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Congo. Animals fight on 7 by 7 board. (7x7, Cells: 49) [All Comments] [Add Comment or Rating]
Fergus Duniho wrote on 2021-03-15 UTC

This is Sam Trenholme. If you have a chance, please update my email address

I have now done that.

Sam T wrote on 2021-03-15 UTCExcellent ★★★★★

I have, as per Freeling’s comment, made a number of variants to Congo to address the issues brought up:

  • To address the fact Congo looks drawish, I have adopted the “Ko Rule” in my variant: Someone who repeats a previous position in a game loses. This eliminates draws.
  • To address the issue with river drownings making attacks harder, I have made the A, B, F, and G files of the rivers have “islands”: While the crocodile can move like normal on these squares, other pieces will not drown.
  • I have made the pawns stronger: A pawn can not retreat until it is promoted on the 7th rank; on the other hand, pawns across the river can now move and capture sideways. A promoted pawn is more powerful: It can move or capture to any space one or two squares away (like Chess, a promoted pawn should win unless it can be recaptured quickly)
  • I have made the elephants able to move forward like a Shogi Lance. They can also only move backwards one square.
  • I have changed the opening setup from GMELECZ to ZCELECZ, removing the Monkey and Giraffe, and having a second Zebra (Knight) and Crocodile. This way, the game can be played with an ordinary chess board and pieces.

In my Zillions-vs-Zillions testing, the games are never draws, and Black wins more often once we give Zillions 30 or more seconds to think through a move.

My changes can be seen here:

Look in the folder “Congo”. Full rules for this variant, along with multiple possible opening setups, is here:

Out of respect for the copyright included with the Zillions implementation of Congo, I am not distributing a modified version of the Congo zrf. Instead, I am distributing the original version, along with a Linux/Cygwin script to change Congo to have another .zrf with the modified rules. I have also made from scratch board artwork representing the new river with islands.

(Admin: This is Sam Trenholme. If you have a chance, please update my email address to be “pbm” in the domain “” so I can reset my password).

Zachary Wade wrote on 2017-06-24 UTC

Here is one of the sets I have. The animals were bought in a hardware store in Ireland, and the board was drawn on A2 paper.

The counters were bought online very cheap because I needed some for my chu shogi set. I also have a smaller set just using the counters.

Zachary Wade wrote on 2017-06-23 UTC

Here is one of the sets I have. The animals were bought in a hardware store in Ireland, and the board was drawn on A2 paper.

The counters were bought online very cheap because I needed some for my chu shogi set. I also have a smaller set just using the counters.

Zachary Wade wrote on 2017-06-18 UTC

Thanks Ben, I appreciate it.

Ben Reiniger wrote on 2017-06-18 UTC

I've edited the footer to include a link to the comment listing when on mobile.

Zachary Wade wrote on 2017-06-13 UTC

Okay thank you. Is there anyway to view these comments without being on a desktop?

Greg Strong wrote on 2017-06-13 UTC

I have moved this comment chain to the Congo page.  When discussing games, please post on the game's page so that people will be able to find it in the future.

Zachary Wade wrote on 2017-06-12 UTC

Another thing I've realised is that even though it looks similar to chess and Xiang qi, the ideas are different.

In xiangqi many of the pieces are weaker and can be blocked, such as the knight and cannon. However the pieces in Congo are a lot stronger and can't really be blocked. Even though there are no real long range pieces, most of the pieces are strong in the short range. The only piece that can really be shut out is the monkey. But the monkey still has a kings move with a different taking move. 

A similar theme with xiangqi however, is that there is often a sort of standoff between the pawns on either side of the river. In Congo the board is small and often there are lots of pawn trades. In xiangqi, often these standoffs will only be resolved in perpetration for the end game. Often in Xiangqi a chariot is moved up to defend the rank before the river to prevent pieces such as pawns from landing on that line. In Congo, the crocodile has its strongest powers of movement when patrolling the river performing a similar task.

One of the main differences between Congo and International chess is the strengths of the pieces. In chess, you have a long range diagonal slider, a long range orthogonal slider, and a combination of the two which are respectively the bishop, rook and queen. In Congo, the maximum distance any piece can move is 2 spaces away (with the exception of the monkey when taking, and the crocodile moving too or along the river).

Zachary Wade wrote on 2017-06-11 UTC

More observations from over the board games I've been playing.

Mostly the openings of the games try and introduce the crocodile to the game. Other common early themes are many pawn moves at the beginning to different formation on the riverbank and then using the crocodile or zebra/giraffe. After some or all of these pieces have been moved, effort is made to introduce the monkey, or some pawn trades are made. Usually the late game is some pawns promoting on an edge file. 

In most games it's difficult to introduce the elephant before the midgame, at least in any meaningful way.

Zachary Wade wrote on 2017-06-11 UTC

That's perfectly fine Nick 😊 I've worked out the promotion command on my own anyway. Good luck with the move and no rush. I just keep adding to this thread in the hope that it will help future Congo players anyway.

Nick Wolff wrote on 2017-06-11 UTC

Hi Zach, Sorry I haven't been active on our game.  We are in the process of a large move and just got done flying back to the home we are moving from.  I'll answer your question and make a move tomorrow.


