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Ultima. Game where each type of piece has a different capturing ability. (8x8, Cells: 64) (Recognized!)[All Comments] [Add Comment or Rating]
H. G. Muller wrote on 2020-12-15 UTC

I thought Nebiyu Alien can play Ultima too. (Under the WinBoard Alien Edition.)

Kevin Pacey wrote on 2020-12-15 UTC

I'll take the opportunity here to point out that quite a while ago I noted, as a comment on this CV's preset intro page, that the preset for Ultima on Game Courier appears to have a bug now. Even just trying to issue an Ultima invitation results in an error message page that's filled with coding.

Greg Strong wrote on 2020-12-14 UTC

If you mean computer programs that can play it, there are two options I know of. Zillions-of-Games can play it. Also, an older version of ChessV can do it. I rewrote the program from scratch and the new version doesn't support Ultima yet, but you can download version 0.95 here (scroll to the bottom.)

tedav wrote on 2020-12-14 UTC

Does anyone know of any digital implementation of this ruleset?

KelvinFox wrote on 2020-10-06 UTC

A nightrider variant of this could be called Noctima

Kevin Pacey wrote on 2018-03-01 UTCExcellent ★★★★★

A seminal variant that perhaps deserves to be part of a seperate category (e.g. 'Ultima-style Variants') on a CVP menu somewhere.

TH6 wrote on 2017-03-18 UTCGood ★★★★

First, I wanted to say that my opponent handily outclassed me in our game.  I felt like every move of mine was a blunder. 

Aside from that heavy loss, I found the game very enjoyable.  I was definitely out of my element in this type of game, but the types of pieces really complimented each other and I see why this game gets a lot of correspondence and OTB traction.

Georg Spengler wrote on 2015-08-19 UTC
I said in a former comment:

"That may be the only ugly thing of this game: that the immobilizer is too important. As far as my experience goes, he is the central piece in every successful attack. Immobilize the king and capture it with the chameleon. I rarely succeeded in winning in any other way."

Since then I got crashed by Francis Fahys in a variety of ways, so I retract that this is a feature of the game. It is just my own lack of fantasy

Johnny Luken wrote on 2015-04-27 UTC
Of course one piece type may have several implementations.

Abbott created the Long Leaper as a piece restricted by consecutive opponent blocking.

There are several equally valid implementations;

Skewer (x, x', x', x', 0, 0) => (0, 0, 0, 0, x, 0)

which can capture consecutively but must land one place immediately after the last captured piece.

Skipper (x, 0, x', 0, x', 0, x', 0, 0) => (0, 0, 0, 0, 0, 0, 0, 0, x)

which captures consecutive equidistant opponents, landing beyond the last captured piece equal to their mutual distance.

Crazy Hopper (x, 0, x', 0, 0, 0, x', 0, 0) => (0, 0, 0, 0, 0, 0, 0, 0, x)

which captures pieces by landing an equal number of spaces behind them as it was in front of them, but has freedom to move 45 degress between captures. This piece is also the long ranged extension of the King from Turkish Draughts.

All degenerate to the Leaper primitive (x, x', 0) => (0, 0, x) in the simplest use case.

Johnny Luken wrote on 2015-04-26 UTC
Camerons Brownes "Phwar", invented in 2003, isn't mentioned alongside Rococo, Fugue or Maxima, and indeed doesn't have a CV entry at all, yet is probably one the purest Ultima variants I've seen.

Its played on a hexagonal board and all pieces have free (othogonal) movement.

It has no pawns, one Decider-a Neutron-that wins the game by accessing the central square, or loses it by being captured. It has two Officers-the positron and the electron.

Capturing is quite novel-pieces are captured when faced by enemy pieces whose charge cancels out. The piece is captured to make up the difference.

If one were envision this as a standalone Ultima piece-a "Balancer", replacing charge with side, then this would be a piece that captured pieces in its line of sight when the piece had an equal number of pieces from each side in its line of sight. 

Whether such an technical piece is actually playable is another matter, certainly it would have no place among the tamer newer variants.

Johnny Luken wrote on 2015-04-26 UTC
Not in the sense that its behaviour is describable in the fewest number of cells. In that sense the Replacer, Archer and Swapper are the most fundamental.

