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Hepta

Introduction

Hepta is another of my large games. Like Hexa Decimal (saying 6 and 10) and Penta War (saying 5), Hepta also has a number (7) as theme. The game is about seven color with seven Souls each. The most special thing in the game can be activated if you control a majority. That is at least four out of seven. An eighth Soul of each color is present, but that one will stay passive in normal circumstances.

Hepta is a game mainly inspired by Jared B. McComb's Regenbogen and my own Penta War. The most important issue in Hepta is the clan structure, which is also present in Regenbogen and in Penta War. A clan structure means that pieces appear in different clans. A piece of one clan is actually the same as the same piece of another clan. The difference comes from the interaction between clans.

Like Penta War's number 5, Hepta's number 7 comes from the number of involved clans. These clans are the same as in Regenbogen: Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Purple and Clear. Unlike in Regenbogen (where Clear is called Ultima), Clear does not play a special role and neither do the colors' relative positions in the spectrum. Like Regenbogen, Hepta is played with Icehouse pieces. Icehouse pieces are pyramids that can be stacked on one another. They appear in nine different colors: The translucent ones (Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Purple and Clear) determine a piece's clan and the opaque ones (White and Black) determine a piece's owner. A piece that has no translucent part is clanless and a piece with no opaque part is neutral (ownerless). The pyramids' size determine the kind of the piece. Apart from one exception, a stack simply represents a piece. This means that stacks needn't be reconstructed during the game. The Icehouse pieces are just good for representing two colors simultaniously.

The actual number of different pieces is four. Three of these four different pieces appear in seven different colors (clans). These twenty-one plus the one colorless piece makes a total of twenty-two pieces. So you can also say that there are twenty-two different pieces in the game.

Like Penta War, Hepta has a board that consists of a main board and an administrative part. The administrative part is a Temple for both White and Black and a general Heptagram. Only Souls (Pawns) can be in a Temple or in the Heptagram. The main board is an almost-rectangle which consists of 15 files (a-o) of alternating 8 and 9 hexagonal positions (starting and ending with an 8-hex file), making a total of 127 hexes on the main board. Hexes are colored Red, Green and Blue. In contrast to Regenbogen, the color of the hex does not matter. Both Temples have 20 positions and the Heptagram has 7 positions. This makes a total administrative part of 47 positions, making 174 positions in total.

Piece movement is always through lines of hexes which share a border. Hexes are considered adjacent only if they share a border. There is not something like a diagonal (connection between next-nearest neighbours). For hexagonal chess players, all piece movement is rookwise. This is by far the most intuitive movement on a hexagonal board. This is also the case in Regenbogen. Furthermore, in normal situations, all capturing powers are short range. This is also the case in Regenbogen and in Penta War. With a large board, you don't want to be affraid of pieces at the other end of the board. But like Penta War, long range capturing power can appear later in the game.

Setup

The following Icehouse pieces are required:
3 Queens each of White and Black
2 Queens each of Red, Yellow, Blue, Clear, Orange, Purple and Green
7 Drones each of White and Black
6 Drones each of Red, Yellow, Blue, Clear, Orange, Purple and Green
21 Pawns each of White and Black
8 Pawns each of Red, Yellow, Blue, Clear, Orange, Purple and Green

Stack all translucent Drones each on an opaque Pawn so that it results in three of these pieces per combination of an opaque color and a translucent color. These are the Knights. Do the same with translucent Queens and opaque Drones. This results in one such big piece per combination of colores. These are the Kings. Leave the opaque Queens and the translucent Pawns as they are. The opaque Queens are the players' Soul Masters. The translucent Pawns are neutral Souls. Only one Soul per color starts on the normal board, one Soul per color will start in the Heptagram. Six souls per color start out of play, waiting to enter play when Knights perish. When Knights are regarded as Souls with bodies and Kings and Soul Masters as pieces without Soul, the game will obey the nature law of Soul preservation. There will always be eight Souls per color in play (main board, Temples and the Heptagram). These can be any combination of just Souls, Knights or in a special case Souls stacked on a King. The initial setup is like this.

