, or "Japanese chess," has been described here before
, but it's such a fascinating game that a little more exposure can't hurt. Specifically, shogi has spawned a lot of variants, many of them astonishingly large.Chu Shogi (中将棋)
is pretty well known, only slightly larger (with a 12x12 board instead of the standard 9x9 and 46 pieces per side to shogi's 20), and seems to get played with some regularity today. Here's a video introduction
A step or two up in size is Maka Dai Dai Shogi (摩訶大大将棋)
, so large it needs two "bigs" in it's title (25x25 with nearly 100 pieces on a side). A time lapse video of a game
gives a sense of the play, and here's another by the same guy
with some commentary on the moves.
The largest currently known version is four times the size of Maka Dai Dai Shogi (36x36 with roughly 400 pieces on each side) and is called Taikyouku Shogi (大局将棋)
. For those who want to experience a small taste of this huge game, here's a video showing a three-day match
(skip the first 45 seconds or so, unless you enjoy Japanese game shows).
Many of the large variants have more than one "king" on a side, making victory more difficult and strategy more complex. The situation is exacerbated by the number of pieces and different types of moves (and most pieces can "promote" and change their movement abilities). in the last video you see the shogi experts examining booklets of moves to try and figure it all out. Fortunately, the large variants don't allow shogi's option of dropping captured pieces back on the board (since they predate that mechanic), or the games might never end...
So, why care? Well, the evolution of shogi variants seems to match the development of modern war games from relatively modest and simple beginnings to gigantic titles that seem more likely to be collected than played (Campaign for North Africa
, anyone?). Also, who can resist a game with pieces called "Flying Cat," "Fragrant Elephant," "Free Pig," and "Great Tapir?"