4 August 2018

Tides of War

Tides of War is a board game originally coming from the Utabi region, or specifically the countries of K'lach and Jarjuna. In its current design, it's only about a hundred years old, though with roots much older than that. Tides of War is actually the name it is known under outside of Utabi. In K'lach, it is called Valley of Varya, while the jarjuna call it Varian Massacre. You can probably guess who won the battle this game emulates.

Varya is a border river between K'lach and Jarjuna, running through a shallow valley northwards to the Inner Sea. The valley is overlooked by two small trade towns who both claimed the right of exclusive use of the river trade route. Considering the difficulty of using the alternate overland trade route through the dunes of the great red desert, plus the political instability of the given time and place, an armed conflict was inevitable. The battle was quick, bloody and completely in vain.

While historians argue about the actual aggressor and reasons for the ensuing war, the truth is that disagreement between two tiny border towns was as good an excuse as any, the battle was insignificant in the long run, and all of this is remembered mostly because of the board game the incident inspired.

Red desert of Utabi

The Rules

The game is played on a six by six square board, with two players seated diagonally opposite. Each player controls one colour of stones. White stones represent the jarjunian military, while black stones represent the mercenary army of emperor H'ruth of K'lach. White moves first, then players alternate moves. Making a move is required; it is not legal to skip a move, even when having to move is detrimental.

Initial setup: 14 stones on both sides.
Also note the two towns in corners and
the river (vacant squares in diagonal).

The corner square closest to each player is special. It is called the town and the game ends when an enemy stone manages to enter the town, thus conquering it. The other way to end the game is to capture all enemy stones, also called a massacre.

The player cannot move her own stones into her town, only enemy stones can enter it. Thus it is imperative to prevent enemy stones from breaking through or bypassing allied stones.

Example of moves: Blue is a basic move.
Red is a way in which white can capture two
black stones and win the game in one turn.

All stones can move one square horizontally, vertically, or diagonally onto a vacant square. Capturing is done by jumping over an adjacent enemy stone onto a vacant square. If capturing an enemy stone brings the allied stone to a position where it could capture another enemy stone, it may do so and continue capturing until there are no more valid jumps to do.

Black conquered the white town.


Why the smaller board and not a normal chess board?
Because chess board is bigger. If you filled it with playing stones in the same vein as above, each player would have 27 stones instead of 14. That would make the game slower, longer and (IMHO) less fun.

Hey, I cannot move without giving the other player a chance to jump me! That's stupid!
No, that's the point. There are way too many stones on a small board and you are expected to sacrifice some of your stones to achieve victory. You have more than enough stones to win the game. Don't be shy to loose some. Do you need some more space to manoeuvre? Sacrifice a stone! This is a game about a massacre, after all.

Goading your opponent to jump some of your stones can actually be quite useful. Be clever and make him jump where you want him to be. Just be careful not to let him jump more of your stones than you'd like.

My stones were arranged in such a way that the other player jumped six of them in one turn and won! What to do?
That's OK, this game is supposed to be quick and easy to loose if you overlook something. Play two out of three, or first to get five victories.

Do I have to capture when I have the opportunity?
No, and neither you have to continue capturing multiple times if there is the opportunity. Deciding when, if and how many stones to capture is part of the strategy for this game.

And how should I use this in a RPG?
The players can win or loose some gp in a tavern. Maybe a grumpy old man will only answer your questions if you beat him in a game. Some nobles like to discuss important matters over a game and a glass of wine, because simply speaking is too uncivilised. Or you can just play it for fun.

Any other questions? Ask and ye shall receive answers!

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