At the right side of the board are two line-structures which look like a roman number three. These are the players' Temples. Between the Temples is a rainbow with seven spots. That is the Heptagram. The Heptagram should initially be occupied with Souls (one of each color). As a compensation for White's right to move first, Black may choose the initial arrangement of the Souls in the Heptagram. Before the game starts, Black places a Soul of each color on the seven positions of the Heptagram. The Heptagram determines the colors' diplomatic relations. In contrast to Penta War, Hepta's diplomatic relations are dynamic.

Both players have one King and three Knights per color. The King starts behind the Knights. The colors' formations are closely packed, leaving three holes, which are occupied by Soul Masters. The central hexes of the 9-hex files are occupied by Souls. The colors of these Souls are not equal to the Kings occupying that file. There is a phase shift of two colors. This is done to decrease the chance of a fast advantage, reducing White's first move advantage.

Pieces

The Soul is a quantum of the color's presence, nothing more than that. It can not move by itself and it is neutral. It can be moved by Soul Masters and it can be taken to upgrade that color.
The Knight is the normal fighting piece. For Knights, the diplomatic relations shown in the Heptagram is important. Two different colors are at peace if their Souls are on adjacent spots in the Heptagram. The Knight moves one hex in the three forward direction. It can jump (in forward directions) over a continuous line of (any combination of) Souls, friendly Knights or friendly Kings if the color of these pieces are all at peace with the Knight's color. The Knight lands on the first hex beyond the line if it either is empty or contains an enemy capturable piece. It can never jump over pieces of its own color. The Knight can't capture Souls. It can capture enemy Soul Masters without restriction. It can capture enemy Knights and Kings only if the victim in neither of the same color nor of a color at peace with the capturing Knight's color. When capturing a Knight, a Soul of the victim's color is placed on the capturing Knight's departure hex. This effect ensures Soul preservation.
The King moves one hex in any direction. It cannot jump. It can only capture its color's Souls. The captured Souls are moved to the Temple (See Temple). In a special case a King goes berserk and becomes completely different.
When a King has gone berserk, it always has at least one Soul stacked on it. Souls stacked on a King always have the same color as the King. A berserking King moves any number of hexes in one direction without jumping. It can capture enemy Knights and no other piece (it can no longer capture its color's Souls). The situation during a King berserk ensures that there is no need to bother about diplomacy, so it can capture any enemy Knight. When capturing a Knight, a Soul of the victim's color is placed on the King's departure hex. When a berserking King performs a non-capturing move, a Soul of its stack is placed on the departure hex. If the last Soul of its stack is placed, the process of calming down immediately starts. Any Knight (since there is no diplomcy with berserkers) can capture the berserking King. When capturing a berserking King, the capturing Knight dies, leaving a Soul of its color on its (departure) hex. The berserking King is converted to the captor's side without moving. You just replace the enemy King with your own (which must be off the board during a berserk) and transfer the remaining Soul stack to your King. Berserking Kings can never capture other berserking Kings (like any non-Knight piece).
A Soul Master moves one hex in any direction. It can neither jump nor capture. You may move any Soul in an unobstructed line of sight from your Soul Master any number of hexes away from or towards your Soul Master (without jumping or capturing). This move may not be executed if an enemy Soul Master is able to directly undo your move. That is, if there is an enemy Soul Master behind (in same direction) the moving Soul with only empty hexes in between. Furthermore, as a move, a Soul Master can be replaced with any King. This can not be done if your King of that color is on the board or if your opponent's King of that color is berserking.

Rules

The Goal

The goal of the game is to force your opponent to resign. Theoretically, the goal is to stalemate your opponent by eliminating his or her whole army or by blocking some remaining pieces. It is very likely that a chanceless player can survive for a lot of moves before the inevitable stalemate. He or she can also choose not to execute those meaningless moves by resigning. There is no draw after a certain number of passive moves. A draw can occur after threefold repetition or agreement.

