Knightmare Chess: Multi-Player Variants

by Steffan O'Sullivan
(Version October 5,1996)
Knightmare Chess is such a fun game it's a shame to limit it to just two players. Fortunately, there are many multi-player chess variants - Knightmare Chess can be played with most of them with the same delight.

I've written a three-player and two four-player variants myself, but you may wish to research other variants. There are actually quite a few sources for these. The two I've found most useful are:

  1. A book called The Encyclopedia of Chess Variants, by David B. Pritchard, Games and Puzzles Publications, 1994. ISBN 0-9524142-0-1.

  2. A web site: The Chess Variant Pages, maintained by Dr. Hans Bodlaender: http://www.cs.ruu.nl/~hansb/d.chessvar/Gindex.html

I've played many of the variants, but Knightmare Chess inspired me to write my own. My four-player variants owe their basic format to Richard Hutnik's Corner Chess, but have significant differences, and so are different games. My three-player variant was inspired after playing some of the others on expanded boards - I wanted a game in which there was more interaction more quickly.

You'll need to get more pieces to play these variants. Fortunately, inexpensive chess sets are readily available at most large chain stores which carry games at all. Pressman makes a very inexpensive set with brown and tan pieces, while there are many sets with white and black, or white and red pieces. Or you can get some fancy sets and play, for example, the Simpsons against a Samurai army. All of these variants use a standard chess board.

General Rules

There are some general rules when using Knightmare Chess with three or four players.

The Three Player Chess Variant

Pieces:

White has twelve pieces: six Pawns, two Bishops, one each of Knight, Rook, Queen, and King.

Red and Black each have ten pieces: four Pawns, two Bishops, one each of Knight, Rook, Queen, and King.

Board:

                               White
  ________________________________________________________________
 |XXXXXXX|       |       |       0       |       |       |XXXXXXX|
8|XXXXXXX|   R   |   B   |   K   0   Q   |   B   |   N   |XXXXXXX|
 |XXXXXXX|_______|_______|_______0_______|_______|_______|XXXXXXX|
 |XXXXXXX|       |       |       0       |       |       |XXXXXXX|
7|XXXXXXX|   P   |   P   |   P   0   P   |   P   |   P   |XXXXXXX|
 |XXXXXXX|_______|_______|_______0_______|_______|_______|XXXXXXX|
 |       |       |       |       0       |       |       |       |
6|       |       |       |       0       |       |       |       |
 |_______|_______|_______|_______0_______|_______|_______|_______|
 |       |       |       |       0       |       |       |       |
5|       |       |       |       0       |       |       |       |
 |.......|.......|.......|.......0.......|.......|.......|.......| Equator
 |       |       |       |       0       |       |       |       |
4|       |       |       |       0       |       |       |       |
 |_______|_______|_______|_______0_______|_______|_______|_______|
 |       |       |       |       0       |       |       |       |
3|   P   |   P   |   P   |       0       |   P   |   P   |   P   |
 |_______|_______|_______|_______0_______|_______|_______|_______|
 |       |       |       |       0       |       |       |       |
2|   R   |   N   |   B   |    P  0   P   |   B   |   N   |   R   |
 |_______|_______|_______|_______0_______|_______|_______|_______|
 |       |       |       |       I       |       |       |       |
1|   K   |   Q   |   B   |       I       |   B   |   Q   |   K   |
 |_______|_______|_______|_______I_______|_______|_______|_______|
     a       b       c       d       e       f       g       h
          Black                  ^              Red
                              Midline

Key:

P = Pawn         K = King         Q = Queen
N = Knight       B = Bishop       R = Rook
XXXXXXX   =   Square may not be entered during the game by any piece
.......   =   Equator: line midway between the two board starting sides

0   =   Midline: line dividing the board between Black and Red starting
0       positions

I   =   Impassible Barrier - no piece may cross this barrier or check
I       across it.  Diagonal movement is allowed through the corner,
I       however.  That is, a Bishop could move from d2 to e1, for
I       example, and Knights are not affected by the barrier at all.

