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Horseman's chess (PnP)

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FrankM
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Joined: 01/27/2017

Hi everyone,

I just started a game journal on a chess variant, and what I've found I need is someone who's a better chess player than I am :-)

The piece's movement abilities come in part from the piece type (a rook moves in straight lines) and in part from its mount (unmounted can go 2 spaces, on a Jumper can jump one or two spaces, on a Charger can go any number of open spaces).

My current design conundrum is whether the ability to change mounts during a game would ever actually get used.

Do we have any chess experts in the house, especially those who've fiddled around with chess variants? (But I appreciate anyone's input, it's supposed to be broadly accessible!)

spaff
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I play a few games a day on

I play a few games a day on chess.com, I've clocked just under 5,000 games on the website. I'm only solidly mediocre but at least have a decent understanding of the game. I've fiddled around with variants a bit, not designing, but playing a couple endorsed/created by Bobby Fischer.

It's a cool idea- most pieces start under powered, and mounts get them to "normal" status (or above normal). I think the mechanic of mounts being an obstacle of sorts is fascinating, I'd be interested to see that in play.

Something to mention- in regular chess, pieces are assigned point values based on relative usefulness- this gives players a starting point to determine how well one is doing at any given point during the game. "Points" certainly aren't the deciding factor, but many grandmaster games are won or lost with a 1 point difference (1 pawn). But you can always win and be many points down.

I say that to give a relative starting place for why someone may or may not change mounts. If my best piece has a mount, why would I change it?

That being said, if I assign mounts to all my back row pieces, my best pieces, I don't see why I might take a turn to get off. It would be more interesting in my mind if all the FRONT ROW pieces started with the mounts- because you would want to get all your best pieces on mounts, so much of play is the order in which you get off mounts with pawns and get on mounts with your back row pieces. But I also haven't played so I could certainly be wrong.

FrankM
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Where are all the king's horses?

Thanks for the insights. As the game stands right now, each player picks the mounts they want for the back-row pieces with the restriction that the King must ride a Jumper. Yes, the ability to leap intermediate pieces is a bit useless when your range is one... this is intended to (1) keep the King reasonably capturable at the start and (2) provide the player with a spare mount.

I like the idea of putting the Pawns on mounts to start, though a Pawn starting on a Charger can be problematic (in the chess variant I saw with a similar piece, it was called a Superpawn and specifically prohibited from capturing en-passant). [Note to others: en-passant seems to be Latin for "the most arcane and obscure Chess rule ever devised that pretty much never comes up in real games."]

I'd thought about point values, and they're a bit tough to get right. By "right" I mean a useful guide to players. My rough draft system is for the dismounted pieces:

1 Pawn
2 Bishop
2 Knight
2 Rook
5 Queen

and double when mounted. This roughly equates the point values in orthodox chess, but I can't really test it.

spaff
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Nerdy side comment- en

Nerdy side comment- en passant is necessary because of the pawns "move 2" initial ability. All en passant does is say "when you move 2 spaces I can take you as if you only moved 1 space" since pawns in all other circumstances can only move one. It is a little abstract (though so is all of chess), but I'd say it actually comes up once every 10-15 games.

FrankM
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Hold your horses

Okay, the en-passant rules might affect a player's decision every 10-15 games, but I've only ever seen a Pawn captured en-passant once. Haven't played nearly as much as spaff, though.

I was thinking a bit more about that idea of putting the mounts on the front row. Haven't had a chance to actually playtest it that way yet, but it probably isn't as problematic as I initially feared.

1. If someone really wants to sacrifice a Charger just to capture a Pawn en-pasant, it's trading a piece to disrupt the opponent's opening sequence. Not as unbalanced as it first looked.

2. Getting a dismounted Knight out of the back row takes some work. Either the Knight's Pawn or the neighboring Bishop needs to get out of the way first. Of course, moving the Bishop requires moving a Pawn first. Getting the Knight onto a mount requires serious coordination:

a. First, clear a path for the Knight to even move.
b. Move the Bishop's or Rook's Pawn one space then dismount. Alternatively, dismount the King's/Queen's Pawn.
c. Move the Knight onto the empty mount.

