Jungle Chess - a (Probably) Modern Game in the Traditional Style
Thursday, 29th May 2014
I've occasionally wondered about whether and how I should include modern games on this site, or games of doubtful authenticity. I've inadvertently included at least two of them already, through the Traditional Board Games series of leaflets: both Madelinette and Surakarta have been the subject of doubts as to their authenticity as historic games.
Some games are too good to exclude, though. I've made some exceptions to my general rule of 1900 as being the cut-off date for games I include here. Grasshopper is one of them, I held that its 1948 invention was no impediment because it is simply a version of halma, and the handiness of being able to play halma on a draughts-board made it too good to miss out.
There are some games that have no such excuse for being here, but while they are not truly historic, they are close enough that people have mistaken them for historic games (as perhaps with Madelinette and Surakarta). And some of them are, like Grasshopper, too good to miss out. So I decided that the best way to include them is through the blog. This is, then, the first of an occasional series of posts about games outside the scope of the rest of the site. As well as more modern games, I may well cover a few traditional tile and domino games, and other interesting things along the way.
Dou Shou Qi, sometimes called Animal Chess or Jungle Chess, was a game that was very nearly included in the Traditional Board Games series of leaflets, but research quickly showed that there's no evidence for its antiquity. As a simplified and more traditionally-styled game in the stratego family, some have assumed that it is an old game which inspired games like L'Attaque and Dover Patrol, two early predecessors of Stratego. But the existence of other Chinese games like Luzhanqi, with its unambiguous modern origns, makes it more likely that Dou Shou Qi is also modern, perhaps itself inspired by Stratego.
The game is played on a board of nine rows of seven squares, shown in the diagram. There are two lakes on the board, and a den at each end. Surrounding the den are traps. The game is won by the player who first places a piece into the enemy's den. Each player has eight pieces, shown here as numbers, representing: 1=rat, 2=cat, 3=dog, 4=wolf, 5=leopard, 6=tiger, 7=lion, 8=elephant.
All pieces move in the same way, to an adjacent square along a row or column (that is, not diagonally). Most creatures are excluded from the water. Only the rat can swim, moving across the water in the same way as across the land. The lion and tiger, if starting adjacent to the water, may jump over the intervening water squares to land on the opposite shore, as long as no rat is in any of the intervening squares.
Pieces are captured by landing on them, as in chess. A piece may only capture an enemy of equal or lower rank. The exception is the rat, which can capture the elephant (apparently by entering its ear and eating its brain). Rats cannot, however, capture upon immediately leaving the water. Captures may only be made from the land. A piece may capture any enemy that is sitting in one of the trap squares, no matter what the ranks of the pieces.
This game is sometimes regarded in China as a children's game, though it is of pure strategy and has depth enough to keep a pair of adults amused.