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Armies of Faith 4: Schism

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 first page;
* after animals with whose heads deities are represented such as the Chaturanga Elephant (Alfil) of earlier in the series;
* after types of mythical creature such as the Elf, Gryphon, and Unicorn of the subvariant here;
* after religious titles in Judæochristian-monotheism armies (which by definition would be short of other options) - the Bishop, Caliph, Cardinal, Metropolitan, Moderator, Pope, and Primate of the main variant here;
* after real creatures related to the area continuously through changes in religion - most typically the Camel.

Following on from the previous page in the series, covering Christianity's rise as an established religion, I reach the schisms of the Christian world. The best known of these to English speakers, the Catholic-Protestant split following the Reformation, was only the last of many. Before this came the divergence between the churches of the former Roman Empire's eastern and western halves, and before even that something not always seen as a Christian schism: Islam's rise and spread. Islam's belief in Jesus as Christ but not God is comparable to that of western Unitarians, who are too small a group to cover here.

That gave me four armies to populate - Catholic, Protestant, Islamic, and Byzantine - in that order because they fit the colours surprisingly well. Some of these are groupings of more subtly-different denominations, but they will do. Protestant mixes early examples retaining Bishops (Anglican, Lutheran) which became and remain established in much of northern Europe with later Bishopless ones (e.g. Methodist, Presbyterian) which were less successful at the official level, the former predominating.

What are abandoned in AOF4 are pre-Christian pieces, and with them the Jewish ones' requirement for a hex geometry, so I revert to a cubic board, as well as to mixing 30- and 31-piece armies using two distinguishable pairs of identical sets. This time I have 4 levels with 16 Pawns aside and 1 or 2 empty cells in each corner column - the first convex 3d board in the series. The different-sized armies are for the same reason as in the series' first variant, balancing pieces of different strength. I replaced pre-Christian pieces with suitably-named AOF3 promotees, and considered but rejected including the Queen which came into the real Chess of the era. Having array Queens alongside the wide range of denomination-specific pieces would have meant more than seven piece types aside, hindering physical representation. Queens do however appear in the series' next variant, which like AOF3 is two-large-four-small. As AOF4 has so many Bishop compounds from the start, and uses 3d-specific moves so little, I decided to promote pieces delivering Checkmate by adding the Unicorn move. This also ties in with the cubic Unicorn replacing the hex-ranked Bishop as the piece necessarily changing level.

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As a bonus, Heathen Europe Chess for 4 players uses the same board, with the same columns fully and partly occupied, and so is shown alongside for comparison. The two have little else in common, but the HE Gryphon and Unicorn are useful references for AOF4's Metropolitan and promotees. Pieces rejected for AOF2's European army can be Checkmate promotees in HEC for 4.

Setup

The board has 4 levels numbered 1 to 4, all FIDE boards. In AOF4 they even have the FIDE colouring, rotated on the even levels, to reflect the Bishop/Camel bindings. In HEC for 4 they are coloured in pale versions of the army colours to reflect the Unicorn/Elf bindings, with Kings on the opposite colour to their own as per FIDE. Vertical planes are in two perpendicular groups lettered a-h and s-z respectively. Each camp starts with symmetric pieces where planes a/b/g/h intersect s/t/y/z, blocked by four neighbouring columns filled entirely with Pawns.

Level 1 has a Rook in each corner, flanked by Bishops, or in the Islamic army Camels, with a Knight on the inner non-Pawn column. HEC for 4 substitutes Unicorns for all linepieces.

Level 2 has corners either empty and flanked by a King and a paired piece, or a King flanked by one each of two unpaired pieces, and in both cases a Knight on the inner non-Pawn column. HEC for 4 substitutes Elves for Knights. Both variants have each pair of neighbouring-colour Kings on a FIDE-style direct orthogonal, and AOF4's nearest pairs of Kings are the Western pair and the Eastern pair.

Level 3 differs from Level 2 in replacing the King with an empty cell if on the corner column, otherwise with another unpaired piece. This leaves all corner cells empty. HEC for 4 substitutes Elves for all non-Pawns.

Level 4 is the same as Level 1 but on opposite bindings, except that HEC for 4 substitutes Rooks for Bishops (compare the lowest level in 3 level 4 player Chess) and Unicorns for Rooks.

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 orthogonal and 12 root-2 diagonal directions. Being here as a standard piece of 2d games it cannot move along root-3 diagonals (commonly called triagonal). Other 3d variants using this piece are Ecumenical Eurasian Ninjachess and Triaxial Qi. 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 orthogonal directions. There are 2 Rooks aside.
The KNIGHT (N) makes 2:1:0 leaps. On an infinite cubic board it would have 24 such moves, but the moves never exceed 20 from a middle, or 16 from an outer, level of a 4-level board. As on 2d boards, but unlike on hex-prism ones, a Knight cannot return to a cell in an odd number of moves, as it always switches between the two Bishop bindings. AOF4 has 4 Knights aside, HEC for 4 only 2.
The PAWN (PN in AOF4, P in HEC for 4) moves like in Raumschach. Its noncapturing move is one step along either horizontal orthogonal away from its own camp. Its capturing move is one step along any root-2 diagonal with coordinates in either one of its noncapturing directions and either vertical direction, or both its noncapturing directions on the level. There are 16 Pawns aside. At half of 2 armies and just over half the other 2 it is the most numerous piece, befitting its lowly status.