The Temple

Both players' Temple consists of five Pillars. The low (far from Heptagram) horizontal line is the Receive Pillar. This is the place where Souls arrive in your Temple. The three vertical lines are the Power Pillar, Life Pillar and Tactic Pillar. The Power Pillar is always the Pillar most toward the board. So, for White's point of view left and for Black's point of view right. The Life Pillar is the middle one and the Tactic Pillar is the one away from the board. The upper Pillar (close to the Heptagram) is the Eliminate Pillar.
Each Pillar has a maximum capacity of four Souls. The Pillar capacity is one plus the number of Soul Masters the Temple's owner has left. At the beginning of the game, both players have three Soul Masters, giving a Pillar capacity of four. When Soul Masters get captured, the Pillar capacity decreases. You can't store Souls when you exceed the capacity. But when a Pillar is maximally filled and you lose a Soul Master, nothing happens. The capacity limit is only checked when a Soul wants to enter a Pillar. Besides this capacity limit, there is also a limit of one Soul of a specific color on a Pillar.

Moving through the Temple

The Temple is only accessible for Souls. To have Souls move through your Temple you need the King of the Soul's color. The King just has to be alive. It needn't be on a specific position. This means that if you lost a color's King, your activities of that color are significantly diminished. Normally a Soul enters your Temple when you capture a Soul with your King. It can also be achieved in a different way (see Promotion). When you capture a Soul, the Soul moves to your Receive Pillar. If doing so exceeds one of the Receive Pillar's limits, it is illegal to capture that Soul.
Any Soul on the Receive Pillar can (as a move) move to the Power, Life or Tactic Pillar. This can only be done if you still have the color's King and you don't exceed the destination Pillar's limits. If the Power, Life and Tactic Pillar all already contain one of the color's Soul, you may execute the same move from the Receive Pillar to the Eliminate Pillar with the same restrictions. The rules ensure that at any time if you have a Soul on the Eliminate Pillar, you also have the same color's Soul on your Power, Life and Tactic Pillar. You can't move a Soul this way from another Pillar than from the Receive Pillar.

Using the Temple

From the Receive Pillar, you can move a Soul to another Pillar as described above. You can also use it to do a Heptagram move. This can only be done if you still have the King of the Soul's color. The process takes three half-moves. First, you announce the Heptagram move and remove the specific Soul from your Receive Pillar and pass it to your opponent. Your opponent drops the Soul back on the board on the forwardmost empty hex (his or her perspective) of a file of his or her choice. Then you execute the Heptagram move by moving that color's Soul in the Heptagram. You may exchange positions with another Soul in the Heptagram or move it to an empty position in the Heptagram (there are empty positions in the Heptagram when Kings are berserking).
A Soul on the Power Pillar has a continuous effect. Your Knights of that color will get a less restricted jumping ability. They can also jump over colors that are next-nearest neighbours in the Heptagram, resulting in four colors that can be jumped over (except when Heptagram positions are empty). There is still no jumping over enemies or same-color pieces. Also, the Knights' capturing rule remains unchanged. This continuous effect remains if you lose your King.
A Soul on the Life Pillar can be summoned as Knight. If you have fewer than three Knights of that color on the board, you may remove the Soul from your Life Pillar and put a Knight of that color into play on an empty hex adjacent to your King of that color. You may not summon a Knight if you have a Soul of that color on the Eliminate Pillar, since the removal of the Soul from the Life Pillar would make the Soul on the Eliminate Pillar illegal.
Like on the Power Pillar, a Soul on the Tactic Pillar has a continuous effect. But in this case, Knights of that color may move backwards, adding three possible directions. In the backward directions, the Knight has the same jumping ability as in the forward directions (either or not enhanced by a Soul on the Power Pillar). However, a Knight can never capture backwards. Like the Power Pillar's continuous effect, this effect remains if you lose your King.
If you have a Soul on the Eliminate Pillar, provided that you still have the King of that color, you may execute the elimination move. The elimination move is executed by removing everything of that color except for your King (all Souls, Knights and the opposing King). Souls in the Temples and even the one in the Heptagram are also removed. All eight Souls are stacked on your King. This elimination costs a move by itself. Your King, with the eight Souls stacked on it, has gone berserk.

