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Jeff's Gameblog
Wednesday, 14 July 2004
Beware the Basilisk
Topic: Chess Variants
My 2-D BasiliskHere's my graphic demonstrating the powers of the Basilisk, as translated into a two-dimensional piece for my chess variant Draconian. The orange circles mark the squares that the piece can move to, capturing any foe inhabiting the space. The yellow circle represents the basilisk's retreat, which can only be directly backward to an unoccupied space. The blue circle indicates the cell that is affected by the basilisk's gaze. Any enemy piece on that square is frozen. It cannot be moved until the basilisk is captured or moves to another space.

Posted by jrients at 3:35 PM CDT
Updated: Wednesday, 14 July 2004 3:58 PM CDT
Monday, 12 July 2004

Topic: Chess Variants
Made a good start today on the text and HTML coding for my 6 Islands chess variant. I'm steadily improving on the coding end of things. My image files are being properly tagged and I've even started doing some gifs with transparencies. Heck, maybe one day in the far future my webpages won't suck. I'm also thinking about putting together a physical set for 6 Islands Chess. I think I have enough components laying around to make a stab at it. Making decent champion and pawn of champion pieces are the only real hurdle. Hopefuly, I won't have to disrupt to many individual chess sets to make this work.

Posted by jrients at 9:01 PM CDT
More on Draconian
Topic: Chess Variants
I'm reconsidering my original plans for the 2-D versions of the Basilisk and Dragon. In Gary Gygax's Dragonchess, of which Draconian is a direct descendant, the normal move/capture and special powers of both pieces do not overlap. In other words, if a Dragon could move to a certain square it could not also choose to use its breath weapon on that square. Ditto the basilisk and its freezing effect. In my first go at translating these pieces to a 2-D board I think I squashed their movement and powers too close together.

Oh, and I've decided that calling the game just "Draconian" sounds cooler than "Draconian Chess".

Posted by jrients at 9:24 AM CDT
Friday, 9 July 2004
Announcing The Commercial Chess Variant Preservation Society
Topic: Chess Variants
Tishai (and the infantile storyline which accompanies it) was developed by James Ernest and John Bollinger while the two were in grade school. It was published as Cheapass Game #10 in 1997 and died the terrible slow death a chess variant deserves.
The above quote was written by James Ernest, the mad genius behind CheapAss Games. Obviously as a variantist himself Mr. Ernest is not attacking the concept of creating or playing chess variants. I think the point he is making is that chess variants are not a commercially viable product. Writing the rules of Tishai was not the sin, at least by Mr. Ernest's lights, the sin was publishing them with the goal of making money.

Commercial chess variants, like most other commercial gaming ventures, do not make money. I admit the possibility that [your favorite variant] may one day replace orthodox Chess as the worldwide abstract strategy game of choice, but I doubt that such a process will be an overnight money making sensation. Hell, you might as well try to dislodge Dungeons & Dragons as the leader in the roleplaying game hobby. During the months sometimes in 90's when TSR was on the verge of bankruptcy and they stopped printing new products D&D was only barely outsold by White Wolf. And D&D doesn't have nearly the fanbase or historical momentum of chess.

Where am I going with this? I'm not trying to discourage anyone from writing or even publishing chess variants. Instead, I think we should take the cold hard fact of the nonviability of commercial variants and run with it. The Chess Variants Pages has a fair number of external links to commercial variants. I think maybe the best ideas in these commercial variants need to be gleaned from theses sites and record on the CV Pages main site. Otherwise, when these variants fail as products they could very well also evaporate as ideas. Just because someone can't make a buck off of selling a variant set doesn't mean that the rules of the variant are bad. I'm certain that the commercial variants have plenty to contribute to the CV community. We need to preserve these ideas so that they survive the collapse of the business venture associated with them.

Posted by jrients at 10:29 AM CDT
Tuesday, 6 July 2004

Topic: Chess Variants
I decidely earlier that 6 Islands Chess would have at least two of its own subvariants, as played in the two elf courts. Today I altered my initial set-up graphic to create an initial array gif file for the Elf Queen's version of 6 Islands Chess. The positions of the king and queen (and their attendant pawns) are flipped, putting the queen (the royal piece in this version) more toward the center of the board. I haven't made up my mind as to what to do regarding the castling rules. The easiest solution would be to omit castling altogether. To allow the queen to castle would be to give more mobility to an already superior piece. I kinda like the idea of retaining castling for the king despite its reduced status and off-center position.

Posted by jrients at 4:14 PM CDT
Presenting Gygaxian Chess and Draconian Chess
Topic: Chess Variants
Gygaxian Chess

Draconian Chess

Posted by jrients at 1:41 PM CDT

Topic: Chess Variants
The ideas for the 6 Islands Chess flavor text keep bubbling up into my consciousness. I really need to seriously tackle a first draft of my Chessvariants.com entry.

