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Penta War


Penta War is a huge game. The board and the armies are big. And there are some special rules about clans and promotions. The pieces move differently from chess pieces. However, the geometries of the moves are similar. Also, the pieces have only short range capturing powers (unless after a certain promotion), so you don't have to watch for the other side of the board to see whether a piece moves to a safe position. The number of different pieces appearing in the game is both six and twenty-six. Like chess, there are Kings, Queens, Rooks, Bishops, Knights and Pawns, which makes six different pieces. But except for the Pawns, pieces appear in five different clans. These different clans have exactly the same powers. The difference comes from the relation between clans.
The main board is a 17 by 17 (a-q by 1-17) checkered board with dark squares on the long diagonals. There is also a 30-square Palace for administrative reasons. There is no battle in the Palace. The Palace could be simplified to 3 positions on which more than one piece can be together. Those positions are named Upper Throne, King Throne and Lower Throne. There are ten copies of these positions. One for each clan for each player. With these ten copies, there needn't (and can't) be more than one piece on a position. The administration done in the Palace is based on a clan, so there is more overview when the clans are separated. The Upper Throne is always the forwardmost position, the King Throne is the middle one and the Lower Throne is the backwardmost position.


The initial armies are 100 pieces each. Each clan consists of 1 King, 2 Queens, 3 Rooks, 4 Bishops and 5 Knights. There are 25 Pawns. The game starts with only the Pawns on the mian board and the Kings in the Palace on the King Thrones. The game starts with the setup phase. During the setup phase, the clans are placed on the main board.

During the setup phase, the clans are placed. There are five fixed areas which must be populated by the clans. White starts placing a clan on one of the five areas, then Black places a clan and so on until all clans are placed. After the setup phase, White starts with the first normal move.

This is the Chess clan. Like all clans it can be placed on one of the five fixed areas. This means that the King is placed on c2, f5, i2, l5 or o2 for White and on c16, f13, i16, l13 or o16 for Black. The rest of the clan is placed on the same relative positions as in the diagram. Of course, for Black the vertical relative positions are reversed (the Knights start further towards White). The other clans have the same formation.


All captures by pieces are subject to the Clan Diplomacy rule (see Clan Diplomacy).

The Rook moves up to 3 squares orthogonally, possibly capturing an enemy piece by replacement. It may jump over any piece except enemy Pawns. All enemy pieces jumped over are captured. A Rook can capture up to 3 pieces in a move.
The Bishop slides up to 2 squares diagonally. It neither jumps nor captures by replacement. On completion of its move, all enemy pieces on squares orthogonally adjacent to the Bishop's destination square are captured. When there is at least one capturable enemy piece orthogonally adjacent to the Bishop, the Bishop may perform a capture-only move, capturing all orthogonally adjacent enemies. A Bishop can capture up to 4 pieces in a move.
The Knight moves like a Knight in chess, but only to a vacant square. It captures enemy pieces jumped over. Those are the pieces on the two squares that are adjacent to both the Knight's starting square and its destination square. A Knight can capture up to 2 pieces in a move.
The Queen is a more complicated piece. It has three ways to move. First, simple movement: It moves and captures like a King in chess, but may also jump over one adjacent friendly non-Pawn piece to the square beyond, possibly capturing an enemy piece. Second, active pushing: If there is a friendly Pawn on a square that the Queen can reach by a simple movement, the Queen may move to that Pawn's position and the Pawn is moved further in the same direction. The Pawn jumps over any further friendly (Pawn or non-Pawn) piece(s) to the first square that is either empty or contains a capturable enemy piece (which is captured). Capturable in this case means capturable for the Queen (Clan Diplomacy rule). An active pushing move is impossible when the Pawn is blocked by an uncapturable enemy piece or by the edge of the board. Third, push/pull: If a friendly Pawn is on an unobstructed orthogonal or diagonal line from your Queen, you may move the Pawn (without capturing or jumping) on that line towards or away from the Queen. The Queen does not move in this case. A Queen can promote to the Palace (see Queen Promotion).
The King moves like a King in chess, but may only capture enemy Pawns. It is the only piece that can capture Pawns, but it can't capture any other piece. When the King is captured, the clan is eliminated (see Clan Elimination). Like the Queen, the King can promote to the Palace (see King Promotion).
A Pawn can move one square forward without capturing or it can use any friendly Queen to move. It can never capture a piece. A Pawn can promote to a Rook, Bishop or Knight (see Pawn Promotion).


The object of the game is to eliminate all enemy Pawns. Any move that changes your last Pawn into another piece instantly loses. There is no possibility to deprive both players from Pawns with a single move. When a player has no moves, that player forfeits a turn. Three-fold repetition is a draw and so is mutual stalemate.

Clan Diplomacy

Each clan is at war with two other clans. This means that a member of a clan can only capture pieces of those clans. When it is said that an enemy piece is captured, it is only captured if that piece's clan is at war with the moving piece's clan. Otherwise, the piece is left unaffected. Replacement captures of pieces of the wrong clans are impossible. No piece except the Kings can capture enemy Pawns. The diplomatic structure is like a pentagram.