This is considerably more complicated than mounting any other back-row piece: just dismount a Pawn and move the piece onto it next turn.

3. The King will probably remain dismounted in this version. That "useless" Jumper from the current rules actually gives the King the ability to poop an obstacle when fleeing check.

----
Most efficient sequence I can think of at the moment to develop a Knight and Bishop under spaff's suggestion:
1. cP b2\b3
2. .B c1/b2
3. jP d2\d4
4. .N b1/d2

(The slashes aren't typos... the rulebook goes into how to record mounting and dismounting. \ indicates the piece moves leaving its mount behind, while / indicates moving onto an empty mount. A piece leaving one mount for another would use V.)

FrankM
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Joined: 01/27/2017
Updated

Updated the rules to start the Pawns on the mounts, fleshed out the section on algebraic notation, and put in an attempt at point values for the pieces.

Edit: Slight update, the PnP bits are now easier to cut out.

larienna
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Another thing I though is

Another thing I though is that jumper + bishop is useless. Because most of the time, jumpers will jump over pawns. But pawn attack in diagonals. So to jump over a pawn you need to be in the danger zone of the pawn, so you are going to get eaten first.

larienna
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Another thing I suggested for

Another thing I suggested for another chess like game that could fit in your game.

Make all pieces have regular movement even on jumper horse but Pieces are not captured as the usual:

Jumper: You need to entirely jump over the piece like in checkers to capture it. (Jump over max 1 piece at a time)

Charger: You need to push the unit off board or into another unit to destroy it.

So charger are more useful in the first half of the game because there are a lot of pieces on the board while jumpers are more useful in the last half of the game since there is more space.

If you want regular capture, you'll have to unmount, but you get lower movemetn range.

This would also make jumpers as useful as chargers.

FrankM
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Thank you larienna

Thanks larienna, it looks like there was another message that didn't get posted here.

Quote:
- I Understand the idea of chargers and jumpers, but for many pieces the choice seems to be obvious which horse to take. Also charger horses seems way more powerful than jumper horse. So I fear piece will never change horse because players will chose the optimal horse configuration at the start. Some solutions could be to make jumpers move 3 spaces. You could also give less than 16 horses, maybe only 8 horses (4 of each), this should promote the need to mount and dismount which will not happen with 16 horses.

- Just got an idea, how about mounting opponent's horses, could be a pretty neat mechanics and horses don't have allegiances.

- It's a bit weird to have a mounted rook. You could use a different character for the rook with same movement pattern.

- King charger is way too powerful and it could prevent checkmate. It's boring but I would say kings cannot mount horse at all unless you do not use checkmate. Or find an alternate shorter pattern.

And there were a handful of suggestions on tweaking the rules for Pawns.

I really appreciate the feedback. To be clear though, I'd like this game to be as close as possible to vanilla chess with just the one significant change of using mounts... with few or zero special cases. This means leaving Pawns with their current weird movement abilities, and Kings hopefully obeying the same rules as everyone else.

Seems reasonable that a piece mounted on a Charger is worth more points than one mounted on a Jumper, though the exact values would only be a guess at this point. Rough idea: Jumper is 1.5x the base (round down) and Charger is 2x the base. So a Pawn is 1 point unless on a Charger; Bishop & Knight are 2, 3 or 4 points; Rook is 3, 4 or 6 points; Queen is 5, 8 or 10 points.

I could split hairs and say that a Charger extends a Pawn's movement but not its capture, but I'd rather not go there since it'd be a non-intuitive thing for the player to remember. Remember, anyone zipping their Pawn around on a Charger is basically sacrificing that valuable Charger.

