David Parlett's Katarenga games
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A chess-flavoured board game for two
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Katarenga consists of a variable board, 16 pawns, and rules of movement derived from Chess. The basic game is described below. You can see demos of it on YouTube in English or German. Other games playable with the same equipment are linked to above. There are more, and you can invent variations of your own.
Katarenga is published by Huch Spiele and distributed in UK and France by Asmodee: see FindYourGameStore.

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

Typical opening array Variable quarterboard    
For each game a board (left) is newly constructed from four double-sided asymmetrical quarterboards randomly arranged to form thousands of different whole boards.

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

How pawns move

A pawn moves according to the colour of the square it's on.

Possible opening moves From red, it moves like a rook (any distance but not beyond the next red square in line).
From yellow, it moves like a bishop (any distance but not beyond the next yellow square in line).
From green, it moves like a knight.
From blue, it moves like a king.
It captures by replacement (as at Chess). (see diagrams right and below left).

Object of the game

In "Katarenga", the basic game, you aim to get any 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.)


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.


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 on your first move you may not capture an opposing pawn from its home rank. (Why not?)

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, when one player resigns. 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. (Return)

Why not capture on the first move? Illegal captures Because some configurations (red squares at opposite ends of the same column, or two diagonally opposite yellows, as illustrated) would otherwise permit a homing capture on the first move. This would be at best inelegant and at worst unfair. Prohibiting initial capture seems neater than forbidding such configurations. (Return)