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Storm the Ivory Tower. A Smess adaptation of Chinese Chess. (9x10, Cells: 90) [All Comments] [Add Comment or Rating]
Kevin Pacey wrote on 2018-03-01 UTCExcellent ★★★★★

This is a great extension of the Smess idea!

Daniil Frolov wrote on 2010-06-02 UTC
It's almost similar to variant i just described.

Fergus Duniho wrote on 2010-06-02 UTC
I once did a Shogi adaptation of Smess, called Smegi, which added Shogi dropping rules to Smess. But a Smess adaptation of Shogi is more of a challenge. It cannot work as straightforwardly as a Smess adaptation of Chinese Chess, because the pieces are not so easily distinguished by types of movement. Instead, they are distinguished mainly by directions and ranges of movement. So what I would suggest is this. Add the rule that certain pieces may only move in forward directions, either vertically forward or diagonally forward. For this rule to work effectively, every space would need to have both forward and backward arrows on it, for one player's backward is the other player's forward. This would leave the forward moving pieces available directions to move in. As in Shogi, the Knight should be able to leap. This is important, because it is easy to build barricades in Shogi, and it sometimes takes the leaping ability of the Knight to get through them. With a vertical forward arrow, I would allow the Knight to leap as it does in Shogi. With a diagonal forward arrow, I would allow it to leap to either of the two spaces it could reach by moving once diagonally, then once orthogonally outward.

Daniil Frolov wrote on 2010-05-31 UTC
Here is my smess adaptation of Shogi (it's not complete, i did not chosen directions of arrows yet, and even if someone will help me to complete it, it don't seems ideal).

King, of course, replaced with brain. Flying chariot and angle mover both replaced with numskulls. All 4 generals (gold and silver) replaced with ninnies. Pawns are replaced with pieces, wich can move only 1 step forward and sideways. Lances replaced with pieces, wich can move any number of steps forward and sideways. Knights are pieces, wich moves as yahoos, but only forward and may leap. Numskulls dont's promotes, other pieces promotes to ninnies (according to Shogi rules). No prohibition of dropping pawn on file, wich already have one pawn, other rules like in Shogi.

Another idea (also don't seem ideal) is that arrows changes defination of 'forward'.

Fergus Duniho wrote on 2010-05-04 UTC
I've thought of a change to the Ninny's movement which I think could improve this game. Instead of having a two-space capturing move when across the river, it would gain a two-space non-capturing move. This would better complement the Fuddy-Duddy, which gains a one-space non-capturing move across the river. Also, by not having any special powers of attack across the river, pieces would not be threatened by Ninnies two spaces away, which would make the game less confusing. These two advantages are mainly aesthetic. The main tactical advantage is that the Ninny would gain greater mobility, increasing its ability to storm the enemy ivory tower. This should do more to keep the game from being drawish than giving the Ninny a two-space capturing move across the river.

I have made a preset for the new version at

I have also corrected a bug in Game Courier that prevented the presets for Storm the Ivory Tower from working.

If you like Smess but would like a more interesting combination of pieces, you may well like Storm the Ivory Tower.

Anonymous wrote on 2010-04-14 UTC
List of games, wich needs hybrids of each other: European chess, Xiang-qi, Shogi, Chckers, Smess, hexagonal chess, 3D chess, triangular chess, four players chess, circular chess and non-chess games - Backgammon, Tic-tac-toe (or Go) and Hneftafl. Of course, some of these games already exists. Which games must be added to this list?

Larry Smith wrote on 2008-11-14 UTC
I did not mean my comments to be construed as a negative evaluation of this game. In fact, I find it very interesting.

I was only asking if all the conditions of XiangQi might be applied. If they were, any peculiarities of this game easily could be resolved. And modifications would be un-necessary.

But feel free to make any adjustments. That is totally the privilege of the designer.

