Friday, 5 June 2015
Chessmen Of Four Worlds
On Wayland, in Poul Anderson's A Circus Of Hells, when an intelligent computer plays chess against itself, the large, robotic pieces fight for possession of squares.
On Barsoom, in ERB's The Chessmen Of Mars, jetan pieces (with 100, not 64, squares) take each other, except when the game is played with armed men who fight to the death.
On Zho'da, in SM Stirling's In The Courts Of The Crimson Kings, dice determine which atanj piece wins the fight for a square.
Thus, atanj combines skill with chance. Players can agree to throw dice on whether a Coercive piece will defect but we are also told that not exercising Coercives increases the odds of their defection - as if they had a mind of their own? Atanj also seems to include some role play. Three threes on the dice give the paratroops in a Flier Transport time to emerge and capture the Chief Coercive whose square they have invaded. Three ones mean that the paratroops have persuaded the Chief Coercive to turn against his Despot.
By moving together to another square, the Flier Transport and the defected Chief Coercive confront the Despot who must therefore either restore Sh'u Maz or abdicate. In the game described, he abdicates. Thus, the other Despot has proved his superior fitness both to perpetuate his lineage and to establish Sustained Harmony. Atanj pieces include Coercives, Clandestines, Blockade, Boycott, Flier Transport and Despot.
Barsoom and Zho'da are two fictional versions of Mars.