on 2d and cubic boards a Knight can return to a cell in an odd number of moves (e.g. ed3-gd2-fd4-ec2-eb4-ed2). There are 4 Knights aside. Each Jewish Knight's first move must be to Level 1, and each European Knight's to Level 5.
The PAWN (P) moves rather like in Raumschach. Its noncapturing move is one step along either horizontal orthogonal away from its own King column. Its capturing move is one step in any root-2 diagonal with coordinates in one of its noncapturing directions and either vertical direction. When moving diagonally it must do so between opposite corners of a vertical block of 2x2 cells, whose other 2 cells may be empty or occupied but must not be missing. A Pawn reaching a gap in a Subcamp still has half its original move. There are 16 Pawns aside. At just over a third of each army it is the most numerous piece, befitting its lowly status.

Kings' Partners:
The FERZ (F) moves one step along any root-2 diagonal, (one level and one column), between opposite corners of any vertical block of 2x2 cells, whose other 2 cells may be empty or occupied but must not be missing. Unlike on 2d and cubic boards a Ferz is unbound (e.g. ed2-fd3-fe2 brings it to an adjacent cell), although as it always switches between odd and even ranks it still cannot return to a cell in an odd number of moves. Initially there is one Ferz, as Indian King's Partner, but other players can acquire Ferzes by Pawn promotion. The Ferz was chosen as it has the same rôle for both players in Chaturanga.
The FORTNIGHT (T) makes r13:1 leaps. This defintion works on both cubic and hex-prism boards, but on a cubic board the r13 coordinate is a Zebra one further expressible as 3:2, whereas here it is an Aurochs one. This means that while a cubic Fortnight can actually triangulate, a hex-prism one always switches between odd and even levels and so cannot return to a cell in an odd number of moves. Again unlike the cubic one, a hex-prism Fortnight is unbound. The cells immediately below the higher, and above the lower, ends of its move may be empty or occupied but must not be missing. Initially there is one Fortnight, as Jewish King's Partner, whose first move must be to Level 1 (cell fa1, gc1, ie1, or kg1), but other players can acquire Fortnights by Pawn promotion. The name is after a period of two 7-day weeks (see the Jewish-specific Sennight below). Its use for root-14 leapers puns on 14 and the more familiar Knight piece.
The GRYPHON (Y) makes one step as the Ferz above (including the need for a complete 2x2 block of cells) but then turns 45? and continues horizontally or vertically as a Rook (requiring only cells along the line to not be missing - or occupied). On this board the whole move must be within a single vertical plane. Initially there is one Gryphon, as European King's Partner, whose first move must be to Level 5 (cells hb5-cb5 or jd5-ji5), but other players can acquire Gryphons by Pawn promotion. The name is after a creature in European mythology, part bird and part beast, and is long established. The piece played the same rôle for both players in Grande Acedrex.
The PEACOCK (O) moves one step in 14 radial directions: the 4 orthogonals straight up/down/sideways; the 4 root-2 diagonals up-sideways and down-sideways; the 2 hex diagonals straight forward/backward; and the 2 hybrid diagonals combining up/down with forward/backward. For a root-2- or hybrid-diagonal move the cells immediately below the higher, and above the lower, ends of the move may be empty or occupied but must not be missing. Like the King it can triangulate. Initially there is one Peacock, as Persian King's Partner, but other players can acquire Peacocks by Pawn promotion. Only up and down are the same direction for all four players; the forward hex diagonal is always that most directly away from, and the backward one that toward, the King column of the player moving the piece. Peacocks can reach any level but are bound to those columns whose even-level cells are shown in:
* green and orange for the array one;
* blue and red for Persian promotees;
* blue and green for Indian promotees;
* green and red for European and Jewish promotees. Peacocks have a long association with Persian culture, spreading to related religions even beyond the birds' natural habitat - as with the Kurdish "Peacock Angel". Many an ancient Persian stately garden of the kind giving us the word "paradise" would have them as ornamental birds, and Persia's rulers were said to sit on the "Peacock Throne" right up until the name reverted to Iran. It first appears as a piece name as part of a family of mixed-radial hex pieces in my Lengthleaper Hex Chess.