Zachary Wade wrote on 2017-06-10 UTC

Thank you, just a quick question. As this game has no enforced rules, what is the command I'd need to use to promote?

its difficult to know when to trade pieces in this game as I'm not sure which is stronger. I think that a good starting point would be to say that they have this order:

  • Crocodile
  • Monkey
  • Giraffe/Knight
  • Superpawn
  • Elephant
  • Pawn

Nick Wolff wrote on 2017-06-08 UTC

The preset is not a rule enforcing preset.  If you want to move the monkey to the final spot it is going to, remove the pieces jumped by typing the square and then the minus sign (ex. a1-) and then type the path in the comments section that the monkey took, everything shoudl work out.  By the way, multiple moves and captures should be separated by a semi colon.

Ex. a1-a5; a2-; a4-;

Zachary Wade wrote on 2017-06-08 UTC

It appears that the game courier version will not let the monkey make multiple captures? Is there a way to make this happen? 

Zachary Wade wrote on 2017-06-08 UTC

Yes that sounds great. I think that the pawns may be a bit too strong? And the drowning rule can prevent early interaction, however it is interesting and very playable.


Nick Wolff wrote on 2017-06-08 UTC

I didn't even know this game existed and it shares a lot of similarities of a game that I invented, so I shot out an open invite to play it.  Maybe I could provide some strategy feedback after a game.

Zachary Wade wrote on 2017-06-08 UTC

I recently started playing Congo and was just wondering if anyone had some good ideas for the strategy? Looking at the game a little, it seems that the strongest opening moves are to move Pf-g3 to give the crocodile a path to the river, Pe-d3 to open some squares for the crocodile and zebra or to just move some pawns to the rank nearest the river to defend against enemy crocodiles.

For me, I think that the crocodile is the strongest piece and should be moved to the river early, and the giraffe is a strong piece which can help pawn promotion on the first file. Promoting pawns on the a- and g-files would be the easiest and give you the super strong promoted pawn. A good strategical idea is to keep your monkey in an edge rank to help to defend it against your opponents monkey.

A good tactical idea is the use of the drowning rule. If an opponent pushes a pawn into the river, just use a different pawn to attack your opponents crocodile/pawn/whichever piece they have that would be easily attacked. It means you can harass their prices and cause their pieces to drown.

From the games that I've played, it seems that crocodiles are important early on along with giraffes and pawns. A good strategy is then to try and promote an edge pawn and commit your elephants to defence, and in the endgame, try and get your monkey near the king. 

I'd like to hear what people think, and what strategies you have.

Is anyone playing Congo? 



christian freeling wrote on 2015-01-07 UTC
Go right ahead, it's my son's game and neither of us has given it a whole lot of attention lately. Chess variants are arbitrary anyway, not so much games you might 'discover' but games you might 'assemble' with a fair amount of freedom of choice regarding boards and pieces. That's why there are so many of them.

Georg Spengler wrote on 2015-01-07 UTC
Well, I see now that i'm not the only one who noticed the river problem. Maybe the idea with the two islands is good. also the elephant being allowed to stay (but not to move I guess) in the river.  Both changes combined may work, at least it would increase the variability of gameplay

christian freeling wrote on 2015-01-07 UTC
I see your point, and Congo is indeed a childrens' game in more than one sense. Playing it against me would prove nothing however. I'm an inventor and wired differently from a player. At Chess variants I'd have to work hard to reach 'bad', never mind mediocre. So a game between us would not amount to much of a proof of decisiveness :) . I'm glad you upgraded it though, and I thank you for delving into it.

Georg Spengler wrote on 2015-01-05 UTCAverage ★★★

Georg Spengler wrote on 2015-01-05 UTC
I thought that over now. I try to describe the problems I observed with this game in detail.

To have a piece and a lion against a lion in the endgame you must happen to get one piece ahead somewhere in the course of the game. Exactly that turns out not to be so easy. Of course you can win a piece by some hidden combination or by blunder of your opponent, but in serious gameplay tactical possibilities usually occur if you first got some strategical advantage. But to get such an advantage this game offers little opportunity. It may be allways possible to outplsy the opponent tactically, but to be playable games like this must offer ways to outplay the opponent strategically, too.

The problems begin as soon as one player tries to pass the river. The river in itself creates a great advantage for the defender, so trying to pass it usually ends up in trading off the pieces ivolved. This goes on until most of the pieces are traded and the remaining armies on both sides are not strong enough to defend the lion on one side and still run a powerful attack on the other side. If you haven't got a certain advantage during the river fights the game is dead now, but to get such an advantage I couldn't find any strategy. Though that doesn't mean that there is none.

But I'm sorry to have called it a flawn game. I would increse my rating by 1 step, but I don*t no how to change it.

Georg Spengler wrote on 2015-01-04 UTC
I really tried many games some time ago. This situation never happened. As soon as the number of pieces was reduced, it ended in a deadline.

Anyway, I would love to be wrong. I for my part would be ready to see my theory challenged by playing a game at the MindArena.

christian freeling wrote on 2015-01-04 UTC
@Georg Spengler.

In Congo a Lion and any piece will win against a lone Lion. In that light I find your observation remarkable.

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