For the King, even on a Charger he can't pass through check (I didn't make this up whole cloth; it's already part of the rules for castling). If someone is closing in on checkmate, this ought to severely restrict the King's movements (for example, he simply can't get past a Rook who is nearby or on a Charger). But prior to all that the King could slide all over the board. If this proves too hard to pin down, then forbidding the King from mounting any horse is acceptable. Might even include a Throne "mount" in the game box to keep the King at an appropriate height befitting his importance.

Restricting each side to four Chargers and four Jumpers sounds good, though there would be a fifth Charger in the box for those who want to use this set to replicate vanilla chess (Rooks, Bishops and Queen). If we further restrict Horseman's Chess to a deterministic setup with the middle four Pawns getting Jumpers and the outer ones getting Chargers, then we might not have to keep the King on foot. Players would probably have time to develop either the King or the Queen with a Charger before the armies engage.

Mounting opponent's horses can be done three ways. First, the mounts could be "gray" and open for anyone to use, but killed if their rider is captured. Second, they are "gray" but appropriated if the rider is captured by a dismounted opponent. Third, the are colored "black" and "white" yet open for anyone to use; they can be appropriated if the rider is captured by a dismounted piece of the mount's color. I think any of these makes the mounts less useful as obstacles, but I'm not sure how often that would actually come up during play. One scenario I definitely foresee is a mounted King leaving his mount behind to block check.

As for a Rook riding a horse, I'm imagining that piece as a stocky warrior wielding an oversized hammer. It turns out that, after using a plumed helm for the Knight, all of the back-row symbols are "hats" except the Rook. I can try to draw a bucket helm that has hints of crenelations on it.

larienna
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Quote:As for a Rook riding a

Quote:
As for a Rook riding a horse, I'm imagining that piece as a stocky warrior wielding an oversized hammer.

Is there not other classic variant characters like the jester, Squire, etc?

By the way, I modified my own code to adapt it to your game, I can display the board on the console, but I need to define a list of moves and it seems more complicated than I thought. I found a website called "Programming chess wiki" which shows various methods including bitboards which I have to read more about to know how they work.

FrankM
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Joined: 01/27/2017
The name rook is simply for cognate value

I'm hoping (perhaps unreasonably) that this game might be purchased by someone familiar with chess but not the nuances of the chess variant scene. If the target market was chess variant geeks, I could just make up a name and summarize it completely as "W2 alone, WD on Jumper, WW on Charger." The only difficulty would be my non-standard use of the term "mount."

I'm not sticking close to vanilla chess out of "it's my baby" attachment, it's a calculated strategy to keep the game accessible to as broad an audience as possible. If a particular combination turns out to be fairly pointless (Bishop on Jumper, perhaps) then that's okay so long as the game as a whole is accessible and engaging.

And some player might just enjoy the aesthetic of a cleric in a ridiculous hat on a bucking bronco :-)

larienna
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I found an interesting

I found an interesting website that explains the basics of bit boards:

http://pages.cs.wisc.edu/~psilord/blog/data/chess-pages/index.html

It's incomplete but still interesting. It could give me a head start. Jumping pieces seems easier to implement.

I might not try to implement all exceptions of vanilla chess, still, it could give you something to test. And it' will give me some practice since I would never thought of coding chess.

FrankM
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Joined: 01/27/2017
That's great

That's great. I know I said that the game needs to stick as close as possible to vanilla chess, but jettison any exceptions necessary to get your engine off the ground.

Although in the future I can see some special moves like castling implemented through bit boards (byte boards?) to establish the necessary relative positions of other pieces, en-passant is just irritating. The only trick I can think of is to have a Pawn's initial double-move leave behind an invisible piece in the skipped space, which can only be attacked by an enemy Pawn, and that vanishes the next turn.

FrankM
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Joined: 01/27/2017
Updated the rulebook and PnP

I updated the game journal with a revised version of the rules. This one tackles the possibility of overpowered pieces and makes a number of quality-of-life improvements mostly aimed at those learning the game.

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