Indian-specific pieces:
The ELEPHANT (E) moves exactly two cells in any of the 12 root-2 diagonal directions. The intermediate cell may be empty or occupied but must not be missing. Each Elephant is bound to one in four cells of both even levels, except in the Jewish/European Subcamp which they cannot reach. As it always moves from Level 2 to Level 4 or vice versa it cannot return to a cell in an odd number of moves. There are 4 Elephants, to cover all 4 bindings within those levels. It primarily represents elephant-headed deity Ganesh in what was and remains India's largest religion, Hinduism, but elephants are also considered auspicious in, for example, Jainism, another Indian religion surviving from the era.
The GURU (G) is a triangulating leaper (like the Gnu). Its components are the 4:1 Giraffe and 5:3 Gimel. It can move 4 levels and 1 column, 4 columns and 1 level, or 5 columns and 3 levels. All are possible within the Drum, but only the middle one is available to or from Subcamps. In all cases it moves between opposite corners of a vertical block, whose other cells may be empty or occupied but must not be missing. It is unbound. There is but one Guru. The name is after a kind of holy teacher in various Indian religions. Its use for this piece combines the G and R of Giraffe with a final U for a triangulating compound (e.g. ed2-id1-jd5-ed2 on this board) by analogy with Gnu. As a specifically religious title of real humans outside the Judæochristian tradition it is a rarity in the series.
Pieces rejected for the Indian army include the Sadhu (5:2 and 7:3 triangulating leaper named after another kind of Indian holy man), for the obvious reason that no 7:3 leap is available on the entire board.

Jewish-specific pieces:
The RABBI (A) makes up to 4 steps along hex diagonals through empty cells, turning either 60? left at each intermediate cell or 60? right at each intermediate cell. As with the Rose inspiring this kind of piece, a move never mixes left and right turns. Each Rabbi is bound to a third of Level 1, and can reach no other level. There are 3 Rabbis, to cover all 3 bindings within that level. The name is after the most widely-known Jewish religious title. The name has a fairly precise meaning nowadays but was vaguer in the era on which this page is themed. Jewish-Christian ecumenists from both directions sometimes describe Jesus' work of his later life as rabbinical.
The SENNIGHT (S) is the root-7 oblique leaper. It moves to the closest cells on the same level that cannot be reached from the same start in a single Rook or Rabbi move, and having reached such a cell goes no further. It cannot be blocked. It is bound to all of Level 1 and like all pure-hex leapers can triangulate. There are 2 Sennights. The name means a seven-day week, which Jews were first to give a major religious significance. Mesopotamians had such a week, but as a relatively secular concept, so I felt no need of them in the previous page. Until Christianity became the Roman Empire's official religion, ethnic Jews were the main group observing such a week in Europe. Its use for a root-7 leaper puns on the 7 and the more familiar Knight piece.
Pieces rejected for use in the Jewish army include the Behemoth (Unicorn+Elephant) as both its components are pieces here; the Cohen whose name I had not coined when first posting this page; the Dybbuk (see new Courier-style subvariant of Anglojewish Chess) which I judged too severely bound on hex-prism boards; the Golem (r27:1 leaper) bound to 1 in 27 columns and named after a relatively recent Jewish legend; and the Levite (Bishop+Elf) which as a Bishop compound would be too strong a piece to give to just one player.

European-specific pieces:
The ELF (L) is a simple root-11 leaper. While this definition on a cubic board equates to a 3:1:1 leaper, here it equates to the r7:2 leaper - its destination is 2 levels above or below the Sennight's. This piece is bound to the Drum's intersection with all odd levels - it cannot reach any Subcamp. As it always moves exactly 2 levels it cannot return to a cell in an odd number of moves. There are 2 Elves. The name is of course after a creature in European mythology. Its use for root-11 leapers puns on the modern German for 11. The binding to exactly the levels missed by Elephants reflects Europe and India being the furthest apart of the four civilisations covered.
The UNICORN (U) moves any distance through empty intermediate cells in any of the 6 hex-diagonal directions. Each Unicorn is bound to a third of Level 5, and can reach no other level. There are 3 Unicorns, to cover all 3 bindings within that level. The name is of course after a creature in European mythology. My use of it on hex and hex-prism boards extrapolates from the linepiece of the same move lengths on cubic boards.
Pieces rejected for the European army include the Satyr (5:2 leaper) which I judged too severely bound on this particular board. A decision that only the King be a compound of any other piece eliminated the Cyclops (Unicorn+Dabbaba), Gorgon (Gryphon+Anchorite), Harpy (Rook+Simurgh - see below), Hippogryph (Gryphon+Nag), Lamia (Harpy+Bishop+Congregant), Leprechaun (Elf+Unicorn), Pegasus (Aviator+Pony), Sleipnir (Knight+Antelope), and Valkyrie (Rook+Elk). Otherwise I might have had separate armies for South and North European religion.

Persian-specific pieces:
The CAMEL (C) makes 3:1 leaps, that is, between corners of any vertical block of 4x2 cells, whose other 6 cells may be empty or occupied but must not be missing. Unlike on 2d and cubic boards a Camel is unbound (e.g. ed2-fd5-fe2 brings it to an adjacent cell), and as on 2d boards but unlike on cubic ones it cannot return to a cell in an odd number of moves, as it always switches between odd and even levels. There are 3 Camels. Each Camel's first move must be to Level 3. It has little to do with the religion of the time, but foreshadows Persia embracing Islam in later history, as a component of my Caliph piece.
The SIMURGH (M) makes one step along a hex diagonal but then turns 30? (but not 90?) and continues as a horizontal Rook. It is bound to all of Level 3, and cannot reach any other level. There are only 2 Simurghs even though this is its army's most-religious and most-bound piece, as it is relatively strong and 3 would be give this army too big an advantage. The name is after a creature in Persian mythology, combining a man's head and bird's body, for knowledge of which I must credit 20th-century Dutch artist Maurits Escher. Its use for this piece (and a cubic analogue) is analogous to the European-specific Gryphon.