Chess is at war with Puppet and Robot.
Magic is at war with Robot and Animal.
Puppet is at war with Animal and Chess.
Robot is at war with Chess and Magic.
Animal is at war with Magic and Puppet.

Clan Elimination

There is no notion of check and mate. When a King of a clan is captured, the clan is eliminated. This means that all remaining Rooks, Bishops and Knights of that clan are directly removed. The Queens remain. As a bonus, the capturing player gets up to eight new Pawns. The piece that captured the enemy King discharges and emits a Pawn in each of the eight (orthogonal and diagonal) directions. This is done from the destination square of the capturing piece. When a King is captured by a Bishop without moving, the Pawns are emitted from the position where the Bishop stands. When a Queen uses active pushing to capture a King, the Pawns are emitted from the Queen's destination square (the Pawn's departure square). For each direction, the Pawn is placed on the last square before it's blocked by a piece or the edge of the board. If a square adjacent to the emitting piece is blocked, no Pawn is placed in that direction. This Pawn emission is executed after removing all pieces that should be removed, so these pieces don't block emitted Pawns. There is no limit on how many Pawns a player can get. Moves that capture more than one King are illegal.
If an eliminated clan still has at least 1 Queen on the main board or in the Palace, the King is placed on the King Throne. If both Queens are captured before or during the move that captured the King, the clan is disabled. In this case, the King is placed on the Upper Throne. When a King is still on the King Throne and then the last Queen gets captured, the King remains there.

In the left diagram (the pieces on c1 and a4 are Puppet Bishops), it is White's turn. White moves his Puppet Bishop from c1 to a3. This captures Black's Chess King on b3 and does not capture Black Puppet Bishop on a4 because of Clan Diplomacy. Black's Chess Clan is eliminated. This means that the Chess Bishop on c3 and the Chess Rook on b4 are also removed. Black's Chess Queen on c4 remains there. Black's Chess King will go to the King Throne as there is still a Black Chess Queen alive. White gets extra Pawns. These Pawns are emitted from a3 (destination square of capturing piece). The three Pawns that would be emitted in the northwest, west and southwest directions are blocked by the edge of the board. And the Pawn that would have been emitted north is blocked by Black's Puppet Bishop on a4. The Pawns that are emitted northeast and east are not blocked by adjacent Black pieces, because these pieces are captured in the process. They are placed on the last squares before blocked (by the Black Pawn on c5 and the White Chess Knight on d3). The Pawns emitted in southeast and south directions are placed on the squares before blocked by the edge of the board and the White Chess Knight on a1 respectively. The resulting position is on the right diagram. Nothing happens in the rest of the board except for Black's Chess King Throne.

Clan Restoration

When a King is on the King Throne (except for the setup phase at the beginning of the game) it may restore its clan. A cluster of friendly pieces can be recruited to form a new clan. This cluster must be a connective group of Pawns or the King's clan members. Clan members can be still on the board either because they are Queens or promoted Pawns (see Pawn Promotion), or because the King was promoted (see King Promotion). The recruit is executed by moving the King to one of the Pawns in the cluster, removing the Pawn. Afterwards, other Pawns of the cluster are replaced with the clan's Rooks, Bishops and/or Knights with a limit of a total of 3 Rooks, 4 Bishops and 5 Knights in the clan. All Pawns of the cluster must be converted, but if the limits are reached before all those Pawns are converted, some Pawns remain unconverted. This is all done in one move.
When a clan is disabled, the King is on the Upper Throne and not on the King Throne, so this restoration move can't be executed. To re-enable a clan, you have to eliminate (not necessarily disable) the enemy's same clan. When you eliminate the clan, your King will automatically go from the Upper Throne to the King Throne.

In this diagram, it is White's turn. White can restore his Chess Clan if the Chess King is on the King Throne. White has to choose a Pawn cluster. In the diagram, there is a Pawn cluster a1-d1-a2-c2-c3-d3. The d1-c2-c3-d3 cluster is connected to the a1-a2 cluster by the clan member on b3. If White chooses to replace one of these six Pawns with his Chess King, the other five Pawns are replaced with any combination of Chess Knights, Chess Bishops and Chess Rooks. The Pawns on a5 and c5 are not connected to any other Pawn. The Puppet Bishop on b4 does not connect the Pawn on a5 to the one on c3, because it is no clan member of the Chess King. The Pawn on c5 is not connected to anything. If White chooses to replace the Pawn on a5 or on c5 with the Chess King, no Chess Knights, Chess Bishops or Chess Rooks are placed because there are no Pawns left in the cluster. If White would resotre its Puppet clan instead, the Pawns on a1 and a2 are not connected to the d1-c2-c3-d3 group, but the one on a5 is. If another clan is restored (for example: Magic), there are four different clusters in the diagram.