Fergus Duniho wrote on 2008-11-13 UTC
John and Larry,

Whether or not Xiang Qi is drawish is not at issue here. Storm the Ivory Tower is not Xiang Qi, and it is subject to factors that are not at play in Xiang Qi. Since the arrows determine all directions of movements, the Brain and his Toadies move the same, unlike Xiang Qi, where the General and the Guards do not move the same. This makes it easier for the Brain to escape check and for the Toadies to defend the Brain from check. This creates a greater tendency toward drawishness, which is further compounded when a player can move his own Ninnies into his Ivory Tower. Without special rules, they will get trapped and function as extra Toadies. To make matters worse, the original Yahoo could also get trapped in the Ivory Tower. Then, with the Elephant counterpart (originally called a Sycophant) unable to cross the river, the game veers toward extreme drawishness, because it becomes much easier to defend than to attack. The first release of Storm the Ivory Tower corrected some of these problems. It allowed the Elephant counterparts (renamed Dumbos) to attack, and it had special rules that allowed Ninnies and Yahoos to escape their own Ivory Tower. The second release made further changes. The Elephant counterpart (now called a Fuddy-Duddy) lost some of its mobility on its own side, decreasing its usefulness for defense. A rearrangement of the arrows prevented Ninnies from getting into the Ivory Tower, which solved one problem but introduced a new one. Without new powers of movement, Ninnies and Yahoos would be unable to reach the enemy Ivory Tower and attack its Brain. This would make the game extremely drawish if not corrected. This is the specific issue I was referring to when I said that I changed the Ninny 'only as much as I had to to allow it to attack the enemy Brain and keep the game from being drawish.' The new arrangement of the arrows had made it impossible for a piece moving one space at a time to get to either Ivory Tower from the outside. Giving the Ninny a two-space attack allowed it to get to the Ivory Tower, and making the Yahoo's movement no longer dependent on the arrows on its pass square did the same for the Yahoo. These changes allowed these pieces to check the Brain, keeping the game from becoming too drawish.

Larry Smith wrote on 2008-11-13 UTC
'Both stalemate and checkmate are win-conditions.'

I meant this to refer to the player who accomplishes this against an opponent.

In Zillions, it needs to be set as a loss-condition.

Larry Smith wrote on 2008-11-13 UTC
Just set repetition as a loss-condition. But this will only enforce three time repetition. So it really needs a human to evaluate this particular scenario.

Both stalemate and checkmate are win-conditions.

A draw-condition is when both sides do not have pieces which may cross the 'river'.

Draws are actually infrequent in XiangQi, when the rules are properly applied.

Fergus Duniho wrote on 2008-11-13 UTC
Nothing I've programmed enforces that rule. It could not be programmed in Zillions of Games, which is the main tool I used to measure drawishness. I would just let it play both sides and see what happened.

Larry Smith wrote on 2008-11-13 UTC
Are you enforcing the no repetition rule of XiangQi?

The game could be won by simply forcing the opponent into a condition whereby they would repeat a previous position. An overall board position, not simply a single piece.

Fergus Duniho wrote on 2008-11-13 UTC
No, I'm saying that early prototypes of Storm the Ivory Tower were drawish. This is mentioned in the history section of the page.

Here is an alternative move for the Ninny I've been thinking about while meditating. Once the Ninny moves one space, it could move one more space to either adjacent space in a 2x2 square with its origin space. So an orthogonal move would be followed by a 90 degree turn left or right, while a diagonal move would be followed by a 45 degree turn backward. This would keep the Ninny from moving more than one space away at a time while giving it some more freedom of movement. This would be in accord with both the Smess rule that a Ninny moves only one space per turn and the Xiang Qi rule that a Pawn moves only one space per turn. And it would be sufficient to allow the Ninny to enter the enemy Ivory Tower and check the Brain.

But the current enhanced move of the Ninny also has its rationale. In Smess, Ninnies get to promote to Numskulls upon reaching a Numskull space. There is no longer promotion of this kind in Storm the Ivory Tower, but the enhanced movement of the Ninny does give it some of the power of a Numskull. So this is in accord with Smess, and it provides a viable alternative to giving the Ninny more directions of movement, which is not so feasible in this game given that the arrows determine the directions of movement.