Non-array pieces, both variants:
The EMPEROR is a King that can also make one step along any of the 8 root-3 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.

Array pieces, Armies of Faith 4 (see next but one piece group for Gryphon move):
The BISHOP (B) moves any distance through empty intermediate cells along any root-2 diagonal. As on 2d boards, but unlike on hex-prism ones, a Bishop is bound to either the dark or the pale cells - but can go as many as 7 steps. Each Trinitarian army has 4 Bishops, the upper pair on one binding and the lower pair on the other. The significance of its name is hopefully self-evident.
The CALIPH (CL) is the compound of Bishop and Camel, and retains its components' binding. The Islamic army has 2 Caliphs, 1 for each binding. Its name is a high religious title in early Islam. Its use for this piece ties in with use of the next entry...
The CAMEL (CM) makes 3:1:0 leaps. On an infinite cubic board it would have 24 such moves, but the moves never exceed 16 from any level of a 4-level board. It is bound to either the dark or the pale cells. Unlike on 2d and hex-prism boards a Camel can return to a cell in an odd number of moves, e.g. tb1-wc1-td1-wd1-wb2-tb1. The Islamic army has 4 Camels, the upper pair bound to the dark and the lower pair to the pale cells. Camels have been in selected armies from the start, and their continued presence marks Egypt, Mesopotamia, and Persia coming under a uniting religion.
The CARDINAL (CD) is the compound of Bishop and Knight. The Catholic army has 2 Cardinals. Its name is a high religious title in Catholicism, and has long been used for this piece.
The METROPOLITAN (MT) is the compound of Bishop and Gryphon. The Byzantine army has 2 Metropolitans. Its name is a religious title in many episcopal churches, but is more widely publicised in Eastern churches, where a man might be referred to as "Metropolitan Ivanov", than in the Western ones, where "Metropolitan Jones" would sound odd. This exotic feeling of its common use is what inspired its use for a relatively exotic Bishop compound.
The MODERATOR (MD) is a Bishop that can also make one step along any of the 8 root-3 diagonals. The Protestant army has two Moderators. Its name is a religious title in bishopless Protestant churches, and here completes Protestantism's breadth. Its use for this piece reflects such a church being popular in Scotland, linked by the Unicorn to the root-3 diagonal.
The POPE (PO) is the Bishop with the remaining Emperor moves added. The Catholic army has a Pope. Its name is the Catholic church's highest religious title. Its use for this piece represents being to the church what an emperor is to more general society. Fusion Chess made me especially keen on a piece indistinguishable on a square-cell board from the next entry...
The PRIMATE (PM) is the Bishop with the remaining King moves added. The Protestant army has 2 Primates. Its name is a religious title in many episcopal churches, but is excluded from the Catholic army as that church has higher priestly ranks. Its use for this piece is because it adds fewer moves than a Cardinal to the plain Bishop move.
The PRINCE (PC) moves like the King but can be captured. The Byzantine army has a Prince as a counter to the otherwise overstrong Metropolitan, and the Islamic army has two. Of the piece's many names, this one is closest in meaning to Taishi, its Japanese name in Dai Shogi.

Non-array pieces, Armies of Faith 4 (see next piece group for Unicorn move):
The CAFILA is a Camel promoted after delivering Checkmate, by adding the Unicorn move. Unlike its components it is unbound. Its name means a caravan in the ancient camel-train sense, devoid of modern structural connotations and a similar procession to the next entry...
The CAVALCADE is a Knight promoted after delivering Checkmate, by adding the Unicorn move. Its name means a parade of horses, as both components have equine names.
The DUCHESS is a Rook promoted after delivering Checkmate, by adding the Unicorn move. Its name refers to being akin to the Queen, but with a lesser secondary component.
The GOVERNOR is a Bishop promoted after delivering Checkmate, by adding the Unicorn move. Unlike its components it is unbound. Its name is a religious title of British monarchs following the Reformation.
The USURPER is the compound of Prince and Unicorn, to which a Pawn or Prince delivering Checkmate is promoted. Its name is after someone threatening an established royal line, as the Prince's components' compounds with the Unicorn, the Besieger and Heretic, threaten castle and church respectively.

