Medieval War Chess: game 1

Medieval War Chess is a chess variant that uses the same pieces and the same board but has entirely different rules. The idea is to capture the essence of medieval melees. The long range movement of chess pieces doesn’t really capture this. But the game moves slowly, because pieces can only move to one adjacent square per move, so each player gets 3 actions a turn, which can include moves, attacks or cannon attacks.

The notation for recording games should be pretty clear from my games. I’m using the chess position editor at  to visualize the games because that system allows moves that aren’t legal in standard chess.

I would like to test this game and tweak it, but for that to happen, I need to find someone else interested in playing. For now I’m just playing solitaire to explore the possibilities of the game.

The rules are listed at the bottom of this post.

1. c2-c3, d2-d3, b1-c2   — A new opening I haven’t tried before. Cannon attacks aren’t much of a worry yet because the rooks have little range to manuever with all of the pieces still on the back row. So why not develop the queenside knight and/or the queen itself.

1. …g7-g6, f7-f6, g8-g7 — Open up an attack on white’s a2 point. I think there are broadly two types of cannon attacks to consider. There’s the protected attack, where the rook takes one action to get along the open rank, file or diagonal, one action to destroy the targetted piece, and the last action to move back to where he was hiding before.

Alternatively, there is the unprotected attack, where the rook moves twice to get in position, and then attacks. Early in the game, these unprotected attacks often expose the rook to too much danger of being either destroyed by a counter-battery from the other sides rooks, or to being melee attacked. The rooks should be protected like the queen is in normal chess. They are extremely valuable and fragile.

In this case, black’s threat isn’t likely to work out, but it forces white to do something on the queen side again to defend against it.

2. d1-d2, d2-e3, c3-c4 — Defend the a2 pawn and advance the queen into a more aggressive position. Be careful with your queen, but black hasn’t really presented any melee power yet, so the white queen may be able to do something.

2. … b7-b6, c7-c6, b8-b7 — Black does the same thing on the queen side that he did on move one. He is slowly advancing the black knights, but very slowly.

3. g2-g3, g1-g2, g2-f3 — Protect the h2 pawn and move the king’s knight forward. White is going for a melee assault plan.

3. …b7-a6, a6-b5, b5 attack c4 — The c4 pawn was exposed without a strong counterattack threat. Easy pickings. 2 c3-c4 was a blunder perhaps.

4. e3-f4, f4-g5, g5 attack g6 — White leaves the a2 pawn open to cannon attack in order to advance the queen and attack a black pawn. This is risky, but it doesn’t seem like black can take the white queen without preparation.

4. …h8-g8, g8 cannon a2, g8-h8 — White’s queen is threatening Black’s kingside rook, so he has to hide it back away in the corner after attacking, but this situation is dangerous for black as well as white because of that threat.

5. a1-b1, h1-g1, h2-g2 —  Both of white’s rooks as well as the h2 pawn were under the threat of cannon attack. So white has to play defensively.

5. … a8-b8, b8 cannon g3, c8-c7 — White anti-cannon defense didn’t quite work. White now has only 5 pawns left to black’s 7. Cannons become very powerful as the board empties.

6. g5-g6, g6 attack h7, g6-g5 — White has to avoid the h row, which is a free firing lane for the h rook, and the threat of bishop and knight together which can overpower the queen. Black’s rook is now in the hot seat. Black has to drive off the black queen.

6. .. d8-d7, c6-c5, h8-g8 — Black offers the trade of rook for queen, but protects his rook from cannon attack, while starting to get his queen in the game.

7. b1-a2, a2 cannon g8, a2-b1

7. …d7-e6, e6-f5, [f5, f6] attack g6.

8. c2-c3, d3-d3, b1 cannon f5 — This whole sequence surprised me. Every turn I thought I knew what was going on. I’m pretty much Mr. blunder at this game right now. White now has the lead with an extra rook.

8. … c8-c7, c7-c6, b8-c7 — Gets the queenside bishop and rook closer to the fight.

9. g2-h2, g1 cannon g7, h2-g2 — As pieces start to fall, a bad formation like black’s will fall apart. White’s formation is very defensible against cannons in contrast.

9. … f8-f7, f7-e6, d6-d5 — Black is pretty much lost, but trying to get pieces together for a final melee assault attempt.

10. b1-a1, a1 cannon a7, a1-b1

10. …c5-c4, d5-d4, c6-c5 — Preparing for a melee attack.

11. c3 attack c4, c3 attack d4, f3-d4 — This is strange, it makes me wonder if there should be some rule about how many melee attacks can happen in a turn.

11. … c7-d7, d7 cannon d2, d7-c8 — The loss of black’s pawns gave him range on the white pawn. Finding a safe place for the last black rook is getting harder thought. Finally black makes an aggressive action again.

12. c1-d2, d2-e3, f3-e4 — Knights feel a little too indestructible currently. Every other piece feels fragile, but I don’t know how anyone is supposed to lose their knights once the queens are off the board. Maybe I’ll adjust the knight defense to 7, so 2 knights can defeat 1 knight.

12. …c5-d6, c8 cannon c3, b5-c4 — good move on black’s part, but not enough material left, especially after his own knight falls

13. b1-c2, c2-d3, d3 cannon c4 — trading rook for knight.

13. … c8-d8, d6-c5, d8 cannon d3 — taking the rook with a bishop results in losing the bishop.

14. f2-g3, g1-f2, f2 cannon f6 — trading down pawns.