Rules for the Three-Player Variant:

Normal chess rules apply except where noted. White plays first, followed by Red then Black. Play proceeds clockwise around the table.

Only White may Castle - move the King one space, and place the Rook on the King's starting space. Neither may have moved beforehand, and the King must not be in check at the time of castling. (In Knightmare Chess, Black or Red may castle by playing the Sanctuary card.)

Black and Red Pawns move towards White's position, not toward each other.

Any pawn that begins the game in the second rank may move two spaces on its initial move. En passant rules apply. Any pawn that begins the game in the third rank may only move one space at a time (unless a Knightmare Chess card is played that allows otherwise).

Note that in order for the Black a3 pawn and Red h3 pawn to promote, they must somehow be moved over at least one lane.

The Black d2 pawn may not capture the Red e2 pawn until one or both are across the Equator. Likewise, the Red e2 pawn may not capture the Black d2 pawn until one or both are across the Equator. However, such a pawn may capture any other piece across the midline in a normal pawn capture, and then is free to move and capture without restriction. No other Black or Red piece has any restriction regarding the midline or equator. White's pieces have no midline or equator restrictions at all.

Knightmare Chess specific rules:

The corners of the board, for cards such as Squaring the Circle and Figure Dance, are a1, b8, g8, and h1.

Toll and Betrayal: White's territory is everything on his side of the equator. Black and Red have territory defined by the equator and the midline.

The Four-Player Chess Variant: Free-for-All

Pieces:

Each of the four sides (White, Black, Red, Brown) has nine pieces: one King, one Queen, one Rook, one Knight, and five pawns.

Board:

           White                                   Black
  ________________________________________________________________
 |       |       |       |       |       |       |       |       |
8|   K   |   R   |   P   |       |       |   P   |   N   |   K   |
 |_______|_______|_______|_______|_______|_______|_______|_______|
 |       |       |       |       |       |       |       |       |
7|   N   |   Q   |   P   |       |       |   P   |   Q   |   R   |
 |_______|_______|_______|_______|_______|_______|_______|_______|
 |       |       |       |       |       |       |       |       |
6|   P   |   P   |   P   |       |       |   P   |   P   |   P   |
 |_______|_______|_______|_______|_______|_______|_______|_______|
 |       |       |       |       |       |       |       |       |
5|       |       |       |       |       |       |       |       |
 |_______|_______|_______|______/X\______|_______|_______|_______|
 |       |       |       |      \X/      |       |       |       |
4|       |       |       |       |       |       |       |       |
 |_______|_______|_______|_______|_______|_______|_______|_______|
 |       |       |       |       |       |       |       |       |
3|   P   |   P   |   P   |       |       |   P   |   P   |   P   |
 |_______|_______|_______|_______|_______|_______|_______|_______|
 |       |       |       |       |       |       |       |       |
2|   R   |   Q   |   P   |       |       |   P   |   Q   |   N   |
 |_______|_______|_______|_______|_______|_______|_______|_______|
 |       |       |       |       |       |       |       |       |
1|   K   |   N   |   P   |       |       |   P   |   R   |   K   |
 |_______|_______|_______|_______|_______|_______|_______|_______|
     a       b       c       d       e       f       g       h
           Brown                                    Red

Key:

P = Pawn         K = King         Q = Queen
N = Knight       R = Rook


/X\  = You may not move or capture diagonally through this vertex.
\X/    For example, you may not move from d4 to e5 directly.  It has
       no effect on knights or on any orthogonal movement.  Use a penny
       or similar object to show the impassible vertex.

Rules for the Four-Player Free-for-All Variant:

Normal chess rules apply except where noted. White plays first, followed by Black, Red and Brown. Play proceeds clockwise around the table.

Castling is only allowed by play of the Sanctuary card.

