David Parlett's Katarenga games
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KATARENGA

A chess-flavoured board game for two
Katarenga consists of a variable board, 16 pawns (eight black, eight white), and associated rules of movement. They can be used for playing a variety of games. The basic game is described below. Others will be gradually added to these pages when the first is better known. Katarenga is published by Huch Spiele and was first shown at Spiel Essen in October 2017.

Katarenga is played on an 8x8 board, with 16 squares in each of four different colours, plus eight black and eight white pawns.

For each game Typical opening array a board (left) is newly constructed from four double-sided asymmetrical quarterboards randomly arranged to form any one of 24,576 different whole boards. Katarenga quarterboards

Shown at right are the individual quarterboards. The lower four are the reverse sides (and mirror-images) of those immediately above.

Pawn movement

A pawn's move depends on the colour of the square it currently occupies. Katarenga moves

On a red square it moves in a straight line horizontally or vertically, like a rook at chess. It may travel any distance up to but not beyond the next red square it comes to (see diagrams right and below left).

On a yellow square it moves in a straight line diagonally, like a bishop at chess. It may travel any distance up to but not beyond the next yellow square it comes to (see diagrams right and below left).

On a green square Possible opening moves it moves like a chess knight - that is, from one corner to the diagonally opposite corner of any block of 3x2 squares.

On a blue square it moves like a chess king - that is, to any orthogonally or diagonally adjacent square.

It may not pass over an occupied square, except when moving knightwise. Nor may it land on a square occupied by a pawn of its own colour. If it lands on a pawn of the opposite colour it captures and removes it from the board. Illustrated (above) are all possible opening moves from Black's green and blue squares and White's red and yellow squares.

Object of the game

A variety of games can be played with the same board and rules of movement. In the basic game, Katarenga, your aim is to get two of your pawns across the board from your baseline (the row nearest you) to your opponent's baseline (opposite). Having got a pawn home you then, if it is not captured, in a subsequent turn move it over the edge and position it on one of the two decorated squares in the corner. The corners are referred to as enemy camps in the published rules, which offer a gratuitous background story about two opposing armies in the Persian Empire around 3000BCE trying to send two spies a cross to the enemy camp. (The title Katarenga vaguely suggests Chaturanga, the Indian ancestor of Chess, aka Chatrang in Persian.)

Starting

Place all four quarterboards in the board frame. Each can go either way up and any way round, so producing a different overall pattern for each game or session. Agree who will play White and who Black. Black examines the board, chooses which of the four possible baselines to start from, rotates the board so as to position it immediately in front of them, and sets up the eight black pawns along it. White does likewise on the opposite side, and makes the first move.

Play

You each in turn move any one of your pawns in accordance with the rules of movement and capture as described above, but note that you may not capture on your first move (though few board arrangements make this possible anyway).

When you land a pawn on the opposite baseline it is still vulnerable to capture. So long as it remains uncaptured you can use a later turn to carry it to safety over the edge of the board, though you may, if you wish, move it back into the playing area. Once taken off the board it is placed in one of the two enemy camps.

The game ends as soon as one player wins either by getting a second pawn home and onto the other enemy camp, or by capturing seven or all eight opposing pawns - or, of course, by acknowledging the opponent's resignation. You may consider it a double win if you get two home before your opponent has got one.

Match play

In order to ensure that the first player didn't win because of a more favourable initial board configuration, you should then turn the whole board through 180 degrees and play again with the Black having the first move, so playing from exactly the same position as White did in the first game. In subsequent games you may like to give the board a quarter-turn to produce a new pair of starting positions.

Linked notes

How many possible configurations? The first quarterboard may be placed either way up in and any of four different orientations, giving eight possible patterns for the first quarter. The same applies to each of the others, making 8^4 or 4096 patterns in all. But then each one of the four may be placed in any of six different positions relative to the other three - viz. ABCD, ABDC, ACBD, ACDB, ADBC, ADCB circularly from any given corner. Then 6 x 4096 = 24,576. The fact that the whole board may be placed with either pair of opposite sides as baselines doubles the number of opening arrays to 49,152. As a matter of interest, it's possible to design a fifth quarter-board with an arrangement on each side different from any of the others. It took me some time to decide which of the five to omit. (Return)

Why not capture on the first move? Because some configurations (red squares at opposite ends of the same column, or two yellows in diagonally opposite corners uninterrupted by a third) make it possible for the first player to home a pawn by capturing on the first move without danger of immediate recapture. Prohibiting initial capture seems neater than forbidding such configurations. (Return)

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