DuchessTM is a board game similar to
Chess but which is played by two teams of two or three people.
The game provides an opportunity for
Chess enthusiasts and novices alike to develop new skills
in working with their partners as a team.
The players of the opposing teams sit alternately around
the board, each choosing one of the six flaps on which
to set up their pieces as shown below.
The set-up is exactly the same for all players,
with the Wizard to the left of the King and the
Fortress to its right.
Each player's pieces are a different color so that
it's easy to keep track of which pieces are theirs.
Players of one team choose from the colors red, yellow and magenta;
the other team from blue, green and cyan.
If only four people are playing then two opposite flaps
are folded down and only four sets of pieces are used.
The player with the red pieces makes the first move;
then the player to their left makes a move,
and play continues clockwise around the board.
Each player, when it is their turn,
must move one of their pieces from the square
it is on to some other square.
The ways in which it may be moved depend on
what kind of piece it is, as explained below.
A player may never move a piece to a square which is
already occupied by one of their own pieces,
or one of their partners' pieces, or a King.
If they move to a square which is occupied by
one of their opponents' pieces other than a King,
that piece is then taken
from the board and returned to its box.
Each square may only be occupied by one piece at a time.
It is advantageous to take as many of your opponents' pieces as possible.
Every piece on the board is able to take other pieces in this way.
All opponents' pieces are takeable except Kings,
which may never be taken or removed from the board.
They must instead be trapped or checkmated
in order to win the game.
Pieces and their Moves
Those who've played Chess will find many of the pieces familiar.
You will notice that the lines and "squares" on the
DuchessTM board are curved and warped;
not straight like on a standard Chess board.
However the underlying principles are quite similar,
and the basic Rook and Bishop moves,
though not straight in the usual sense,
follow the same simple rules as in Chess.
Rooks move "horizontally and vertically".
Whatever square a Rook is on,
it may be moved along any of the paths which:
(1) extend outwards from the edges of that square, and
(2) continue through unoccupied squares of alternating color,
entering and leaving each square across opposite edges.
A Rook may move as far as it likes in this manner,
as long as there is no piece blocking its path.
The length of a Rook move is the number of edges
its path crosses.
A Rook move of length 1 is called a unit Rook move.
Bishops move "diagonally".
Whatever square a Bishop is on,
it may be moved along any of the paths which:
(1) extend outwards from the corners of that square, and
(2) continue through unoccupied squares of the same color,
entering and leaving each square through opposite corners.
A unit Bishop move is one where the two squares touch at a corner.
Pieces may not be moved across the edges of the board
(including the side edges of the flaps),
but Bishops may just graze the corners of the flaps
as in the diagram.
A Knight move is:
(1) a combination of a Rook move of length 2 and a Rook
move of length 1 (in either order), that
(2) could not be made by a Rook in one move.
When a Knight is moved, the squares through which
its path passes need not be unoccupied.
A Knight may effectively "jump over" any piece(s) in its way.
The Queen is capable of Rook moves and Bishop moves.
In other words, each time you come to move your Queen
you may either move it like a Rook or move it like a Bishop.
Note that the central "square" (called the Vortex)
is really a hexagon, with three pairs of opposite edges
and corners instead of two,
but otherwise the same rules apply to it.
The Duchess is capable of Bishop moves and Knight moves
(i.e. you can move it either like a Bishop or like a Knight)
The Fortress is capable of Rook moves and Knight moves.
The King is capable of unit Rook and Bishop moves only.
Kings are the most important pieces on the board and
must be protected at all costs.
You must never move your King to a threatened square,
or make any move that would leave your king on a
A threatened square is a square to which an opponent
could move one of their pieces, if it were their turn to move.
Note that the square is still considered threatened even if
the relevant opponent is in check or checkmate
(or in danger of such).
If your King is already on a threatened square
when you come to move, it is said to be in check.
In such a case, you must use the move to get your
King out of check, either by moving the King,
taking the threatening piece, or blocking its path.
If you are unable to get your King out of check by
making any move, you are said to be in
checkmate and miss your turn altogether.
The object of the game is to get all your opponents'
Kings in checkmate at the same time.
You may sometimes find, when you come to move,
that one of your pieces is already threatening an
However you are not allowed to take the King.
You must make some other move.
The Pawn has a special rule for taking. It may either make:
(1) a unit Rook move to an unoccupied square, or
(2) a unit Bishop move to a square occupied by a takeable
piece, taking the piece.
You might say that Pawns move "horizontally and vertically",
but take and threaten "diagonally".
Notes for Chess players:
(1) In Chess, Pawns are only allowed to move in a forward direction.
However in DuchessTM there is no such restriction.
You can move them backwards or sideways if you wish.
So be careful when you move a piece near to an opponent's Pawn.
It might get taken from an unexpected direction.
(2) In DuchessTM, the Pawn may
not be moved forward two squares on its first move
(which also means there is no need for the "en passant" rule).
When you move a Pawn onto the Vortex
(the central "square", which is really hexagonal),
you may promote it.
That is, you may choose to replace it with
any piece of yours that has already been taken.
The Pawn should then be removed from the board,
and the new piece placed on the Vortex before the
next player makes their move.
The Wizard is capable of unit Rook and Bishop moves only
(like the King), but it is of special importance to the game
because it can assist other pieces
to move in the following way:
Suppose you have a piece which is on a square next to
your own Wizard, or next to one of your partners' Wizards.
You may move that piece by teleportation
to any other square next to your own Wizard,
or next to one of your partners' Wizards
(two squares are next to each other if they touch
at an edge or corner, i.e. are one King move apart).
In the accompanying diagram, a piece on any of the dotted
squares may move by teleportation to any other dotted square.
A teleportation counts as a move.
Every piece is capable of being teleported in this way,
provided it is next to an appropriate Wizard.
You can also move the Wizard itself by teleportation
to any square next to one of your partners' Wizards.
A King may not teleport to a threatened square.
It may teleport from a threatened square
in order to get out of check.
If a Pawn is teleported to the Vortex it may be promoted.
Even if you are in checkmate, your partners can still
use your Wizard to teleport their pieces
(as long as it has not been taken).
How to Win
To win the game, one team must get all of their
opponents' Kings in checkmate at the same time.
When a player is put into checkmate,
they miss their turn each time it comes around,
until they are somehow released from checkmate.
Although there is an obligation on each player
to move out of check if possible,
there is no strict obligation on a player's partners
to move their pieces in such a way as to get that player
out of check or checkmate;
but it is usually advisable to do so for the good of the team.
If a player is in stalemate (that is, they are not in check,
but are unable to make any move that will not put them into check),
then they also miss their turn.
Stalemate does not result in a drawn game as it does in Chess.
DuchessTM can never
be drawn other than by mutual agreement.
It can also be won by unanimous resignation.
If only four people are playing,
two opposite flaps are folded down and
only four sets of pieces are used.
For three players, every alternate flap is folded down
and only three sets of pieces are used.
Each player regards the other two as opponents,
and the object of the game is to get the player
to your left into checkmate.
So the game is over as soon as one of the
three players is checkmated,
and the player to their right is the winner.
Two players normally set the board up as if
for four players, but control two sets of
However it is also possible to fold down
four flaps and have each player control
only one set of pieces.
Squares on the DuchessTM
board are labeled by flap (1-6) row (a-e) and column (1-7).
The Vortex is labeled "V". Here's an example of a
transcript of a complete game.
Copyright © 1985,1987,1991,1996 by Alan Blair.
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