These are structured multi-move abstract strategy games of battle between 2 players or teams of players. The games use a leadership system to control the players' armies. Players choose up to 4 leaders to be active in a turn. Each leader may then move itself, or order any one friendly piece 1 or 2 squares away, that hasn't moved yet this turn, to move. Each game is won by capturing enemy leaders. It takes roughly 45 minutes to play, but this can vary either way.


The basic design is a variant of Chieftain, a game I designed in 2005. There is one other game I know of that uses the number of royal pieces to determine the number of pieces moved per turn. Frank Lange uses 6 kings per side in Megachess [copyright 1994, 1999] with the rule that each player can move as many pieces as there are friendly kings.

The original shortrange chess game most of us were exposed to was Edgar Rice Burrough's Jetan. I read the John Carter on Mars series about age 10-12 or so, and thought Jetan was a great game idea. While I never consciously thought of Jetan in the design of these games, I have to believe that Jetan planted a seed in my unconscious that grew into part of my thinking about shortrange games in general. With the previous game of this series in particular, Lemurian Shatranj, I am lucky to not have re-designed a Jetan piece, especially as they are envisioned by LL Smith. Finally, I would like to thank Mike Nelson and George Duke for pointing out the correspondences between games.

The particular rules set used and the first scenario were suggested by Joshua DeBonis, a game design consultant with whom I played a game of Warlord.


wgeneral2.gif - the Leader. It slides 1 or 2 squares. It may not jump. It may change direction during its move, but may not move back to the square it started from. The leader captures any piece it lands on, stopping its move on that square. It has the special power of activating pieces so they may move. This is the piece that actually controls your army, by giving orders to move to all the other pieces. See Activation. This piece may move to (up to) 24 squares.

bcavalry.gif - Heavy Cavalry. These pieces move up to 3 squares orthogonally only, that is, in a straight line and only through the sides of the squares. They may freely jump any pieces in their way, having no effect on the pieces jumped. This piece may move to (up to) 12 squares.

wcannon_north.gif - the Cannon. This is the diagonal version of the Heavy Cavalry. It moves up to 3 squares, diagonally only, and in a straight line. It may freely jump any 2 pieces, friendly or enemy, to land on the 3rd square. This piece may move to (up to) 12 squares.

bknight.gif - Light Cavalry. This piece leaps 2 squares from its starting point, and lands on a square of the opposite color from that which it started on, like the knight in chess. It may jump over other pieces. This piece may move to (up to) 8 squares.

wgeneral.gif - Infantry - Infantry steps 1 square in any direction, to any of the 8 adjacent squares.



The game ends when all 6 Leaders of one color are captured.
For a shorter game, end when one side has captured 3 enemy Leaders, unless the opponent can immediately re-capture the 3rd friendly Leader on the next turn. In that case, continue until one player has captured more enemy Leaders than the opponent can capture back in that opponent's immediately following player turn.


All pieces capture by replacement. A unit may only capture 1 piece per turn, and must legally end its move on the square of the capture.

  • Each player may move up to 4 different pieces per turn.
  • A player may never move more pieces than that player has Leaders.
  • No piece may move more than once in a turn.
  • No piece is required to move. A player may pass a turn. If the opponent then also passes, the game is a draw.
  • Pieces are moved one at a time, in any order desired by the owning player.
  • All moves must be legal when they are made.
  • Pieces [except Leaders] may not move under their own power. They must be activated by a Leader to move.
  • No piece may ever move unless it is activated by a Leader which has to be within 2 squares of it at the start of its move. The Leader that activates it may have been activated and moved to that spot earlier in the same turn.
  • An activated piece may move outside the 2-square activation range of the Leader which activated it, or any friendly Leader's activation range.
  • A Leader may activate only 1 piece per turn, including itself or another Leader.
  • No piece may be activated or move more than once per turn.
  • Once a piece has finished its move, it becomes inactive again. It cannot move in a subsequent turn without being re-activated by a Leader.
  • Leaders may activate only pieces of their own color.
Special cannon repositioning move:

Whenever a cannon and a leader are orthogonally next to each other, they may exchange squares as 1 action during the turn. Neither piece may do anything else that turn. Use of this rule must be agreed upon before the beginning of the game.

Optional Rule

The knight pieces may self-activate. They may act as leaders that can only activate themselves. Their activations don't count against any leaders they happen to be in command control range of, but the activation does count against the total of 4 activations per turn. This was first suggested by Richard Hutnik. Playtesting by Dave Bennett demonstrated this works well as an option.