Berserk

A King can go berserk as described above. The color's Soul has been removed from the Heptagram, so there is no diplomacy between a berserking King's color and any other color. This means that no Knight can jump over Souls of the berserking King's color (Of course, Soul Masters can still move the Souls as normal). Neither can any Knight jump over a friendly berserking King. Any Knight can capture or be captured by an enemy berserking King. But as stated above, a berserking King can only capture Knights. If a berserking King makes its eighth non-capturing move, the King calms down and the color returns to normal. It can have changed side several times during the berserk, but the owner of the berserking King is well determined at the end of its berserk. And all eight Souls of that color are on the main board.
When a berserk has ended, all the color's Knights and the opposing King will return to play, not depending on whether they were on the board just before the elimination move that caused the berserk. Furthermore, a Soul returns to the Heptagram. This process of recovery takes four moves by both players. Normal play stops for those four turns. The player who does not own the King that just calmed down will have the move at the beginning of this process. He or she starts with replacing one of the color's Souls with a Knight of his or hers. Both players continue returning their Knights into play until all six Knights are back and there are two Souls left. The player who does not have the King that just calmed down will have the move again. He or she chooses one of the two remaining Souls of that color and places his or her King there. The opponent (player with the calmed down King) will put the replaced Soul on an empty Heptagram position of his or her choice. There is a choice if there is also another berserking King present (then, there are multiple empty positions in the Heptagram). When that is done, normal play continues with the player that did not have the berserking King to move.

Promotion

The promotion zone is the last rank. That means the forwardmost hex of the 9-hex files. Those are seven hexes. From these positions, pieces may execute a special action. These actions cost a move by itself. They won't be executed on completion of a move to the promotion zone.
If you have a Knight in the promotion zone, it may capture a Soul of your Knight's color to your Receive Pillar. You don't need your King for this. The Knight temporarily plays the role of the King. This move is done by moving the Knight to any Soul of the Knight's color on the main board (regardless of position) and move the captured Soul to your Receive Pillar. The restrictions of the Pillar's capacity still apply. Though you don't need your King to execute this move, you still need the King to do anything with the Soul on the Receive Pillar. A Knight in the promotion zone may also choose to dematerialize itself, removing itself from the board and add a Soul on the Receive Pillar with the same capacity restrictions.
If you have a King in the promotion zone, you can either steal a Soul from the enemy Temple or change color. Both actions are performed by moving the King to the backwardmost empty hex of the file it stands. If you choose to steal a Soul, you move a Soul of the King's color from your opponent's Temple (any Pillar) to your Receive Pillar (regarding capacity restrictions on your Receive Pillar). You can't steal from Power, Life or Tactic Pillar if your opponent also has the same color's Soul in the Eliminate Pillar (that Soul would become illegal). If you choose to change the King's color, you may change it into another King as if it were a Soul Master (see Soul Master). However, the King is still moved to the backwardmost empty hex on its file. You may not execute any of these promotions if the King's file is entirely filled (the backwardmost empty hex would be its own position again). You may not execute an effectless King promotion (changing into itself or stealing a Soul if there isn't any Soul in the opponent's Temple). A King can never promote when it is berserking.
If you have a Soul Master in the promotion zone, it can produce another Soul Master provided that you have lost a Soul Master. So, you can't have more than three Soul Masters in total. This promotion is executed by moving the Soul Master to the backwardmost empty hex of its file amd put a new Soul Master on the next backwardmost empty hex of that file. The move can't be executed if there are less than two empty positions on the file (either the extra Soul Master wouldn't fit in the file or it would be placed on the promotion hex again).

Soul Master Recovery

A Soul Master can be recoverd by promoting another one. But if you are out of Soul Masters, you don't have a Soul Master to promote. To make the game fully regenerative (and less drawish) there is a way to regain a Soul Master when you have lost them all. At any time, when you have no Soul Masters left and your opponent has fewer than three Soul Masters, you may announce a Soul Master Recovery. This announcement costs a move. Your opponent replies by putting a new Soul Master of his or hers on a backwardmost empty hex on a file. Then, you put a Soul Master of yours on a backwardmost empty hex of a file. Then, it is your opponent's turn again and he or she can do a normal move again. A major drawback for this move is that the execution costs you two moves and your opponent only one. However, it prevents your opponent from hiding behind a Soul wall when you are dominant but out of Soul Masters.

