Gorean Kaissa

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Gorean Kaissa
Designed by John Norman and made pyramidal by Carthoris Pyramidos
Fantasy chess on the planet Gor
:Players Players: 2 - 2
:Time Length: Long?
:Complexity Complexity: High
Trios per color: (4)
Number of colors: 6
Pyramid trios:
Monochr. stashes: 6
Five-color sets: (4)
- - - - - - Other equipment - - - - - -
10x10 grid board
Setup time: 2 minutes
Playing time: 25 minutes
0.417 Hr
- 120 minutes
2 Hr
Strategy depth: High
Random chance: None
Game mechanics: chess
Theme: chess
BGG Link:
Status: complete? (v1.0), Year released: 2987


Kaissa was the name of the first Soviet chess computer, but it is also the name of the chess-like game played on Earth's hidden "sister planet" Gor (orbiting opposite Earth on the far side of the sun) in the interplanetary fantasy novels of John Norman. Gorean Kaissa, sometimes simply called "the game," was clearly inspired by Barsoomian Jetan. Like Jetan, it is played on a 10 x 10 square grid. The movement of individual pieces more closely resembles modern chess than Jetan, but the victory conditions are concerned with a home stone which is unique to this game, and symptomatic of Gorean culture and ethics.

The rules here are an attempt to be faithful to the game presented in the books. But Norman (unlike Burroughs) never gives a complete exposition of the rules of his game, and a certain measure of creative interpolation is necessary.


Play alternates as in modern chess, with characteristic moves for each piece type (see below), and captures made by moving into the space of the captured piece. Multiple pieces may not share a space. Yellow moves first.

Game resolution is as follows:

  • Victory - A player captures the home stone of the opponent.
  • Draw - Both Ubars have been captured.

Either player may resign to a loss. Both may agree to a draw.

Pyramid Pieces for Kaissa

Each side in Kaissa has twenty pieces plus a "home stone." Customarily, one side is yellow and the other is red.

Attractive and effective Jetan pieces may be conveniently constructed from six monochrome 15-piece stashes: the side corresponding to Gorean yellow with yellow, white, and green; and the Gorean red side with red, black, and purple. In the following descriptions of individual pieces, the yellow-side pieces will be described. For the red side, simply substitute red for yellow, black for white, and purple for green.


  • 1 per side
  • A small yellow pyramid stacked on a medium yellow, on a medium white, on a large green
  • May move like a Builder or an Initiate (i.e. identical to a queen in modern chess).


  • 1 per side
  • A small green pyramid stacked on a small white, on a medium yellow, on a large green
  • May move like a Builder or an Initiate (i.e. identical to a queen in modern chess).


  • 2 per side
  • A large yellow pyramid on a medium white, on a medium green for each
  • Move one space on a positioning move. In a capturing ("flight") move, a Tarnsman moves one space orthogonally plus one space diagonally and can jump over intervening pieces (i.e. the move of a knight in modern chess).


  • 2 per side
  • A small green pyramid stacked on a medium yellow for each
  • Move diagonally one or two spaces.


  • 2 per side
  • A medium white pyramid stacked on a large yellow for each
  • Move any number of unoccupied spaces orthogonally (identical to a rook in modern chess).


  • 2 per side
  • A small green pyramid on a white large pyramid for each
  • Move any number of unoccupied spaces on the diagonal (identical to a bishop in modern chess).


  • 2 per side
  • A medium green pyramid for each.

Riders (of the High Thalarion)

  • 2 per side
  • A small yellow pyramid on a large green pyramid for one, a small white pyramid on a large green pyramid for the other
  • Move one space in any direction.


  • 6 per side
  • A single small yellow or white pyramid for each (three and three)
  • An initial move option of one, two or three spaces forward; otherwise only one space at a time either forward, diagonally forward, or sideways. They may only capture diagonally, but (unlike pawns in modern chess) they may also move forward on the diagonal without capturing. A Spearman who reaches the tenth rank can be promoted to a Tarnsman or Rider.

Home Stone

  • 1 per side
  • A large yellow pyramid
  • Moves one square in any direction.
  • The Home Stone is not a "piece," strictly speaking, since it cannot capture. It is begins off of the board, and it must be placed on one of the squares in the rank nearest the player during the player's first ten turns (some say seven). Home stone placement constitutes a turn.

Board and Setup

The customary Kaissa board is a 10x10 square grid with red and yellow squares. It is often printed on cloth (like a chessboard bandana).

As in modern chess, the pieces are initially set up in the two ranks closest to the player.

In the center of the nearest rank are the Ubar (right) and Ubara (left). These are flanked by the Tarnsmen, in turn flanked by the Scribes, in turn flanked by the Builders, in turn flanked by the Initiates.

In the center of the second rank are the six Spearmen. They are flanked by the Riders, who are flanked by the Physicians.

Donkey Kaissa Variant

Six of Eeyore's Chessboard wedges will create a board with 96 squares, nearly the full area of the 100-square Kaissa grid. Kaissa may be played on this unusual board, setting it up with outer corners towards the two players. The two squares on the central diagonal in the near corner are empty at setup, with the pieces otherwise distributed normally against the two near edges. Here is a diagram:


The home stone would still have to be placed in one of the spaces originally occupied by a rear-rank piece, rather than the space in the corner nearest the player. An important effect of the home stone mechanism is to motivate movement among the rear-rank pieces early in the game.

External Links