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Warlord Scenario 1: A Clash of Arms


Warlord Scenario 2: Battle Line


Warlord Scenario 3: Civil War


Warlord: the River Scenarios

Discussion: The physical gameboard is made in 4 sections, 2 8x8 and 2 4x8, which slide together to make the different boards. It is possible to create a "river" or "lake" in the center of the board by connecting the 2 8x8 sections with non-adjacent 4x8 sections. Topologically, this makes all the games related to circular chess, with the good and the bad points of that type of game. And some of the board set-ups will not be symmetric. But it does provide the potential for interesting tactics and strategy.

Optional Rule

The existence of "water" on a board allows 2 possibilities. The default rule is that no piece may ever cross a "water" square. However, the following scenario, Lakes, has "water" that is only 2 squares across. Players may decide, before the game, to allow pieces whose range would take them across the water to go to the other side. Leaders and infantry may never cross water. The other pieces may be allowed to do so.

Warlord Scenario 5: Lakes

+++l Scenario: Lakes 2 - Level 2 Leaders
Level 2 leaders may activate 1 or 2 pieces per turn. They do not, however, add to the total number of activations allowed/turn.

Scenario: A Test of Wills

Discussion: This scenario uses a very large board, 12x20, and 32 pieces/side. It features free, hidden set-up. First player may be determined before or after setup is complete.


Leaders 2x Level 3; 3x Level 2; 3x Level 1 - total 8 Leaders
Heavy Cavalry/Tank x4
Cannon/Artillery x4
Light Cav/Skirmishers x4
Infantry x12


  • Players sit across from each other along the long sides of the board.
  • Divide the board evenly into 4x4 sections. There will be 3 rows of 5 4x4 sections, 1 row in front of each player, and 1 row across the middle of the board.
  • The middle row of 4x4 sections is neutral territory. Neither side may set up in that row.
  • Set a visual barrier up across the middle of the board so the players cannot see each other or how the pieces are being set up.
  • Players must set up in any 4 of the 5 4x4 sections in front of them.
  • Each of the 4 board sections must have 2 leaders and 6 non-leader units placed anywhere within their 16 squares.


  • Leaders with numbers may activate up to that many pieces, rather than just one piece.
  • (Leaders with no number may only activate 1 piece, themselves.)
  • Light cavalry/skirmishers are self activating.
  • Players may activate up to 8 units in a turn.
  • The game ends when one player no longer has enough leaders left to activate 8 units.


  • All non-open terrain blocks movement through it, but not into or out of it.
  • * Exception: Leaders. Leaders move through all terrain as if it were open.
  • Tanks/Heavy Cavalry and Artillery/Cannons cannot move to or capture any enemy unit in a square that is "behind" a terrain square.
  • Skirmishers may move past or "around" 1 square of terrain as if it weren't there, but 2 or more terrain squares side by side will block a skirmisher.
  • Tanks/Heavy Cavalry may not move into trees, so may never capture a unit in trees.
  • Artillery/Cannon may not move onto hills, so may never capture a unit on a hill.
  • Tanks/Heavy Cav must stop next to a town or hill before moving into those terrain squares.
  • Artillery/Cannon must stop next to a town or trees before moving into those terrain squares.
  • Tanks/Heavy Cav and Artillery/Cannon may only move into terrain from an immediately adjacent square that they started the turn in. It takes their entire movement to enter a terrain square.

Scenario: Border War

This is a very large scenario with terrain. The board is 16x24, and the players sit by the long sides. The players have 48 pieces each. Players move 12 pieces/turn. First player may be determined before or after setup is complete.


Leaders Players choose leaders freely and secretly, with these 2 restrictions:
Each player must choose exactly 12 leaders.
The total value of the 12 leaders must add to 21 points.
Heavy Cavalry/Tank x4
Cannon/Artillery x4
Light Cav/Skirmishers x6
Infantry x16
An additional 6 non-leader units are freely and secretly chosen.


  • Players sit across from each other along the long sides of the board.
  • The middle 8x24 board rows are the disputed territory. Neither side may set up in those rows
  • There are 4 towns set up in the disputed area, with mirror symmetry. Two of the towns are set up 4 squares from the short (non-player) sides of the board, and the other two are set up 6 squares apart in the middle of the board. Stagger their setup, with alternating towns being closer to each player's side. Place no towns closer than 6 squares to the players (long) sides of the board.
  • Spread about 7-8 forests and 7-8 hills kind of randomly, but more or less evenly across the middle 8 rows, the disputed territory, so neither side has an obvious disadvantage or advantage.
  • Players secretly separate their units into 3 armies, each army having 4 leaders and 12 combat units.
  • A privacy screen is placed across the middle of the board to ensure each player's setup is hidden.
  • Each player's armies are set up in the 4x24 strip of board closest to that player.
  • One army is freely and secretly placed in each corner, in a 4x4 square.
  • The final army is secretly and freely placed in the middle 4x4 square.