My list wasn't exhaustive admittedly. I could have also included;

Long Replacer (x, x, x') => (0, x, x)

most common example of which being the Chinese Cannon.

Thrower (x', x, 0) => (0, x, x')

Mats Winther describes several pieces using this ability, such as in Oxybeles Chess.

And indeed the Pincer Pawn can interpreted as one of the 3 cooperative fundamentals;

Pincer (x, x', x) => (x, 0, x)

Connector (x, x, x') => (x, x, 0)

Splitter (x', x, x') => (0, x, 0)

Custodial (pincer) capture is the only one I've explicitly seen in a prior game, having been lifted from Hfenatafl (though the much less obscure Othello, and indeed Go, are built on similar mechanics).

Capture through connection is exhibited in 3 mans morris, though by connecting like pieces, with arbitrary enemy capture.

Capturing enemy forces by splitting them from the board is the principle form of capture in tile removal games, and one would think the Splitter most closely evokes this behaviour.

Coordinator and hypothetical "triangulator" are a bit more wayward than all of these, but among the most fundamental as described by a 2D grid, certainly.

Georg Spengler wrote on 2015-04-26 UTC
But where is the Coordinator? Is it not a fundamental piece?

Johnny Luken wrote on 2015-04-25 UTC
In fact Ultima with Replacer and Advancer already exists as a variant (Ultimatum).

The Ultima wikipedia page also mentions other variants not mentioned here, perhaps the most interesting being Renaissance.

It features a Resurrector, and is the only Ultima variant I've seen to feature pieces that produce net displacement-the Pusher and Puller, although their incarnations in this case are ludicrously weak, being able to compel indirect capture yet only move one square while acting on other pieces.

As yet no variant features the full set of Ultima fundamentals. Indeed several have never been featured at all.


Replacer (x, x') => (0, x)

Advancer (x, 0, x') => (0, x, 0)

Withdrawer ((0, x, x') => (x, 0, 0)

Leaper (x, x', 0) => (0, 0, x)

Archer (x, x') => (x, 0)


Pusher (x, x', 0) => (0, x, x')

Puller (0, x, x') => (x, x', 0)

Attractor (x, 0, x') => (x, x', 0)

Repeller (x, x', 0) => (x, 0, x')

Swapper (x, x') => (x', x)


Immobiliser (x, x',  0) =/=> (x, 0, x')

Converter (x, x') => (x, x)

Protector (x, x') =/=> (x, 0)

Blocker (x, 0, x') =/=> (x, x', 0)

Johnny Luken wrote on 2015-04-25 UTC
As far as making the game more attacking, that requires little more than replacing the duplicate pieces with the Advancer (the conceptually missing piece of this game) and the Replacer (FIDE Queen), along with a few other tweaks which I elaborated on below.

Johnny Luken wrote on 2015-04-25 UTC
I see little need to force promotion into this game. It is sufficiently complex.

If an extra dimension really needs to be added, then conversion capture is a much more natural fit, with only the king currently using replacement capture.

I'm not really sympathetic in general to attempts to turn Ultima and its derivatives back into FIDE.

More interesting to purify the concept, which would be a game in which all pieces have equal movement, differentiated only by behaviour.

Georg Spengler wrote on 2015-01-22 UTC
George Duke proposed that the player with advanced king has to choose between his promotable pieces. If this is enough to give the attacker a decisive advantage - and this could well be the case - I would like this suggestion, for I want to deviate as little as possible from the original game. Of course one would choose the coordinator only if the other two are no more on the board.

George Duke wrote on 2015-01-22 UTC
Ultima Pawns are so mobile yet not that much stronger, what maybe 1.5 and so less than Rococo Pawns. That's a good idea to add promotion rule by King crossing center line, not Pawn the way Chinese does.

In Spengler's subvariant, assume there is required choice to promote one of the three one time, but possibly the Immoblizer suggestion is stronger than the others.  What you can see, is that Spengler is borrowing from three sources in the future to reinvent Ultima.  Triangulation is Abbott's own later suggestion, and Swapper comes from Rococo and Pushme-Pullyu from Fugue.   

