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Banqi (Half Chess, Dark Chess, Blind Chess)



Category Board, Space, Blocking


Banqi is a two-player Chinese board game played on a 4×8 grid, or half of the xiangqi (Chinese chess) board. The pieces, as in Western chess, are placed inside the squares, rather than on the intersections as in Chinese chess.


The 32 pieces are shuffled and randomly allocated face-down to squares on the board.

The first player turns up a piece to begin the game. The color of that first uncovered piece is the color he or she will play in the game. The second player then makes a move, and the two alternate until the game is finished.

There are three kinds of moves. A player may turn a piece face-up, move a piece, or capture an enemy piece. In some game variants, multiple captures may be made in one turn.

Turning a piece face-up is a legal move if there are any face-down pieces on the board. Once revealed, a piece may move, capture, or be captured.

A player may only move face-up pieces of their own color.

Unlike Xiangqi, all pieces move identically: a piece may move only one square up, down, left, or right. A piece may never move onto a square that is already occupied unless such a move is a legal capture.

A player may only capture with a face-up piece of their own color, and may only capture a face-up piece of the opposing color. In all captures, the captured piece is removed from the board and its square is occupied by the capturing piece.

The pieces are ranked, forming a hierarchy with the general at the top and soldiers at the bottom. Only pieces of equal or lower rank may be captured, with one exception. For instance, a chariot may capture a horse, and the general may capture either, but a horse cannot capture a chariot, and neither can capture the general. The one exception concerns generals and soldiers: the general cannot capture soldiers, and soldiers can capture the general.

In the Hong Kong version, the pieces are ranked in this order: General>Chariot>Horse>Cannon, Advisor>Minster>Soldier. This ranking reflects the approximate value of the corresponding pieces in Xiangqi (though the relative rank of horse and cannon is arguable). All pieces capture exactly as they move: one square up, down, left, or right.

The game ends when a player cannot move, and that player is the loser. Most often, the game is lost because all of a player's pieces have been captured and so he has no pieces to move. However, it is possible for one player to surround all of the other player's remaining pieces in a manner that makes it impossible for them to move.

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