  • Leaders with numbers may activate up to that many pieces, rather than just one piece.
  • (Leaders with no number may only activate 1 piece, themselves.)
  • Light cavalry/skirmishers are self activating.
  • Players may activate up to 12 units in a turn.
  • All terrain rules are used.
  • The game ends when one player no longer has enough leaders left to activate 12 other units. That player loses. Promoted leaders and skirmishers do not count, as they may only self-activate, and cannot activate other units.
  • The game ends when one player has a unit in 3 of the 4 towns at the beginning of his/her turn. That player wins.
  • Optional: The game may end when one player has lost 6 original leader units, of any value. That player loses.
  • Suggested: It is suggested the optional promotion rules be used in this scenario.

Optional Rule


Dropped as unnecessary and distracting after further playtesting. The basic purpose of having goal squares which must be defended is fulfilled by the town terrain features.
With the agreement of both players, any infantry and/or skirmishers that reach the opposite side of the board are promoted to un-numbered leaders. These newly-promoted leaders may only activate themselves, never any other piece, but move and capture as leaders.

This image courtesy of Christian Sperling, konsum24 on BoardGameGeek.


The Border War scenario was first played with Dave Bennett the evening of 8/16/12, lasted about 2 hours, and actually worked better than hoped for. I finally feel I've achieved a major part of my goal. I believe Border War is a "proof of concept" for a chess-wargame fusion that is easy to learn, with only a handful or two of simple rules, and that portrays a wide range of the behaviors desired in a wargame.

All of these games are scalable, but there is a learning curve. It's probably best to progress through the listed scenarios to get the feel for the game and how to deal with multiple but limited piece movements each turn. Each scenario is quite a fierce battle in its own right, and is only a "learning game" in the sense that the series tends to go from smaller to larger and offer more complex situations as it goes along. Well, to be honest, each scenario, in order, was/is a learning game for me, because I learned what the game was capable of in designing each game in turn. And it has actually come out where I wanted it to, which is surprising [amazing!] for me, and as good as or better than I hoped.

Copied from a comment I first made on BoardGameGeek:
This is a progress report on my recent ups and downs. Lately I've run dry on playtesters, but have done some solo testing on 24x24 and 16x36 boards.


The 24x24 featured doubled terrain concentrated not so much in the middle of the board but away from the edges. I looked a little at blocking terrain, as an orthogonal line of mountains will block artillery, and a diagonal line of trees will block armor. So I set up a few spots with blocking or near-blocking terrain, and the rest just close but individual terrain squares. The single 2-square "mountain range" on the board had a major effect, as it was between 2 highly contested cities. Terrain was spread around "fake randomly": pretty evenly but not symmetric and randomly choosing tree or hill at each non-town location. Towns are always symmetric, so far at least, or as close to it as possible - the 16 x 36 had 9 towns running rather zigzag lengthwise down the board.

At this juncture, I should say I am somewhat sloppy in my phraseology on occasion. So, definitions: town = city; tree = forest; hill = mountain; armor = tank = heavy cavalry - same piece movement; artillery = cannon; skirmisher = light cavalry = commando.

Discussion: Towns are set up symmetrically because I am concerned about fairness in the games. Extensive discussions I've had recently on first move advantage in chess here and at, particularly with HG Muller, have made me very aware of exact placement of pieces and goal squares in relation to turn order. It has just (consciously, and I see why I've been blocking it) occurred to me that the problems of this game are a combination of the problems of chess and of wargames. gulp I can only hope the combination is essentially additive rather than multiplicative. My intuition is the towns should be placed symmetrically to start, as the game is in an expansion phase - literally, as I do see the ultimate size as in the 40x60, 50x50 range - no larger scenario than 100x100 (okay 120x120 for the fanatics, because I know exactly how that goes! blush) Incoming pieces are being set up in 4x4 blocks along the edge, rather than some being on board and the rest coming in right on the edge during the game, and the 2 sides are placed symmetrically, blockwise, but free placement within the blocks. This is still a chess-like set up on a small board, so goal placement pretty much seems to need to be symmetric.

The terrain set up is much looser, like I said, fake random. I do notice that a little care should be taken with placement, so one side is not significantly more blocked than the other, but after you've done your set up, you can check access, and if necessary, move a terrain square or two over a bit. Again, I think this is a function of small size and chesslike piece entry. But there is no real problem with the fake random hills and trees set up even here. With a significantly larger board, I believe all terrain, including towns, can be set up fake randomly without major effect on fairness.