Array pieces, Heathen Europe for 4, all named after creatures in European mythology:
The ELF (L) makes 3:1:1 leaps. Each Elf is bound to one in four cells, but switches Knight-like between Bishop bindings. HEC for 4 accordingly has 4 Elves aside, covering the board between them. The name's use for root-11 leapers puns on the modern German for 11.
The GRYPHON (Y) makes one step as a Bishop but then turns 45° (but not 90°) and continues in the same plane as a Rook. HEC for 4 has one Gryphon aside. The name's use for this piece is long established.
The UNICORN (U) moves any distance through empty intermediate cells in any of the 8 root-3 diagonal directions. Each Unicorn is bound to one in four cells. HEC for 4 accordingly has 4 Unicorns aside, covering the board between them. The name's use for this piece dates from Raumschach.

Non-array pieces, Heathen Europe for 4, all named after creatures in European mythology:
The GORGON is a Gryphon promoted after delivering Checkmate, by adding the Anchorite move. The latter makes a first step as a Rook, and after turning 45° makes the rest as a Bishop, again within one plane. The creature is a woman with snakes for hair, and so especially suits a "distorted Queen" whose many paths criss-cross like unmanageable hair.
The HARPY is a Rook promoted after delivering Checkmate, by adding the Simurgh move - which on a cubic board is a Rook move preceded by a single step as a Unicorn and turn of approximately 55°. My Xiang Qi variant Qiube uses it, the bent-piece subvariant of my 4 Linepiece Hex Chess uses its hex version, and Tripunch Chess uses the nearest square-cell equivalents, the Reaper and Harvester. The creature is a flying woman, and so combines the flying of the biological rook and mythical simurgh with my use of female names for Rook compounds with other radial pieces. Poison Chess made me especially keen on a piece indistinguishable on a square-cell board from the Rook.
The LEPRECHAUN is an Elf or Unicorn promoted after delivering Checkmate, by adding the other's move. It retains its components' binding. The creature is vaguely Elf-like and specifically Irish. The name starts with the same consonant and vowel as Elf (albeit in reverse order) and has a similar-sounding end to Unicorn.
The SLEIPNIR is the Knight promoted after delivering Checkmate, by adding the Epoletna move, a 5:4:3 leap - but not the equivalent-length 5:5:0 or 7:1:0 ones. On this board it can use the Epoletna move only from Level 1 to Level 4 or vice versa. The creature is an eight-legged horse. Its use for this piece is as a Knight with a SOLL twice the square of its own added.

Rules

Rules apply to both variants unless otherwise specified.

Play proceeds in anticlockwise order, starting with Red. In AOF4 this means that the player with the strongest Bishop compound moves last.

Pawns have an optional double-step noncapturing move along either horizontal orthogonal from the starting cell of any Pawn of the same army (including their own). Enemy Pawns (but no other piece) can capture them En Passant as if they had made only the single step.

There is no Castling.

A Pawn reaching the opposite army's camp can be promoted to another capturable array piece of its own army. Promotion is compulsory on the corner column, otherwise it is optional.

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. The remaining players then alternate moves starting with the Checkmating one. The Checkmating player's King is promoted to Emperor (if not one already) and the piece delivering Checkmate, if not a Bishop compound, is also promoted. A player delivering the second Checkmate with a piece already promoted as a result of the first wins, with the player who is neither Checkmating nor Checkmated in second place. Otherwise the player delivering the third Checkmate wins. Promotion to Emperor reflects the rise and fall of the empires of the period.

Notes

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

The bar on promoting Bishop compounds delivering Checkmate is primarily for want of names for their compounds with the Unicorn.

Both games 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 identical pair. AOF4 uses Queens and inverted Rooks for the two each army's distinctive compounds. The rest represent themselves except that in the Islamic army Bishops represent Camels. HEC for 4 uses the same representations as HEC for 2. In both cases promotees are improvised as in casual games of FIDE Chess. Emperors need only be remembered, as they do not coexist in the same army as their unpromoted forms.

An Emperor may occasionally be able to Checkmate an unpromoted King. This wins the game exactly as a piece delivering two Checkmates does.

There is no ambiguity of order of promotions if an unpromoted Pawn in its promotion zone delivers Checkmate. As it Checkmates at the start of its potential move it is promoted to Usurper, losing the chance of promotion to anything else. For a choice of promotee the player would have had to promote it at the end of the move bringing it to that cell.

As C, M, and P are each the initial of multiple piece types, I have introduced 2-letter designations. I have not bothered with such designations for non-array pieces. HEC for 4 retains the L for Elf and Y for Gryphon of AOF2.

The extra level compared to 3 level 4 player Chess is of course an extra 64 cells - as against the extra 72 cells of AOF1's purple cells. Therefore the board has fewer cells than AOF1, and with 122 pieces rather than 121 makes for a higher piece density of just over 47?%.

As only two AOF4 array pieces have a specifically 3d move, any such army with a single Prince replacing that piece - or replacing paired Princes - can be used in place of the Guru Mahachaturanga army, though not directly against it and without any special moves. An identical or different modified AOF4 army can be substituted on each side. More details will be forthcoming on that page.

The name Cafila was added not long before this page was posted, but was added before nevertheless, in my piece article Man and Beast 08: Diverse Directions.



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 Charles Gilman.
Web page created: 2008-02-01. Web page last updated: 2008-02-01