New Variant - Royal Roster (asymmetric battle with a unique queen piece from over 15 options)


Hello everyone,

I’m trying to develop a thematic casual variant of Chess for playtesting called Royal Roster.  Rules are the same as vanilla except:

  1. Instead of a regular queen, each player chooses to use one of the pieces in the list below.  (whether randomly or agreed upon beforehand), and makes it known to the other player.  Your pawns promote to the chosen queen type.
  2. Initiating a queen exchange is prohibited. If you capture an enemy queen during your turn and your queen is immediately captured back, you lose the game. (This allows the unique pieces to shine, and stops the game from returning to normal chess)

The pieces below have all been casually tested and found to open up a diversity of strategic options, while still being relatively easy to grok. However, asymmetric game balance is always a pain. I was hoping to see if anyone wants to contribute to development and balance by playing among yourselves or with your playgroups. New eyes are always good, plus we're commercial board gamers who did this for fun and are absolutely terrible at chess.

The objective is to end up with as many types of pieces as possible which are:

  1. Queen-ish in power, and passably balanced when battling against a regular chess army, and
  2. Fun to play with, with interesting interactions and strategies.

The current royal roster is as follows:

Aegis - Moves one square orthogonally, can't capture. As long as your King is at most three board spaces away from a friendly Aegis (orthogonally or diagonally), it can't be captured, put in check, or moved by an enemy ability.

Damsel - Moves/captures like a queen up to two spaces. Your opponent may not make a move that threatens the Damsel (i.e, it’s forbidden to put it in ‘check’.) You may put the Damsel in danger yourself though, such as by capturing a protected unit.

Dragoon - Moves (not captures) like a king. May also move by hopping over an adjacent unit to an immediate empty square, up to twice in a single turn. Captures any enemy unit it hops over. (e.g. with a black Dragoon: 1. e4 e5 2. Bb5? Qb6+b4, capturing the white bishop.) 

Champion - Moves/captures like a king twice in a row. Both moves may be capturing moves, and it may even capture and move back to the square it was initially from. (Same ability as the lion from chu shogi)

Chemist - Moves/captures like a king.  At the end of any of your turns, you may detonate the Chemist, destroying it and capturing all adjacent enemy units.  (Blowing up the enemy king is checkmate.  Capturing an enemy queen via detonation violates the queen exchange rule)

Exemplar - Moves like a king or knight, captures like a knight. Any friendly unit a knight’s move away can also move/capture like a knight.

Haunt - Moves/captures like a king.  As a move, you may swap the position of your Haunt and any friendly pawn. If your Haunt has been captured, you may also sacrifice one of your pawns as a move to return your Haunt to that square.

Huntress - Moves like a king or knight, captures like a knight.  After moving the Huntress, any enemy unit it threatens can’t move for one turn (consequently, if the Huntress gives check and it can’t immediately be taken in response, it’s checkmate)

Ironclad - Moves/captures like a king. Cannot be captured unless it is being threatened by at least two different pieces that can capture it. (same ability as the dwarf from bulldog chess)

Juggernaut - Moves/captures one square sideways or diagonally forward.  Can’t be captured, destroyed, or moved by an enemy ability.

Lancer - Moves like a standard queen. Captures like a king or by impaling - move at least one space like a queen, and capture the unit on the square after it stops.  (e.g. 1. e3 h5 2. Qg5(xh5))

Mastermind - Moves/captures like a king. As long as the Mastermind is on the board, you may move two of the same type of piece (knight, bishop, or rook) as a single move.

Marksman - Moves/captures like a king. May also capture like a bishop without moving from its position ('shoots' an enemy unit).

Matron - Moves/captures like a rook. As a move, you may return one of your captured pawns to an empty square horizontally adjacent to the Matron. Your pawns can't promote. (Pawns that end up on your first row may also move two squares forward as their first move)

Queen - Standard chess queen. Two vanilla armies against each other with the no-queen-exchange rule is actually also a pretty fun variant.

Sadist - Moves/captures like a knight or standard queen.  May capture both friendly and enemy units. If the Sadist makes a capture, it may only make capturing moves in consecutive turns until you move a different piece.

Shadow - Moves by jumping to any empty square of the board. Captures one square backward or diagonally backward.

Siren - Moves/captures like a king.  May also call as a move - Target an enemy unit a queen's capture away, and slide it to be adjacent to the Siren.  That unit can’t move next turn.

Wallbreaker - Moves (not captures) like a king. May also charge in an orthogonal or diagonal direction exactly three squares or until it hits the edge of the board.  Any unit (friendly or enemy) it runs over or lands on is captured.


Comments, suggestions, or even rule clarifications are appreciated.  Also feel free to suggest new pieces in the same spirit, if you’ve tested them (We have about 40 total pieces in our file, but a lot of them were found to be either fiddly, too similar to vanilla chess, impossible to balance, or just not fun enough)

Thanks everyone!