14. …d8-c7, c7 cannon g3, c7-d8

15. e2-f3, f1-e2, e1-f1

15. … e8-f7, c5-d6, b6-c7 .. defending against the threat of a cannon attack on his rook and trying to link up his 2 remaining pawns eventually.

Rook sight lines are a huge factor in restraining movement by both sides here.

16. e3-f4, e2-e3, e3-d4 — preparing for a melee assault, the queenside bishop is exposed, but the black rook would be lost if it was cannoned.

16. … d6-c6, d7-c8, d8 cannon d4

17. f2-e2, e2-d1, d1 cannon d8

17. … c7-d8, c6-d7, e6-d6

Its over, black doesn’t have the power to do anything, and the knights and bishops no longer are restrained since black’s rook is gone. They can march on, finishing off the rest of the black’s army with help from the white rook.

The Final position:


Chess Piece Summary
Piece Off. Strength Def. Strength Note
Queen 6 6 The Queen is the only unit without doubled defense strength
Rook 0 0 The Rook has the special cannon attack but no melee strength
Bishop 3 6 Bishops are a moderately powerful piece.
Knight 4 8 Knights are the best melee combatants.
Pawn Varies Varies Pawns have 1 off., 2 def. strength for every pawn surrounding them.
King 2 4 In version 1 of the rules, the King has special powers. He is mundane now.

Detailed Rules:

  1. Initial Setup:
    1. The game is played with a standard chess board and pieces
    2. Pieces are placed in the same positions are normal chess at the start of the game
    3. (Alternative) Players may instead agree to set up random positions according to the style of Fisher Random Chess or any other Chess position randomization scheme. Some starting positions may, however, be excessively imbalanced in favor of White
  2. Winning the Game:
    1. The game is won, if a player’s opponent has no pieces left on the board.
    2. The game is drawn, if neither player has enough strength on the board to take out any of their oppositions’ pieces, and there are no rooks left on the board.
  3. Turn Sequence:
    1. Players alternate taking turns, with white starting first, as in normal chess.
    2. Unlike in normal chess, during each turn, a player must make three legal actions
    3. An action consists of either: moving a piece, initiating a melee attack, or initiating a cannon attack.
  4. Movement:
    1. A movement action consists of moving any piece to an adjacent square that is not occupied by any other piece. Vertically, horizontally, and diagonally adjacent moves are all allowed.
    2. Another way of stating it, is that a piece’s (including pawns) movement action is like the King’s movement in normal chess.
    3. Enemy pieces can not be captured through movement. You can not move any piece onto a square that is already occupied by another friendly or enemy piece.
    4. You can use two or even three of your turn’s actions in order to move a single piece further, but in each action, the piece can only move like a king.
  5. Melee Attacks:
    1. Unlike movement, a melee attack is a collective action that will usually involve multiple pieces of yours.
    2. To start a melee attack, declare an enemy piece as your target.
    3. You must have at least one of your own pieces adjacent to the targetted enemy piece, in order to declare a melee attack on the target.
    4. All of your pieces adjacent to the target enemy join the offense.
    5. The target defends alone.
    6. In order to determine what happens during the attack, see the next section
  6. Resolving a Melee Attack:
    1. If an attack succeeds during resolution, the target piece is removed from the board.
    2. If an attack fails, nothing happens, which is a waste of an action.
    3. To determine whether the attack succeeds or fails, total up the power of the offense and compare it to the target’s power
    4. If the attackers have more power than the target, then the attack wins.
    5. Otherwise, if they have less or the same power, the attack fails.
    6. The power of the offense is the combined strength of every offensive piece involved in the attack. Piece strengths are listed in the next subsection.
    7. The power of the defense is the double the strength of the target, with one exception.
    8. Queens contribute their normal strength on defense, rather than double their strength.
  7. Piece Strengths:
    1. Queen: 6 offense, 6 defense. The queen is the only piece that doesn’t have doubled defensive strength
    2. Knight: 4 offense, 8 defense. The knight is the best piece on defense
    3. Bishop: 3 offense, 6 defense
    4. Rook: 0 strength. The rook is used for cannon attacks as covered in a later section. It has no inherent strength.
    5. Pawn: varies. Pawn strengths are covered in the next subsection.
  8. Pawn Strength:
    1. The strength of a pawn is based on the number of friendly pawns adjacent to it.
    2. If there are no pawns adjacent, then the pawn has 0 offensive, and 0 defensive strength.
    3. But if there are three pawns next to it, it has the same strength as a bishop, with 3 offense, 6 defense.
    4. In general, if there are x pawns adjacent to it, it has x offense, and 2x defense.
  9. Cannon Attacks
    1. A rook is the only piece that can execute a cannon attack.
    2. Like movement, and unlike melee attacks, Cannon attacks are individual piece actions.
    3. To start a cannon attack, a target enemy must be selected. The enemy must be on a vertical, horizontal, or diagonal line coming from the rook.
    4. This line between the rook and its target is called a ray. Only the part of the line between the Rook and its target is considered the ray.
    5. A cannon attack will fail if:
      1. There is another piece (friend or foe) between the rook and its target.
      2. There is another piece (friend or foe) after the target along the same ray.
      3. Essentially, if you start at the rook and follow the row, column or diagonal until there are no more squares on that ray, there shouldn’t be any pieces other than the rook and target. If there are any other pieces, the attack fails.
    6. If none of the conditions for failure occur, the attack has succeeded, and the target is removed from the board.
    7. A rook may make multiple cannon attacks per turn, as long as the player has a sufficient number of actions remaining in the turn.