All the large scenarios have been set up as meeting engagements. The Valley War scenario was played for 23 turns before the larger world dictated it end. The 64 pieces/side, including 12 leaders, were brought on board in diagonally opposite corners in 4x4 blocks of 16 units, including 3 leaders, on turns 1, 6, 12, and 20. Each player started at 9 activations/turn, then moved up to 18 by about turn 10. The original plan was to bring them in on turns 1, 5, 10, and 15, with replacements starting on turn 20. But with limited movement, a race developed very quickly between the lead elements of each army, and each side left several less valuable pieces behind, which clogged up the entry area, delaying reinforcements. It really didn't seem to make any difference to the flow of the game, but it was clumsy. And by the time the replacements were able to start coming in around turn 25, they were needed, as both armies were thinning out considerably as they spread across the board.

Victory goes to the first player who occupies 5 of the 8 cities at the beginning of that player's turn. Four of the cities were clumped in the middle of the board, and the other 4 were in the corners. Both Red and Blue sent about half their opening force toward the middle, each grabbing another city on the way, and pushed a few units along the sides of the board toward the 2 remaining corners. Red had the better of it in the early going, surprising Blue with an all-out attack which threw Blue out of Blue's 2nd city with a few more units lost than Red.

But Red was overextended, and Blue was already moving up infantry behind the fast pieces losing in the center, and Blue also diverted the corner forces, taking out Red's spearhead and regaining their 2nd city. They drove Red right back to Red's 2nd city, and Blue meantime grabbed a 3rd city in the center. But Blue had made the same mistake that Red had, getting too far ahead of their infantry, and too close to Red's infantry. The attack that took Red's 2nd city and gave Blue a 4-1 advantage was Blue's high-water mark. Red swarmed Blue's center within 2 turns. Which was good, because Blue grabbed a corner city just after, making the score 4-2 in favor of Blue. They had almost won, and gotten even with Red in total casualties. At least for a turn or two.

Blue dropped back into a defensive line but lost an extra unit doing so, leaving Red, so close to their own entry area, nearly double the size in that area. Red used 10-12 of the 18 activation points in that area 2 turns in a row, and destroyed Blue's line there utterly, leaving a gaping hole in Blue's left flank that contained a substantial Red army, but gaining no advantage in units during that battle. Blue set up a last-ditch defense at the "mountain range" that had proved so beneficial earlier, as Red moved up faster than Blue could send reinforcements. Then Blue saw a flaw in Red's disposition, and launched a pre-emptive attack, gaining some pieces and ground in the attack. Red, suddenly desperate, sacrificed a leader in the counterattack which swept Blue from the mountain stronghold, but which did not pick up any extra units from combat. The main axis of the battle had rotated 45 degrees from the beginning of the game, leaving the now-occupied far-corner towns behind enemy lines. And that's as far as I got in that game.

Discussion: The preceding was the main action during the game, but a couple other things went on that I haven't described. Every few moves, one side would pause in the attack and frantically move up infantry from the back toward the front. And when one side did this, generally so did the other, seeing a good opportunity to advance reinforcements without getting too hurt. The far-corner towns both drew a few 2 or 3 piece details from each side to contest ownership with lots of maneuvering on the edges of the main battle, and occasional straightforward charges directly into the town when the advantage was sufficient. Generally, though, pieces tended to get maneuvered out of the town by a slight shift in the main lines, only to see the lines shift another way in a turn or two.

The terrain density now seems to be better. I was repeatedly surprised by the way terrain dictated tactics, and influenced strategy. It seems 10% - 30% terrain, including towns, works nicely. Less, and it's too open and the game devolves into an almost pure slugfest with minimal tactics. With more, I expect the game would slow down noticeably unless the equivalent of roads were added.

I experimented a few times with using the entire value of each leader, but at the sizes used so far, it seems that using about 60% of the total leader value works a little better. I did notice that on the 16x36, with just 5 leaders/side and small armies, that using the total leader values seemed to work decently. I'm in the process of shrinking the game components 50% in length and 75% in area, so I can get even a 48x72 on my game table. That's large enough to set up 2 countries, with tiny armies at each city or town. It'd likely last the weekend, but I think you would see some very interesting dynamics.

If I can get 2-3 scenarios above 24x24, ending with the huge one, and they work as well as I suspect they can, I believe all I would really need to do is figure out reasonable leader replacement and reinforcement rules, and that would give a pretty decent product.

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