The Meeple Guild - A new chess variant worth exploring

There really are a cornucopia, (a good word to work in in the fall), of chess variants out there, but when I get to chance to delve into another one I am always interested.

So that brings me to Xodul, a game that has chess at its heart, but as you will imagine, twists things up a bit.

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“Xodul is a tactical and strategy game, which is a variant of chess. This game is inspired on international chess, chinese chess (xiang-qi), and japanese chess (shogi),” explains the introduction on the ruleset.

“In particular, xodul has 10 different pieces from each other: car, knight, bishop, queen, king, wizard, guard, lance, cannon and pawns; moreover, the promotion of pawns can be made accordingly to a different rule: a piece captured by one of the players can return to the game through the promotion of one of the pawns; therefore, the pieces can change their colour.”

So right off the bat I’ll note that having a piece called a ‘car’ doesn’t fit very well with the generally medieval feel that permeates chess.

The car moves along lines or columns, the desired number of squares, which makes it essentially a rook, and the game would be better served sticking with the familiar, although that is a minor point dealing with aesthetics.

What Xodul does offer is chess on a 9X9 board where the major pieces are all different, (instead of two rooks, bishops, and knights).

So across the array the pieces are car, knight, bishop, queen, king, wizard, guard, lance, and cannon.

The pieces of most interest are the less familiar ones.

Let’s start with the cannon, a piece borrowed from xiangqi. The cannon has a normal movement equal to the car’s movement; however, when it is going to make a capture it must jump over one, and only one, other piece of any colour.

Other new pieces offer more to explore, but are also more complicated to learn.

The wizard has two options:

*the special movement – if the king is not in check the wizard can use the teleport, i.e. it can move directly to any empty square of the board;

*in addition, the wizard can move exactly two squares in diagonal without jumping over pieces, for instance to capture a piece (or to defend checks)

This is the piece of greatest interest as it offers some interesting option in-game.

The guard has two options:

*it can move one square up /down /left /right;

*in addition, it can move various squares along its line /column in the direction of its king up to the maximum of intercepting a coordinate of that king

The lance has two types of movement:

*it can move to the front any number of squares (without making jumps over other pieces);

*in addition, it can move one square in any diagonal

Pawns sit in front of each piece.

The interest here is delving into attack and defence strategies with forces being unbalanced in the sense of different pieces on each side of your royals.

The game, designed by Sílvia M.G. Rodrigues, does have a neat set available, so that is an added bonus.
Check it out at www.xodul.com

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