Pawns may move one space orthogonally in one of two directions: away from the owning player's corner. That is, a pawn on a3 may move to a4, or it may move to b3 should that space become empty. Capturing is still only diagonally, but a pawn on b3 may capture at a4, c4, or c2. A pawn may move vertically one turn, and horizontally on the next. Note that the pawns are thus very powerful and flexible, being able to change file as well as rank.

No pawn may move more than one space in a given turn except as allowed by a Knightmare Chess card. There is no en passant. When a pawn does move more than one space with use of a card, it must move in a straight line.

Promotion takes place in the furthest rank or the furthest file. That is, Brown's pawns may promote in either rank 8 or file h. You may promote to any piece, even a bishop.

Knightmare Chess specific rules:

Toll and Betrayal: each player's territory is one quarter of the board.

Cards that require a bishop to be usable, such as Holy War or Crusade, may be handled in one of three ways:


The Four-Player Chess Variant: Team Play

Pieces:

Each of the four sides (White, Black, Red, Brown) has nine pieces: one King, one Queen, one Rook, one Knight, one Bishop, and four pawns.

Board:

           White                                   Black
  ________________________________________________________________
 |       |       |       |       |       |       |       |       |
8|   K   |   R   |   P   |       |       |   P   |   N   |   K   |
 |_______|_______|_______|_______|_______|_______|_______|_______|
 |       |       |       |       |       |       |       |       |
7|   N   |   Q   |   P   |       |       |   P   |   Q   |   R   |
 |_______|_______|_______|_______|_______|_______|_______|_______|
 |       |       |       |       |       |       |       |       |
6|   P   |   P   |   B   |       |       |   B   |   P   |   P   |
 |_______|_______|_______|_______|_______|_______|_______|_______|
 |       |       |       |       |       |       |       |       |
5|       |       |       |       |       |       |       |       |
 |_______|_______|_______|_______|_______|_______|_______|_______|
 |       |       |       |       |       |       |       |       |
4|       |       |       |       |       |       |       |       |
 |_______|_______|_______|_______|_______|_______|_______|_______|
 |       |       |       |       |       |       |       |       |
3|   P   |   P   |   N   |       |       |   N   |   P   |   P   |
 |_______|_______|_______|_______|_______|_______|_______|_______|
 |       |       |       |       |       |       |       |       |
2|   R   |   Q   |   P   |       |       |   P   |   Q   |   B   |
 |_______|_______|_______|_______|_______|_______|_______|_______|
 |       |       |       |       |       |       |       |       |
1|   K   |   B   |   P   |       |       |   P   |   R   |   K   |
 |_______|_______|_______|_______|_______|_______|_______|_______|
     a       b       c       d       e       f       g       h
           Brown                                    Red

Key:

P = Pawn         K = King         Q = Queen
N = Knight       R = Rook         B = Bishop
Note that there is no obstruction to the center vertex in the team version.

Rules for the Four-Player Team-Play Variant:

Normal chess rules apply except where noted. White plays first, followed by Black, Red and Brown. Play proceeds clockwise around the table.

The two teams are White-Red versus Black-Brown. You must checkmate both opposing Kings to win. You may not normally capture your team member's pieces - however, a card such as Assassin or Distintegration allows you to capture your team member's piece. If your team member has been checkmated, you may also capture his remaining pieces.

Castling is only allowed by play of the Sanctuary card.

Pawns may move one space orthogonally in one of two directions: away from the owning player's corner. That is, a pawn on a3 may move to a4, or it may move to b3 should that space become empty. Capturing is still only diagonally, but a pawn on b3 may capture at a4, c4, or c2. A pawn may move vertically one turn, and horizontally on the next. Note that the pawns are thus very powerful and flexible, being able to change file as well as rank.

No pawn may move more than one space in a given turn except as allowed by a Knightmare Chess card. There is no en passant. When a pawn does move more than one space with use of a card, it must move in a straight line.

Promotion takes place in the furthest rank or the furthest file. That is, Brown's pawns may promote in either rank 8 or file h.

Knightmare Chess specific rules:

Toll and Betrayal: each player's territory is one quarter of the board.



Steve Jackson
Games * Knightmare
Chess