I knew this letter would be the toughest of the ABCs of Gaming, simply because there aren’t that many good games that begin with X. Other won the poll for the second time, so this post is about second place. X is for…
XiangQi is easily the oldest game in the poll, being invented in China a long time ago. Some date it as far back as the fourth century BC. We don’t know who invented it, but it’s a two player abstract game that is often referred to as Chinese Chess. It came in second in the X poll with 23.3% of the vote, way behind first place Other’s 45.5%. My theory is that people voted for Other because there was no None option, and they couldn’t stand to not vote.
A game of XiangQi is played on a board of ten horizontal lines and nine vertical lines which are interrupted by a band through the middle of the board (called the river). There is a palace on either side, indicated by a cross connecting corner points. The example above has colored the river and palaces for easy reference. Each player gets one General, two Guards, two Elephants, two Horses, two Chariots, two Cannons, and 5 Soldiers. Placement on the back row from left the right is Chariot-Horse-Elephant-Guard-General-Guard-Elephant-Horse-Chariot. The two cannons are placed one space from either side on the third row, and the five Soldiers are placed in every other space on the fourth row.
Players alternate moves with their pieces, which (as in Chess) all have their own special moves. If you land on another piece, you capture it. No pieces can jump other pieces (except the Cannon). The General can move one space orthogonally at a time, but only within its palace. The General is also never allowed to “see” the opposing General in a straight, open line. The two Guards can move one space diagonally, but only within the palace. The Elephants can move two spaces diagonally, but cannot cross the river. The Horses move one space orthogonally, then one space diagonally. Chariots can move any distance orthogonally. The Cannon moves like a Chariot, but has to leap over a piece before it can capture a piece. Soldiers can move one space straight forward, but after crossing the river can move sideways instead.
You win if you get your opponent’s General into a checkmate (meaning that it cannot move without getting captured) or a stalemate (it cannot move without another check happening). If neither side can force a checkmate or a stalemate, the game is a draw.
I’ve never really enjoyed Chess. I know how all the pieces move, but I know hardly anything about the strategy of the game. I don’t like it enough to spend the time to really delve into the game. XiangQi seems to be along the same lines. In fact, the pieces are very similar – the General is the King, the Horses are Knights, the Chariots are Rooks, the Soldiers are Pawns, the Elephants are Bishops, the Cannons are Checkers (OK, different game, but there’s no real parallel there). The palace and the river break up the board, which makes it seem a little more interesting to me. However, not one I’m dying to play.
At the same time, I voted for it for the poll. Not only is it historically and culturally significant, there are NO other games that fit the criteria of an essential game. Had X-Wing been released at the time of the poll, I bet it would have won, but I probably would have still picked XiangQi.
Next is the section where I usually give some brief info about the also-rans. However, I know NOTHING about any of the other nominated game. So, I’ll just run through them – if you know any of them, please enlighten me.
- Other (45.5%): The only nominee was XTreme Fantasy Wrestling. But as it only got 2 thumbs (less than the number of votes for the three last place games), I decided not to do this post about that game.
- X-Bugs (8.5%)
- XXXenophile (7.2%)
- X-Men Alert (6.4%)
- Xactica (3.6%)
- Xerxes (3%)
- Xe Queo! (0.8%)
- X Pasch, X-Machina, and Xeko (0.6% each)
The Ys are next. Thanks for reading!