Meanwhile, another insane chess idea has sprung into my head. As a Gary Gygax fan and World of Greyhawk booster I'm pretty much required to like Dragonchess, but I'm not really a fan of 3-D chess variants. Thus is born my new idea Dragonchess 2-D, a two dimensional translation of Uncle Gary's nifty variant. As a prelude to Dragonchess 2-D I have started work on a smaller undertaking that I call Gygaxian Chess, which is basically the middle Dragonchess board pulled out from the 3-D set-up and played as a separate game. I'm stripping out some of the D&D-esque window dressing for Gygaxian Chess. For example, Dragonchess refers to rooks as oliphants and knights as unicorns. All fine and dandy for a chess variant that exists in the World of Greyhawk, but for the Chess Variant pages I think this sort of stuff can be dispensed with. That's the attitude I took with Enochian chess, with the result being a better chance the game will be enjoyed and played by chess variantists.

Posted by jrients at 12:08 PM CDT
Friday, 2 July 2004

Topic: Chess Variants
I'm not normally a fan of completely abstract chess pieces, the kind that depict how a piece moves. I prefer some sort of variant on the traditional Staunton design that is used in serious chess play, not because it is used in serious chess play but because I like the way the pieces look. Still, there's something to be said for the ability of purely abstract designs to carry useful information in an uncomplicated manner. Among other reasons this is why board wargames often use NATO military symbols on their pieces instead of little graphics of infantry and tanks.

I'm thinking about making up some abstracted Shogi (Japanese chess) pieces for the large variant called Ultimate Shogi or Taikyoku Shogi. This is one of the largest chess variants I've ever seen, comparable in my experience only to the chess variants that led directly to the first military wargames. Ultimate Shogi is played on a 36 x 36 board (1296 cells) with 402 pieces per side. The reason why I would use abstract pieces is because there are about 200 different types of pieces on the board at the start of play! As per normal Shogi, almost every piece can promote, some to additional piece types past that 200. Without systematic abstract piece design, this variant would be a bugger to play. Heck, even with good piece design it would still be a huge undertaking. Although you can find lots of wargames out there that use bigger boards and more pieces, some grognards might even balk at Ultimate Shogi. After all, board wargames generally allow you to move most or all of your pieces in a single turn and most wargames involves less differentiation among piece types. A wargame might have a thousand pieces, but if 500 of them are the exact same type of infantry piece then learning the game looks a little less daunting. And I think the 'one move per turn' aspect of Ultimate Shogi might drive some wargamers to madness.

Which of course only motivates me more to build a set and try it out on some wargamers. Mu ha ha ha!

Posted by jrients at 11:27 AM CDT

Topic: Chess Variants
I have decided to go ahead and call my large chess variant 6 Islands Chess. I'm going to create two subvariants of 6 Islands Chess. Both variants are played by the elves of the 6 Islands. The elves of the Islands are basically united culturally but divided politically. There are two courts, the King's court and the Queen's court. Although these two monarchs are by local elven law to be considered lawfully married spouses, they in fact run two rival separate governments. This arrangement can result in quite acrimonious and petty bickering between the two courts.

The human of the 6 Islands introduced chess to the King's Court first, so that variant is called Elven Chess. It would not do to have the queen be such a powerful piece in the court of the Elven King, so in Elven Chess the movement and capture abilities of the king and queen are swapped. The king is still the Royal piece and must be checkmated.

Queen's Chess, as the other variant is called, makes the queen the Royal piece. The king becomes a court piece. The pawn of king promotes to another king. The pawn of queen promotes to a princess, wich has the powers of an amazon (queen plus knight) and is considered a court piece.

Or at least that's how those two variants work at this moment.

Posted by jrients at 12:01 AM CDT
Updated: Friday, 2 July 2004 7:51 AM CDT
Tuesday, 29 June 2004

Topic: Chess Variants
Well, I've decided that at least as a temporary measure I'm going to call my large chess variant Better Late Than Never 100. I'd really prefer something more poetic than that, some name that would allow me to use the variant in a fantasy setting in the same manner as Gary Gygax's Dragonchess, S. John Ross's Mastery or Peter Aronson's Gothic Isles Chess. I suppose I could call my game 6 Islands Chess and make it the variant unique to that setting. Calling it such invokes Gothic Isles Chess, which certainly inspired me with the idea that every fantasy setting needs its own chess variant. The fact that there are no Islands involved in the game certainly could cause a bit of confusion.

Posted by jrients at 4:13 PM CDT

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