Mechalomachy was designed as an attempt to make a huge chess variant that would not take excessively long to play. It is the bigger brother of Makromachy, designed according to the same principles.
The motivation for this design was that with very large armies it usually takes a lot of moves to trade away enough pieces to break through the opponent's defenses and take on his King. Strong pieces tend to be traded faster than weak pieces because they don't take so many moves to engage the opponent, so in the later game phases one often deals with large armies of weak pieces, which grind away each other at slow pace. Large variants also suffer from a relative scarcity of pawns, and by the time the opponent is weak enough for pawns to survive the journey to the promotion rank, these could all be eliminated, losing promotion as a quick way to decide the game.
To address these issues Megalomachy incorporates four uncommon features intended for accelerating the game: 'Flying pieces', which can jump over arbitrary many opponents to capture or check, make the Kings vulnerable even in the opening phase. Furthermore, the strongest, very destructive piece is subject to a special rule that prevents it from being easily traded out of the game, so that it is likely to survive into the game phase where hosts of weak pieces have to be cleared away to make progress. The slowest leapers have been given an extra 'air lift' non-capturing move, which can bring them to where the action is in a single move. There also is a 'second wave' of pawn-like (and thus promoting) pieces in the rear guard, where they are less likely to perish in the heat of battle.
The 2x80 pieces are placed on a 16x16 board. The resulting high piece density and relatively small distance between the armies, as well as the forward placement of non-sliding pieces all contribute to faster encounter and more intense battle.
Each player starts with 80 pieces of 33 different types. In the table below the blue background indicates pieces that can promote. All pieces in yellow block captures by the dark yellow 'flying' pieces.
|steps one square straight ahead to an empty square, or diagonally forward for (e.p.?) capturing only, slides to the 2nd or 3rd square straight ahead to an empty square if it has not moved yet
|steps one square straight ahead to an empty square, or diagonally forward for (e.p.?) capturing only, slides to the 2nd square straight ahead to an empty square, or makes a backward knight's jump for capturing only
|jumps over the nearest piece in any of the 8 directions to land on an empty square immediately behind it, and captures by jumping to the 2nd square straight forward
|makes a knight's jump to an empty square, or captures by jumping to the 2nd square diagonally
|makes a (3,2) leap
|makes a (3,1) leap
|steps one square diagonally, jumps to the 2nd square diagonally, or slides diagonally towards a piece, stopping just before it.
|steps one square orthogonally, jumps to the 2nd square orthogonally, or slides orthogonally towards a piece, stopping just before it.
|steps one square diagonally, or jumps to the 3nd square orthogonally
|makes a (2,1) leap, or slides at least 3 squares diagonally towards a piece, stopping just before it.
|steps one square in all 8 directions, or slides orthogonally towards a piece, stopping just before it
|slides diagonally to an empty square, or jumps over the nearest piece diagonally to capture the next piece on the same diagonal
|slides orthogonally to an empty square, or jumps over the nearest piece orthogonally for capturing the next piece on the same line
|makes multiple knight jumps in the same direction until it meets an obstacle
|slides diagonally, or steps one square orthogonally
|slides orthogonally, or steps one square diagonally
|slides in all 8 directions to an empty square, or jumps over the nearest piece in any of those directions for capturing the next piece on the same ray
|steps one square orthogonally and from there can continue to slide diagonally outward
|steps one square diagonally and from there can continue to slide orthogonally outward
|slides diagonally, or makes a knight's jump
|slides orthogonally, or makes a knight's jump
|slides in all 8 directions
|can leap directly to all squares in the 5x5 area around it
|slides in all 8 directions, or makes a knight jump
|steps one square diagonally, or jumps to the 2nd square orthogonally
|steps one square orthogonally, or jumps to the 2nd square diagonally
|slides diagonally, or jumps over arbitrary many pieces diagonally for capturing only
|slides orthogonally, or jumps over arbitrary many pieces orthogonally for capturing only
|slides in all 8 directions, or jumps over arbitrary many piecesin all 8 directions for capturing only
|slides in all 8 directions, makes a knight's jump, jumps to the 2nd square diagonally or orthogonally. Can also capture on any of the 8 adjacent squares, and then move on to an empty square (but not to where it started its move)
|steps one square in all 8 directions, or castles with a Dragon King to any square on the back rank according to 'fast-castling' rules
- The usual checking rules apply to King: you cannot expose it to capture, the game is won by checkmate, and stalemate is a draw.
- A game ends as a draw when during 50 (full-)moves no piece has been captured and no Pawn or Warrior has been moved. Checks by an Eagle move, as well as the subsequent check evasion, are not counted.
- A game ends as a draw when the same position with the same player on move occurs for the 3rd time.
- It is not allowed to repeat a position by delivering check with an Eagle move.
- The Eagle, Falcon and Bat cannot jump over each other, or over a Spearman or Archer. Note that the diagonal jumping move of the Archer and the orthogonal jumping move of the Spearman are not hindered by any of these pieces. (Archers and spears can bring down birds, but arrows or spears are much to fast for the birds to snatch them out of the air!)
- Upon reaching the furthest rank Pawns and Warriors must promote to a piece other than King, Terror, Eagle, Raven, Bat, Spearman, Archer, Warrior or Pawn.
- Pawns and Warriors can be captured en passant when they pass through a square that was attacked by a Pawn or Warrior's forward diagonal move, on the immediately following turn. The result is as if they had ended their move on that square, and are then captured the normal way.
