Author Topic: Stable multi-move chess-like variants  (Read 36 times)


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Stable multi-move chess-like variants
« on: April 13, 2018, 12:44:43 am »
One of the problems with multimove chess variants is that they can get crazy very easily, with pieces flying all over the place and groups of attacking pieces blasting through defenses. They become unstable, maybe even chaotic in some senses of the word. Yet if you could put effective simple constraints on just what pieces can do or how/where they can move in each turn, then games like the elsewhere on this forum suggested 50x50 giant shogi may become playable in hours, days, weeks, instead of the months, years, decades some of the Japanese temple games were reputed to take. There are at least a few ways to do this, but it can be easy to lose the 'chessness' of the game or to have the game go crazy. (Or both, if your design is particularly off a bit.) On the other hand, depending on your aim and design, you can make a big game with relatively few pieces that plays very well. I've done a 32x32 chess-wargame fusion with a bit over 100 pieces/side coming in over the first 2/3rds of the game which has been well playtested and given a decent review on BoardGameGeek. It is a wargame, not quite what you want maybe, but all the pieces on board may move each turn. That certainly speeds up a game. But the character of that game moved well away from chess into wargame territory.

I tried other methods for structured multi move games about a decade or so ago, but got nowhere with chesslike games, although I found a few interesting “activator” (a limited short-range ‘king’ or leader piece for part of an army) games that allowed me to maneuver groups of pieces as a single ‘unit’. Very nice, but not quite chess. Recently, though, I accidentally designed a decent 3-mover, Granlem Shatranj. Accidentally, because it didn't start as a 3-mover, but as an offhand quick mash-up of a couple games using rather powerful short range pieces, to showcase just how powerful those pieces were. That initial single move per turn game sucked, but it screamed "3-mover" at me. So by changing moves from 1 to 3 per turn and adding a couple rules to restrict what the 3 moves can be - without even changing the original set-up - I got an interesting, quite bloody, and very stable game. It seems to offer a reasonable template for expanding the number of moves per turn in large chess variants without losing the particular character of chess. That the basic idea of zones for movement is in many senses simple and obvious doesn't mean it's necessarily workable. The 3-mover game has flaws – not surprising because it was meant to do something entirely different – but it works, even if a bit awkwardly, which is surprising. And its flaws appear easy to see. Will they be so easy to correct?

One playtest game was completed, ending in an agreed-upon draw in 43 turns. Both wings on each side were essentially annihilated while each center was relatively intact but had run out of steam, mostly by sending its powerful (bishoplike) pieces to the flanks to help out on the sides. No pawn really got close to promoting. Mr. Pacey and I are currently discussing the results and fixes. We both agree the 2 wings need to be extended so real pawn play can develop there, and that something needs to be done about the dead play in the middle. I’m currently considering 2 wings/side, each 7 across, with a ‘leader’ piece in the center, flanked by 2 bishoplike pieces, then 2 knights, and 2 rooklike pieces on the outsides, on the back rank. Each with 7 pawns 2 squares in front. The centers would be 10 across, with king and leader in the center, flanked by 2 pairs of bishoplike pieces, then outside them, 2 pairs of rooklike pieces, and 10 pawns 2 squares in front. Pawn moves revert to western standard, using the initial double step and en passant. One empty file on each side of the center armies separates the center from the wings (or flanks, if you prefer)  and is used in common by the center and adjacent wing army. This game will be stable, but I’m not sure how fast it will play. It might play slow, but I’m inclined to believe it will, if anything, play a bit fast in total turn number, because you’re kind of playing 3 games of Crazyhouse on the same 11x26 board, but you can ‘gang up’ on one enemy area by attacking it with 2 or 3 pieces in a single turn. If it plays slow, making more zones will certainly speed things up.

There are 2 specific restrictions used to keep things from getting chaotic in these games. One is short-range pieces. No piece in the completed or the contemplated game described above moves more than 4 squares in a turn. The other is that there must be a "leader" piece in an area before a piece in that area can move. The leader pieces used are moderately strong very short range (2 square) pieces, and the king acts as a leader also, giving a spare leader piece in the center army. I have some further thoughts, but know the proposed game outlined will work, and once I've seen how it works is soon enough to offer further modifications.

Finally, this idea or something similar should be applicable to a range of large chess games.

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