In Rococo the edge squares strengthen Cannon Pawns as well as Long Leaper. They need strengthening against all-Queen-moving pieces.
There Abbott explains triangulation:

Jeremy Good wrote on 2015-01-22 UTC
Some good ideas worth trying out here. :-)

Georg Spengler wrote on 2015-01-21 UTC
I have read the rules of all three games but never played them. I think Aronsons introduction of square fields to improve the attacking power of the Long Leaper is quite ingenious.

I also thought about some ways to handle the difficulties of attack in Ultima, but didnt try them out seriously. Maybe one experienced game inventor of this site can evaluate my idea better than I do. It goes like this:

Your army is subject to some kind of promotion. This promotion happens, when your king manages to advance to the opposite half of the board.

The power of chameleon, long leaper and pawns stay the same.

Your withdrawer gets the additional power of an advancer, promoting it to a pushme-pullyu.

Your immobiliser gets the additional power of a swapper.

Your coordinator gets the additional power of a triangulator.

Does that make sense?

George Duke wrote on 2015-01-21 UTC
Very nice critique of 50-year-old Ultima by Georg Spengler rooted in some actual playing. If you get the time, how would you evaluate Rococo,  Rococo carries forth four of Ultima pieces, the most similarity in that regard of any in the genre, where for instance Fugue uses only two Ultima pieces.

Where Ultima is lacking clarity and decisiveness both, Rococo advanced to 10x10, has all four desiderata: depth, decisiveness, clarity, and drama. Maybe Ultima has only average drama too, so mostly what it has is some depth indeed like a puzzle. It seems like Arimaa as ongoing puzzle each move, not all that Chess-like. 'Drama' is in the Mark Thompson sense that the player behind can fairly well catch up.

George Duke wrote on 2015-01-21 UTC
Here are two other Ultima follow-ups by way of improvement:,

Georg Spengler wrote on 2015-01-20 UTCExcellent ★★★★★
Ultima is a puzzling game in more than one sense. It seems to violate all rules for game invention. Even its inventor called it a flaw and his reasons are all pretty true. yet it is one of the most successful chesslike games, and its also one of my favorites.

First point, he says, it lacks clarity. Of course it does. Playing it does not feel like playing chess at all, its more like solving a puzzle in every turn, so for every move you need much much time. Does that make it a bad game? No, it doesnt. Its exactly what we like on it.

The other big point is, that it favors the defender. And so it does. This should lead to draws, at least at a high level of competition. But thats okay. Draughts and Morris are even more drawish, yet they are not bad games. If following an interesting fight it does not matter that much if it finally leads to a draw. 

Maybe it is even the lack of clarity that makes the game playable despite the strong defending power of its pieces.

I cant see that it is bad to advance your pieces rather than stay at home. The more space youve got the more mobility you have. And what is the biggest advantage of that? To be able to bring your immobilizer in a strong position.

That may be the only ugly thing of this game: that the immobilizer is too important. As far as my experience goes, he is the central piece in every successful attack. Immobilize the king and capture it with the chameleon. I rarely succeeded in winning in any other way.

But yet not ugly enough yo reduce my rating.

John Lawson wrote on 2014-01-04 UTC
Withdrawing is from Fanorona, played on Madagascar.  According to "Abbot's New Card Games", the Coordinator and the Immobilizer are original pieces, as is the Chameleon.

Daniil Frolov wrote on 2014-01-02 UTC
A question occured to me.
Methods of capturing are taken from non-chess board games.
Everybody know the family of games, overtaking from is.
Custodianship is from Tafl games, probably also well-known.
Withdrawing, if i did not confuse anything, is also from some checker-like board game (i don't remember it's name, region and time of playing).
But what about coordinating? Is it also from certain board game or invented by Abbott himself? And, maybe, immobilizing is also refrence to certain game?

George Duke wrote on 2012-05-29 UTC
There are three major Ultima cousins from the last decade, Rococo, Maxima, and Fugue. I agree that Long Leaper is better not a paired piece on plain vanilla 8x8. Also King as Knight would set off great with Pincer Pawns, as the current comment suggests. Dissatisfaction with U. led to above Rococo, Maxima, and Fugue, keeping the core concept of mostly non-displacement capture. Individual variantists would tend to rate Ultima last, fourth of these four now, for reason of constricting play. Whether over fifty years old is a new CV any longer is debatable.

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