The champion is way too powerful




I like the idea though


I think the Juggernaut is a bit too overpowered though


The juggernaut has a very awkward movement and can't move backward at all. it's easy to avoid, and once it gets past a certain rank it can't do any damage.


But yes more testing showed that the champion does quite a bit of damage on an 8x8 board, and should probably be nerfed in some way.


The juggernaut can just run through to the king and queen and nothing can stop it

kingsindianattack7 wrote:

The champion is way too powerful

It's a rename of a Faerie piece that already exists from Chu Shogi: The Lion/Lioness. It's a Queen-class piece which makes a King move two times. 

It is more suitable on a larger board, as a 10x13 or a 12x12; or larger. On an 8x8 board, the Lion piece may possibly be too powerful.


Shadow sounds OP. Can literally get behind enemy lines just like that or assist in a checkmate pattern perfectly.

efofecks wrote:

Lancer - ...Captures... by impaling - ...capture the unit on the square after it stops.  (e.g. 1. e3 h5 2. Qg5(xh5))

Very cool. My Seige Hammer (Battering Ram) piece from my Dragon Chess xiangqi variant captures exactly like this^^^. happy.png

And, that's exacly how I notate its capture. haha

kingsindianattack7 wrote:

The juggernaut can just run through to the king and queen and nothing can stop it

Yeah, my mistake.  It's not the material advantage that's the problem (it really is a slow-as-heck piece), but we failed to account that it can give perpetual check.  This is the current version of the juggernaut-

Juggernaut - Moves one square orthogonally, capturing anything in its path.  Cannot move on consecutive turns.  Cannot be captured or moved by any enemy ability.


The siren's ability was found to be too similar to the Marksman and Lancer, so it's now this - a very strange piece, but super interesting with the strategies it can open:

Siren - Moves / captures like a queen up to two spaces.  At the end of each opponent's turn, if their king can move orthogonally closer to the siren, it does so. (e.g. with a white Siren 1. e4 e5??+ke7).  If the opponent's king can move either horizontally or vertically, or if there are multiple sirens, that player can choose how to move.


Browsing this site also taught me about the witch, which seemed interesting enough to base a piece on:

Mirage - Moves / captures like a queen up to two spaces.  The Mirage and all pieces within two spaces of the witch are transparent to friendly pieces (i.e, sliding pieces can move past them)


Does anyone have any other ideas for queen-class pieces which can enable other potentially interesting games?

BattleChessGN18 wrote:
kingsindianattack7 wrote:

The champion is way too powerful

It's a rename of a Faerie piece that already exists from Chu Shogi: The Lion/Lioness. It's a Queen-class piece which makes a King move two times. 

It is more suitable on a larger board, as a 10x13 or a 12x12; or larger. On an 8x8 board, the Lion piece may possibly be too powerful.

Well, the chu shogi lion is stronger, since it can jump within a 2 square radius (orthogonal, diagonal, knight) as well.


I see. Well, then, I guess it's not quite a Lion, then.


Either way, I think it's very cool.


A lot of these pieces must have taken a long time to brainstorm and develop. Kudos for all the effort.


Instead of Chu Shogi Lion we can put this piece (I didn't tested it but I expect that it's a little weaker than Chu Shogi Lion) if Chu shogi Lion is too strong for 8x8 board:

Lion - Can jump with or without capturing in radius 2 (for example from a1 that piece can jump to b1,c1,a2,b2,c2,a3,b3 or c3)


Awesome! My favorite is the dragoon


wow nice i appreciate ur efforts for thinking 


@Ivan_m_chas you're right, I think a two-perimeter leaper would be more balanced instead of the current Champion ability. Will test that.  

Here are two other pieces on the development board, but I didn't add them to the original list because we're finding them NOTORIOUSLY difficult to balance.  Maybe someone can chime in?

Insurgent - Moves/captures like a knight.  When the Insurgent ends its turn on the eighth row, sacrifice it and flip the table. (your opponent still takes the next turn, but using your pieces now)


This piece creates crazy games where you're torn between winning and losing a lot just so you could try to flip the board.  It's hard to balance a moveset that will give you just enough material disadvantage to want to swap, while making the swap not too easy or too hard.

Double - Both this and your king can move/capture like a standard queen or knight.  The Double is also royal (i.e., it can be put in check); you lose the game when either the king or the double is checkmated.  Note that a royal piece cannot move through a threatened square, similar to how a player can't castle if the intermediate square is threatened. 


This seems like it's overpowered, but in practice is actually not.  The fact that you can't move over threatened squares is a deal-breaker and significantly limits the movement. Still under development, very hard to balance.  The "fun" part is also subjective, because despite the raw offensive power we always feel like we're on the defensive with this piece.