Check out Chess with Different Armies, our featured variant for July, 2024.

This page is written by the game's inventor, Paul Newton. This game is a favorite of its inventor.

King of the Mountain

King of the Mountain is a chess variant for two to four players where the goal of the game is to be the first player to have their King occupy the centermost square of the board and be crowned “King of the Mountain.” One of the ways it is different than traditional chess (and most other variants) is that your King being captured does not cause you to lose the game; it is merely a minor setback in your quest to become the “King of the Mountain!"  Another way that it is different is that each player chooses the composition and the starting positions of the majority of their army, making each game a truly different challenge.  Also, when your pieces are caputred, they are returned to you and can re-enter the fray!  All of this, and three different boards to play on as well make for an endlessly challenging and enjoyable race to the top!  Do you have what it takes to make your King the "King of the Mountain?"     



The game is played on one of three 19 x 19 square boards. Each board has a different layout of walls, which are darkened squares that no piece may land on or pass through (unless the piece’s movement rules specifically allow it to pass over a wall).  Players agree upon which board is to be used before play.   

Each Player sets up their army in one corner of the board. Each board has red circles in the outermost corners of the board and also in the corners of the middle level of the board at 5E, 5O, 15E and 15O. These red circles are the re-spawn points. Each King begins the game on one of the red re-spawn spaces at the outermost corners of the board.  That respawn point and the respawn point closest to it on the next level are that player's respawn points.  (For example, if the White King starts the game on space 1A, then the respawn point located on 5E is the White player's other respawn point.)  Each player places their Queen on the space that is diagonally adjacent to the square occupied by their King. Each player places their Marshal in the square to their King’s left and their Cardinal in the square to their King’s right. Out of their remaining twenty pieces, each player selects and places 16 pieces as they wish in the four spaces orthogonally adjacent to their Marshal, their Cardinal and the Queen in the same rank or file extending in both directions.  (For example:  If your King is in 1A, your Queen will be in 2B, the Marshall will be in 2A and the Cardinal will be in 1B.  The remaining pieces then must be placed in 1C, 1D, 1E, 1F, 2C, 2D, 2E, 2F, 3A, 4A, 5A, 6A, 3B, 4B, 5B, and 6B.)  The only limitation on a player’s selection of pieces is that they must use all six Heroes in every game. Any pieces not included in a player’s opening set-up are set aside.  They are not part of any player's reserve and are not used during the game. 


Each player has the following pieces available for their army at the beginning of the set up:

  The King moves and captures exactly like a King in European Chess. The King may not move into a space where he would be in check. However, unlike European Chess, the King does not have to remove himself from check. If captured, a King is immediately re-spawned per the special re-spawn rules below. Each player has only one King.

  The Queen moves and captures exactly like the Queen in European Chess. Each player has only one Queen.

  The Marshal has the combined movement of a Knight and a Rook. The Knight move of the Marshal is like the Knight movement described below. Each player has only one Marshal.

  The Cardinal has the combined movement of a Knight and a Bishop. The Knight move of the Cardinal is like the Knight movement described below. Each player has only one Cardinal.

  The Bishop moves and captures exactly like a Bishop in European Chess, unlimited free spaces diagonally in one direction. Each player has two Bishops.

  The Rook moves and captures exactly like a Rook in European Chess, unlimited free spaces orthogonally in one direction. Each player has two Rooks.

  The Knight moves like the Knight in Chinese Chess. It must make a movement one unimpeded square in any orthogonal direction before it may move on the diagonal. If the first space orthogonally in any direction is occupied, the Knight may not move in that direction because his movement is impeded. For the movement of a Knight in King of the Mountain, a wall space counts as an occupied square and is an impediment to movement. Each player has two Knights.

  The Kangaroo is a true leaper. It moves and captures like a Knight in European Chess as well as being able to leap to the second diagonal square. Walls and other pieces do not impede the movement of the Kangaroo. Each player has two Kangaroos.

  The Cannon moves and captures like a Chinese Chess Cannon. When not capturing it moves like a European Chess Rook, unlimited free spaces orthogonally in one direction. In order to capture it must leap over one, and only one, intervening piece in its normal line of movement, capturing the next piece in that direction. In King of the Mountain, the Cannon may not ignore walls when moving, however walls will not impede its attack when capturing. Note: Wall squares are not pieces; therefore walls do not count as a piece for the Cannon to leap over to instigate an attack. Each player has two Cannon.

  The Archer moves one or two squares orthogonally. The Archer can capture any piece that is two squares away diagonally.  To capture an Archer does not move, therefore it is the only piece that captures without taking over the position of the piece it captures. Walls do not impede an Archer’s attack. The Archer has to either move or capture; he cannot do both on the same turn. Each player has two Archers.

  The Giant may move one square in any orthogonal direction without capturing. The Giant may capture one or two squares in any diagonal direction. The Giant may only move diagonally if it is capturing. A wall will not impede a Giant making a two-square diagonal attack. Each player has two Giants.

  The Hero moves one square in any diagonal direction when not capturing. When capturing, a Hero moves one square in any orthogonal direction. The Hero may not move orthogonally unless capturing. Each player has six Heroes.


Once all players have placed their armies, play commences with the youngest player and proceeds clockwise with each player moving one piece per turn.

Whenever a piece is captured it is returned to the player whose piece it is.  If the re-spawn space where their King began the game is empty, it is immediately placed on that re-spawn space.  However, if the re-spawn space where their King began the game is occupied by any piece, no matter whose piece it may be, the player places the piece to one side of the board in their reserve.  This does not count as a part of any players turn and it is done immediately.   

Any player with a piece or pieces in their reserve may choose on their turn to re-spawn a piece instead of moving a piece that is already on the board. 

Re-spawn all pieces except Kings according to the following rules: 

Special Re-Spawning rules for Kings: 

The first player to successfully move their King into the center spot on the board is the winner and is declared the “King of the Mountain!"    


If you want to shake things up a bit, try one of the following variations: 


The Kangaroo piece used in this game is originally from Timothy R. Newton's Outback Chess, the first place winner in the 84 Squares contest.  The Giant, Archer and Hero pieces are originally from Wizard Chess and Advanced Wizard Chess, co-created by yours truly and Andrew P. Newton.  If you like large variants, check them out!      


This 'user submitted' page is a collaboration between the posting user and the Chess Variant Pages. Registered contributors to the Chess Variant Pages have the ability to post their own works, subject to review and editing by the Chess Variant Pages Editorial Staff.

By Paul E. Newton.

Last revised by Fergus Duniho.

Web page created: 2023-03-13. Web page last updated: 2023-03-26