- If a Dragon King and the King have not moved yet, and the latter is not in check, a player can castle by placing the King on any empty square between the two, and placing the Dragon King to the square the King came from. ('Fast castling')
- A Terror can only be captured by another Terror or an Eagle if the latter ends up on a square where it is absolutely safe. (I.e. on a square where a King of the same color would be allowed to go.) This also applies when the Terror was protected by another Terror
The Terror is capable of 'hit-and-run capture', which often enables it to eliminate protected foes with impunity. It has to stand next to a victim to do that, so that it is not too easy to threaten two pieces at once in this way in the end-game. Moving away the single piece that is attacked is often the only remedy.
The 'air lift' moves of the Knight, Elephant, War Machine and Guard are a bouncing version of Grasshopper moves: instead of landing immediately behind the nearest piece along their path, they bounce back from the latter, to land immediately in front of it. When properly planned, this can save you a lot of moves for getting these slow-moving pieces where you want them.
The two central files are a bit vulnerable to frontal Cannon attack, as Bishops are worth more than a Cannon, and they could get skewered against even more valuable pieces behind them. The Pawn in front of those acting as a mount cannot leave the file. The players should give high priority to curing this weakness in their opening play, by placing low-valued pieces in front of the 'noble' pieces. The Zebras and Scouts are suitably placed for this, and will then be protected by Archers and Bishops.
The flying pieces are placed such that they form a shield for flying attacks for the most-valuable ('noble') pieces behind them. Those with orthogonal flying captures are shielded from each other by Spearmen or (for the Eagles) a Bat, so they cannot be traded immediately. Bat attacks on the more valuable nobles should be a concern when the latter are still smothered (or can be skewered), but can initially only happen from squares that can be easily controlled by Pawns or minor pieces.
Beware of attacks from a battery of Ravens or Eagles on your back-rank pieces, which could easily result in a smothered mate. Initially these pieces are well protected, and the protection by the Warriors will be likely maintained a long time. But when you develop the other pieces too carelessly, that might become their only protection, which is not sufficient against a flying battery.
Only castle after you have made arrangements for securing your King fortress against flying attacks! E.g. diagonally with a Bat, and vertically with an Archer.
The Warriors are set up such that they can be used as a conventional pawn shield for a castled King. In large variants like this one Pawns cannot be used for this due to their forward placement.
The ban on capturing protected Terrors applies to Terrors to prevent their trading. It also applies to Eagles that want to capture a Terror, mainly to prevent perpetual chasing of a Terror by an Eagle, as the Terror would likely not want to be traded for an Eagle.
Perpetual checking by an Eagle is prevented through the rule that even a first repetition is forbidden here. Using teh first rather than second repetition here prevents claiming of a draw when the evading player happens to repeat first. Eagle checks can go on for a long time even without repeating, and this rule also prevents you would have to go through the cycle twice. Even then, stalling progress by long sequences of novel checks can be easy in some game stages, and to prevent that such otherwise pointless checks can result in a 50-move draw, these are not counted.
The flying pieces were borrowed from Tenjiku Shogi, but the elaborate ranking there of what can jump over what has been simplified. Dragon Horse, Dragon King, Spearman and Archer are also pieces that one usually only finds in large Shogi variants (the latter two under the names Kirin and Phoenix). The anti-trading rule for Terrors is borrowed from Chu Shogi (where it applies to the Lion). Fast castling was borrowed from Wide Chess. The Terror was inspired by the Cyberpiece from Radioactive Queen Chess.
The Warrior is a novel piece designed especially for this variant, to serve as a second wave of promotable pieces. It was made to move faster than a Pawn, but cannot exploit this before the Pawn in the same file is gone. The backward captures were added to drive up the value to about two Pawns, without making it easier to promote, so that a Pawn protected by a Warrior doesn't become impervious to capture by a minor (as Pawn protected by Pawn would be). But these moves also come in very handy for better (and more lasting) protection of the back-rank pieces.
The Ram is a novel piece designed especially for this variant, as a tool for assaulting defensive structures built of Pawns and Warriors. Its value is similar to that of the Pawn, so that it can be traded for one that is too well protected to neutralize it by other means. The Grasshopper-like non-capture move allows it to quickly travel large distances to where it is needed, without giving it a large average mobility (which would drive up its value too much). It thus provides a faster alternative to a Pawn storm.
The Scout is a novel piece designed especially for this variant, as another tool for assaulting Pawn chains. It is worth about twice as much as a Pawn, and thus (when having backup) can tackle a Pawn protected by a Pawn. Which higher-valued pieces cannot do without incurring a loss, no matter how much backup they have. The non-capturing Knight move and its central placement should allow it to get reasonably fast to where it is needed, while the distant capture allows it to attack a Pawn without being attacked back.
The other pieces are all commonly used in many other chess variants. In particular the large variants designed by Jean-Louis Cazaux (Zanzibar-XL, Gigachess, Terachess). The value spectum of the pieces was made similar to that of orthodox Chess, by including a good number of minors.
The Eagle would be almost unstoppable in perpetually attacking some other piece, and forcing a draw that way. The only targets that for which protection is not an adequate defense against such attacks would be King and Terror. For the King this is solved by forbidding the Eagle to repeat a check, and not counting non-repeating Eagle checks in the 50-move rule. For the Terror it is solved by banning capture of a protected Terror by an Eagle outright.
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 H. G. Muller.
Last revised by H. G. Muller.
Web page created: 2023-04-23. Web page last updated: 2023-06-15