Pawn promotion

Pawns promote on the last rank. A Pawn may promote when it moves there by itself, by a Queen's push/pull move or by a Queen's active pushing move. Pawns that are shot (Clan Elimination) to the last rank do not promote directly. Pawn promotion is optional. You may executie a promotion-only move later or promote it when it is moved by a Queen along the last rank. You may promote a Pawn to any Rook, Bishop or Knight. You can never have more than 3 Rooks, 4 Bishops and 5 Knights in a clan. You may not promote to a piece of a disabled clan (when the King is on the Upper Throne), but you may promote to a member of an eliminated clan (with the King on the King Throne).

King promotion

When a King is on the last rank, it may promote by moving to the Palace. Promotion is a move by itself and is not executed on completion of a move to the last rank. When a King promotes and the clan has no Queens on the main board or in the Palace (both Queens are captured), the King is moved to the Lower Throne and a Queen is placed on the King Throne. Otherwise, the King is just placed on the King Throne. When a Queen is on the King Throne, it can be dropped on a vacant square on the first 5 ranks. The King will directly be moved from the Lower Throne to the King Throne.
From the King Throne, the King can execute a clan restoration move as if the clan were eliminated. Of course, this restoration move may not exceed the limits of 3 Rooks, 4 Bishops and 5 Knights in the clan.

Queen promotion

Queens also promote by moving from the last rank to the Palace. Like the King, the Queen needs a move to move from the last rank to the Palace. The Queen has three ways to promote. The way the Queen promotes depends on the state of the other Queen in the clan.
If the other Queen is captured, the promoting Queen moves to the Lower Throne. From the Lower Throne it can be dropped on a vacant square on the first 5 ranks with a vacant square behind it, on which the captured Queen is placed back.
If a Queen promotes and the other Queen is still on the main board, the Queen promotes to the Upper Throne. In that case, the same clan's Queen on the main board can perform an additional push/pull move. The Queen may also push or pull clan members in its line of sight towards or away from the Queen. But in this case, it may capture an enemy piece when doing so. When an enemy King is captured this way, the moving piece is regarded as the capturing piece, not the Queen. So the kicked piece will emit the Pawns (see Clan Elimination). The kicked piece can even be the clan's King. The normal push/pull move on Pawns is still non-capturing. The simple movement and active pushing move remain the same. From the Upper Palace, the Queen may be dropped to a vacant square on the first 5 ranks without further effect. This cancels the promotion's effect. When the Queen on the main board gets captured, the Queen on the Upper Throne has no effect anymore. It can be dropped back on the main board and must repromote to the Lower Throne if it wants to regenerate the lost Queen.
If a Queen promotes and the other Queen is in the Palace (which must be on the Upper Throne), the promoting Queen is put on the Lower Throne, resulting in Queens on both the Upper and Lower Throne. In that case, you may perform one special move. You may do one move with a Rook, Bishop or Knight of the Queens' clan and capture as though as if it were a member of a different clan. This is done by removing the Queen on the Upper Throne, name the clan and execute the move. This can only be done with normal moves. A promoted Queen's push/pull moves (see above) can't be executed with fake clan members. The clan change is directly reverted at the end of the move. You may change to any of the four other clans even if the clan is disabled or if you virtually exceed the piece limit. The Queen on the Lower Throne remains there and can be dropped back later on a vacant square on the first 5 ranks with a vacant square behind it, on which the other Queen is placed. This results in both Queens being back on the main board. You may not drop a Queen from the Palace when both Queens are in the Palace. But as a move, you may remove the Queen from the Upper Throne, resulting in the same without executing the special move.


After creating a few games with pieces from the Galactic Graphics. I thought about making a game in which they all participate. Those are twenty-six pieces, one for each letter. I didn't feel like inventing that many different movements for both my sake and the game's sake. In this way, the clan structure arised. The piece images are used to get the clan names. The idea of pentagram-shaped dimplomatic relations is inspired by the card game Magic: The gathering.
In fact, it doesn't matter how the clans are distinguished. Actually, it would be more practical to use 5 differently colored sets of 15 markers to distinguish clans. Then, normal chess pieces can be used to play the game. In that case, 13 piece sets are required, because players start with 25 Knights. This would mean that both players can have 104 Pawns. That is practically more than enough. Theoretically, a player can have 287 Pawns (289-2, simple retrograde analysis). The board can be made by using four chess boards with a flat border, using two borders as a line of squares. The Palace needn't have a shape. It just has to be clear on which Throne a King or Queen is.
Maybe, the game is much too big to be playable. But it is no use simplifying this game. It would be better to design a new game featuring some of Penta War's ideas. The ideas in a list:
Clans have same powers, but are different because of relation between clans.
Each clan has its own organisational structure (King, Palace etc).
King and Queen promotion. Get an effect rather than a piece. This can be a continuous effect or a special move.
Vulnerable pieces are required to kill certain pieces. In this case it is the King that is required to kill Pawns.
Pawns are not just promotable minor fighting pieces, but fundamentally different.
Pieces have complex capturing abilities, but the movement geometries are intuitive.
The game is regenerative. You can regain your whole army. In this game it is even possible to completely fill the board and Palace with pieces.

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By Joost Aan de Brugh.
Web page created: 2006-01-20. Web page last updated: 2006-01-20