Summary

This summary is not sufficient to learn the game. It just lists what properties belong to what.
Knight
Moves forward, jumps, captures enemies. Suicides to convert berserking King.
Promotes to capture Soul on main board or to dematerialize.
King
Moves in any direction, no jumping, captures Souls.
Promotes to backwardmost hex to steal Soul from Temple or to change color.
Enables Soul activity in Temple.
Berserk King
Moves any number of hexes in any direction, no jumping, captures enemy Knights, no diplomacy.
When calming down, restores the whole color.
Soul Master
Moves in any direction, no jumping, no capturing.
Moves Souls.
Changes into King.
Promotes to backwardmost hex to duplicate.
Increases Pillar capacity.
Can be acquired by Soul Master recovery.
Temple effects
Receive Pillar - Heptagram move or further movement
Power Pillar - Enhanced Knight jumping
Life Pillar - Summon Knight
Tactic Pillar - Knight backward moving
Eliminate Pillar - Color elimination causing berserk.

Notes

Strategy notes

In the beginning of the game, the Souls on the main board are resources that should be gathered. You can pull the Souls to your corresponding King and take it. After some fight, more and more Souls appear on the board and the Soul Masters might lose track of them. In that stage, the Souls acts as terrain. Knight that can jump over the Souls can pass through the terrain and can do more than Knights that are blocked.

A berserking King can decide a game. It can demolish the opponent's Knight-army. However, if Knights protect one another well, it shouldn't be a problem. Although a berserking King has a long range move, it can be immobilized by the Souls it produces. Furthermore, Kings, Soul Masters and Souls block berserking Kings. When the Soul stack is almost depleted, the berserking King loses its value. It can be good to attack Knights even if they are guarded. When the berserking King is captured, the captured Knight dies as well and the King isn't worth much anymore. Only execute an eighth non-capturing move with a berserking King if you know the position after the color recovery will be advantageous.

Design notes

The game is designed so that the color structure should be dominant in the game's flavor. So, in contrast to Penta War, pieces have no strange non-replacement or multiple capturing abilities. In Hepta, a Knight can capture pieces from four out of the seven enemy colors plus the colorless Soul Masters. In Penta War, a piece can only capture pieces from two out of the five clans and not the clanless Pawns. So, in Penta War, pieces must be agressive to compensate that they can only be agressive against a minority of the enemy army. In Hepta, a Knight (fighting piece) can capture a majority of the enemy army. So, single capture should be sufficient. This can be done with replacement capture.

Pieces are designed to work together. In many chess variants, almost all pieces are fighting pieces. Only the Kings play a different role. In Hepta, only the Knights are generally fighing pieces. The rest (Kings, Soul Masters and Souls) have an organisational task. All different pieces are required to play the game effectively.

The goal is not designed to be accomplished itself within a normal number of moves. The game is designed so that it can be proved that the goal can be accomplished slowly and surely if you are dominating. The losing player should resign. Still, the game will take much longer than a chessgame. The goal is not something that adds a flavor to the game. Just kick the enemy ass and he or she will resign. It should not be possible for a weak side to dig itself in for a draw. Soul Masters and Kings should be able to break Soul walls and gather enough Souls in your Temple to get a skillful Knight-army. If you are out of Kings and Soul Masters and only have a big Knight-army, you are probably not better. If the opponent has control of the terrain (Soul arrangement) and has three Soul Masters. He or she can dig you further and further and wait for the right moment to get a King and create an attacking army.

The initial piece density on the main board is 69 out of the 127 (54.33%). That is slightly higher than in chess. On the whole playing area the initial piece density is 76 out of the 174 (43.68%), which is slightly lower than in chess. In the whole playing area, only Kings and Soul Masters completely disappear on dying. Those are only 20 pieces. The 56 Souls will always be anywhere on the playing area. That is slightly less than a third of the available positions (32.18%). However, they can be stacked on Kings, leaving a minimum of 7 pieces in play (4.02%). The total number of Icehouse pieces is exactly the same as the total number of positions, 174. However, at least 42 Icehouse pieces will not be in play at any moment. It is possible to reduce the number of Icehouse pieces in play to only the 56 Souls (after Knight dematerialization). Maybe it is even possible to force such a situation from a non-trivial position. Note that the game does not end there. The forced move in such a position is announcing a Soul Master recovery.



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By Joost Aan de Brugh.
Web page created: 2006-04-23. Web page last updated: 2006-04-23