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The Chess Variant Pages

This page is written by the game's inventor, Sean Duggan.

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Sean Duggan wrote on 2003-01-11 UTC
After buying ZOG 2.0, I was inspired to try to implement this game again
(My last version was lost to a prior harddrive). In the process of
implementing it, there were some items that I was not able to program, so
I dropped them for the time. In particular, I do not currently have
berserking, Adept magic, and golems do not explode in close proximity to
each other (I implemented the latter two in the prior version, but they
proved too unbalancing). Otherwise, I implemented a working version of the

*wry grin* I had known that my chess variant really didn't measure up to
the more professionally created ones, but I had not realized just how bad
it was until I started playing it against a computer opponent who would
exploit any possible loopholes. For one, the Assassin piece would
immediately teleport to the front lines of Mercs and mercilessly slaughter
them, who had few ways to defend themselves, let alone counter-attack. It
also tended to find ways to get the Golem to checkmate the Adept given as
it could strike through any intervening pieces, often hitting the King
before he had a chance to clear out enough room to dodge. *wry grin* When
the Golems exploded, predictably enough, the computer figured out how to
force explosions in areas filled with the opponents pieces. So, I made a
few changes.

The Archer (the Knight one {I wound up leaving the other one as a Bishop})
was not as mobile as I expected, so I added all cardinal directions,
including the diagonals to the piece. As a result, it's more mobile than
before, although it's still limitted by the fact that any particular move
has almost 4 N spaces on which it can be blocked (although, of course, two
paths have to be blocked for each move). This brought it to a similar
strength to the Bishop according to ZOG as best as I could ascertain.

The Golem mainly had its movement type changed. To facillitate easier
movement, the piece was changed so that diagonal moves were only 2 steps.
Unfortuantely, this made it easier for Golems to check or checkmate the
enemy Adept. Unsure about this piece... its invulnerability is perhaps a
bit too powerful an advantage despite its relative low mobility.

The Merc exists in a similar manner to before except that I wound up
changing the defensive slide ability to allow an attack forward when
threatened. It does help in keeping the Assassin from cherry-picking the
front lines. The promotion was changed to one more similar to Chess in
that now the Merc promotes to an Archer, Bishop, or Commander (explained
later). The piece is still limitted in that they don't support each other
nicely like Chess's Pawns do.

The Commander was originally a piece designated to represent the Merc
going backwards again. However, I realized how difficult it was for a Merc
to reach that last row so the piece was changed to have better movement
and attack scenarios. It was still not too promising, so I allowed for the
possibility to it to return to the original Merc ranks to promote again.
After adding the promotion scenario as seen above in the Merc description,
I allowed for the Commander to promote into an Archer, Bishop, Assassin,
or Golem. I may just change it so this second promotion doesn't exist and
a piece at the opposite end can promote into any of the higher rank

The Assassin was a powerful piece to start with, and still is. The ability
to be where you can do the most damage is invaluable. The prior Assassin
strike, which involved attacking without moving, proved too powerful, as
the Assassin risked nothing by striking. Therefore, the attack has been
changed to the prototypical King movement, a one square step to any
direction. The piece is probably still a little over-powered. I've tried
variants where the piece either cannot teleport when threatened or can
only teleport to squares defended by its own pieces (Cornered and Cowardly
Assassins respectively). The second curtails the piece perhaps a bit too
much. Maybe if I only allow the piece to teleport to a spot within a
two-square range... *shrug*

The Adept exists much as before. He moves like a King. The game ends when
he's killed. The spells proved too unbalancing and, to be honest, hard to
implement, so they were taken out. His move is currently the only one that
can take out the Golem piece. I may implement the spells later, using a
'Mana Pool' implemented by a piece moving down the side so as to limit the
ability to use them too often.

As for general gameplay, Initial pawn moves generally have to be made, of
course, to let out pieces. The early game has a limitted number of 'good
moves' but this seems to be a feature of most chess games. The endgame...
currently needs tweaking. Because only one piece truly has an
across-the-board slide (The Bishop), trapping an enemy king can be
problematic. Currently, the promotion system isn't heavily used, but I am
unsure as to whether this is peculiar to ZOG or just a fact of the game.

Anyhow, I'm going to continue to fiddle with game mechanics, maybe submit
an updated set of rules if I ever feel it starts getting decent. Anyone
who wants a copy of the ZRF or just wants to comment can email me at
[email protected]

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