John Smith wrote on 2008-11-13 UTC
By that, you must be saying Xiang Qi is drawish!

Fergus Duniho wrote on 2008-11-12 UTC
No, you are mistaken. It is a serious game, but it is also meant to be easy to learn. Also, as a hybrid, it has to be as true as it can be to both games, not just Xiang Qi. Your suggestions were not true to Smess. And given that the Ninny is a Smess piece, it is best to leave it alone as much as possible. I changed it only as much as I had to to allow it to attack the enemy Brain and keep the game from being drawish.

John Smith wrote on 2008-11-12 UTC
I thought this was intended as a technically serious game, but I now understand it is not. In keeping with simplicity rather than trueness to Xiang Qi, I now endow this game with a rating of 10/10.

Fergus Duniho wrote on 2008-11-12 UTC
There's no requirement that every piece must move in a straight line. But I do think it is best that every piece begin its movement in a direction indicated by an arrow. After all, keeping with the spirit of Smess, I want to keep this game simple enough for children and simpletons to learn. I know young children can learn to play Chinese Chess, as I know some who do play it. I at least want children who play Chinese Chess to be able to quickly understand the rules of Storm the Ivory Tower, and I think that modifying the Ninny as you suggest would work against this.

John Smith wrote on 2008-11-12 UTC
I meant in the way that it does not move at every step as indicated by the arrows. How about Ninnies that can move one step as indicated by the arrows, then one step 135 degrees to that, with the ability to pass a piece encountered on the first step? I admit it is rather awkward, though it accurately depicts the Xiang Qi Pawn's move.

Fergus Duniho wrote on 2008-11-12 UTC
No, the Yahoo doesn't violate this rule. Its first step is always in one of the directions indicated by an arrow on its space of origin.

John Smith wrote on 2008-11-10 UTC
Doesn't the Yahoo violate this rule, then?

Fergus Duniho wrote on 2008-11-10 UTC
No, that would break the convention that arrows point in the directions that pieces can move. Also, I think the Ninny movement is now fine the way it is and is not in need of further correction.

John Smith wrote on 2008-11-10 UTCExcellent ★★★★★
How about instead of having the Ninnies capture two squares, you give them the ability to move 90 degrees to the arrows on their current square? It would prevent them from getting trapped in the Fortresses. Other than the additional moves for the Ninnies and Fuddy-Duddies, this is an excellent Xiang Qi-like variant.

Fergus Duniho wrote on 2006-08-01 UTC

Here's a set of 12 win-in-one problems for Storm the Ivory Tower. All the problems are displayed by Game Courier. Since they are all based on a rule-enforcing preset, it will tell you that Red has won when you enter the correct answer. Remember that you may win this game by either checkmate or stalemate. Some problems will be won by a checkmating move, and some will be won by a stalemating move. These are all simple problems to help you become familiar with the pieces in the game. I plan to provide some more difficult problems later.

#1 #2 #3 #4 #5 #6 #7 #8 #9 #10 #11 #12

For those who prefer a more Chess-like appearance, here are the same problems using the Alfaerie pieces and board. The Red pieces are colored white here, but it still says Red to move.

#1 #2 #3 #4 #5 #6 #7 #8 #9 #10 #11 #12

Gary Gifford wrote on 2006-03-28 UTCExcellent ★★★★★
Hats off to Fergus for creating this game. It plays like a super-charged version of Chinese Chess. Quite dynamic and exciting. I encourage those who haven't tried it to do so. Previous knowledge of Chinese Chess is not essential, but is helpful. And if you do play this game, a word of advise, carefully read the rules regarding the Pawn and Elephant (Ninny and Fuddy-Duddy) because the enhancements that each obtains upon crossing the river are important to remember.

Fergus Duniho wrote on 2005-12-28 UTC
It might be. I have always noticed that the name Smess contained the word mess. But there is also the practice of mocking certain words by replacing the beginning consonants with 'sm' or 'schm.'

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