Non-array pieces:
The EMPEROR is a King that can also make one step along any of the 6 hex diagonals. It is the piece to which a player promotes their own King by checkmating another's, and must still be kept out of Check itself from any remaining players. Both the reduction in players and the increased mobility should however make this easier.
The BISHOP makes any number of Ferz steps in the same direction, although the board prevents it moving more than 4 steps here. Only the vertical block swept out by each step need be complete, so a Bishop could go ga3-ha2-ia1 but not ha3-ia2-ja1. It always changes level, but may change by an odd or even number of levels. It is the piece to which a player promotes their most-bound pieces by ending a move in possession of all four kinds of King's Partner.

Rules

Play proceeds in alphabetic order (EIJP).

Indian and Persian Pawns have an optional double-step noncapturing move along either horizontal orthogonal (but not one of each) from the starting cell of any Pawn of the same army (including its own). Enemy Pawns of all enemy armies (but no other piece) can capture them En Passant as if they had made only the single step. European and Jewish Pawns have no initial double-step move as they start nearer their promotion cells.

There is no Castling.

A Pawn ending a move on a cell whence it has no unpromoted move must be promoted. Promotion on an enemy piece's starting cell is to the same piece type (but without changing army) as that enemy's King's Partner. Promotion of an Indian or Persian Pawn on an initially empty cell is to one's own King's Partner. Promotion of a European or Jewish Pawn on an initially empty cell is to whichever of Gryphon and Fortnight the player chooses. If a player with three types of King's Partner promotes a Pawn to the fourth type, pieces of their most-bound type are promoted to Bishop. In the Elephant's case this recapitulates the evolution of standard chessmen, in the Unicorn's it represents Europe turning Christian, and in the Rabbi's it reflects Christianity's Jewish origins. The Simurgh's case is harder to justify, but without Christianity there would not be the Islam that would largely displace Persia's ancient religions.

A player is Checkmated when their King or Emperor is threatened by the player about to move. That player's pieces are removed from the game and the remaining players then alternate moves starting with the Checkmating one. The Checkmating player's King is promoted to Emperor. The player delivering the third Checkmate wins. Promotion to Emperor reflects the imperial conquests first by Persia and then by European powers over the lands in between.

Notes

This series is not intended as a rival to any other themed series of different-armies variants.

This game can be played with two distinguishable pairs of identical FIDE sets - that is, each set identical to one other and distinguishable from the other two. Each player uses pieces of one colour from one pair of sets. The King, Rook, Knight, and Pawn represent themselves. The Bishop represents the more numerous region-specific piece, Camel/Elephant/Rabbi/Unicorn, and the Queen the less numerous - Elf/Guru/Sennight/Simurgh. The inverted Rook represents the one-aside array Kings' Partners. Promotee Kings' Partners are improvised as in casual games of FIDE Chess. Emperors and Bishops need only be remembered, as they never coexist in the same army as their unpromoted forms.

The total army size of 30 subdivides into Indian and Persian camps of 10 columns (the 4th triangular number) by 3 levels and European and Jewish camps of 15 columns (the 5th triangular number). The different Pawn arrangements have different advantages and disadvantages which hopefully balance out. Being further forward makes European and Jewish Pawns nearer their promotion cell, which I cancel out with Indian and Persian double-step initial move, but gives each a narrower range of possible promotion columns, which I cancel out with the extra flexibility in European/Jewish promotion. The last is also of course to deal with their inability to reach each other's camps unpromoted.

Although E, F, G, P, R, and S are each the initial of two pieces, I decided on single-letter designations to minimise the size of graphics files. Mostly I use an initial shared by two pieces for the more established of the two, but I use G for Guru as no other letter of Guru was free. A capital A especially suits Rabbi as it can be seen as part of a Star of David - note how this multicoloured Star of David

turns out on closer inspection to be composed of a rotated A of each colour.

For most I took the name's first (or for Elf and Peacock the only) available letter.

Although I use the Sennight and hex-prism Fortnight in the same army, it is actually the cubic Fortnight that is the Sennight's dual - that is, its move relates to Ferz steps as the Sennight's does to Wazir moves. Each x+y:x:y cubic piece is the dual of a pure-hex piece.



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By Charles Gilman.
Web page created: 2007-08-25. Web page last updated: 2007-10-10