Most board games have fairly simple boards. Usually with square fields arranged in simple shape or a set of intersecting lines. Rarely boards have circular shape, and circles are rarely arranged in interesting pattern.
There are of course a few games that have just fancy boards. I already described Russian game Spider and flies, which is an interesting example. Now I’m going to describe another Russian game with fantastic board – Vsadniki.
Vsadniki is a little-known Russian game. I found information about it in two old books. I know nothing about the origins of this game. I can only say that the structure of the board is similar to Spiders and flies (sorta), but unlike Spiders and flies, this is a game without random element. Strategy and tactics of this game resembles some contemporary games like Camelot, but it’s rather difficult to talk about kinship between those games.
Russian word “wsadniki” (всадники) means “riders”. In this game word “rider” refers to a piece, which is gaining power of capturing enemy pieces. Interestingly, the promotion of a piece to a rider is done only by setting piece on a special field.
Board and pieces
Vsadniki board is shown on the picture below. It consists of 140 ordinary fields (small circles) and 11 promotion fields (large circles). The fields are connected by lines in a suitable manner.
Each player begins the game with 18 pieces (pawns). This is a game for two players, so at start there are 36 pieces on a board.
At the beginning of the game each player sets his (or her) pawns on the two first rows of the board on his (or her) side . This is shown on the image below.
One of players must start (there’s no rule – you can draw lots). After first move players make moves alternately.
There are 4 types of moves in the game of Vsadniki:
- simple move,
Ordinary pieces (pawns) can make simple move, they can jump and they can be promoted to riders. Capturing is reserved only for riders.
Simple move – ordinary pawn can move to the neighboring ordinary field joined by a line. The diagram below shows such moves.
Pawns can also perform jumps. It menas they can jump over pawns standing next to them, to the field behind them.
It is possible to jump over friendly and enemy pieces. It’s possible to make few jumps in one turn (as in checkers). The diagram below shows jump over two opponent’s pieces. Similar jumps can be made over friendly pawns.
Ordinary piece can become a rider if he jumps over the enemy piece into a field of promotion (large circle). Entering this field is possible only through such a jump (over enemy pawn). An example of the promotion move is shown on the picture below.
Only rider has the right to capture enemy pawns. Capture is made when a rider jumps from the one promotion field to another, over the enemy pawn. In one move rider can make several jumps. The picture below shows double capture.
Captured pieces are removed from the board. They don’t come back to game.
Note: Rider can make a simple move. It means rider can get off the promotion field and then he becomes ordinary pawn. Such pawn can be once again promoted to a rider if such opportunity arises (ie. If he can once again jump into the promotion field over enemy piece).
Scoring and the aim of the game
In Vsadniki players earn points
- When jumping into the promotion field and promoting pawn to a rider – 2 points
- When capturing enemy pawn – 1 point.
Game ends when one player achieves 15, 20, 25 or 30 points (you have to choose winning score before playing). Players can also decide that winning requires not only certain number of points, but also appropriate number of captures. For example, you can decide that that winner must score 15 points and capture at least 6 enemy pawns.
It’s hard to find a partner to play Vsadniki – game is not popular. Most people didn’t heard about it. I once made myself a board with the computer printer, and I used nuts as pawns. I was able to persuade someone to play only few times. I can’t say I tested this game well but I think it has lot of potential. I describe it becouse I do not want this game to be forgotten.