Penultima is a
gameof inductive logic, played on a chessboard. It was invented by Michael Greene and Adam Chalcraft in Cambridgein 1994. The game is derived from the chess variantUltima (otherwise known as "Baroque chess"), and played with a standard chess board and pieces, each piece having different movement and capture rules from standard chess. In a manner similar to the game Mao (also popular in Cambridge at that time), the rules for each piece vary from game to game, and are initially kept secret from the players. Penultima is similar in style to Eleusis, Zendo and Mao. The name of the game is a punon "penultimate", and "Ultima" (the name of the chess variant).
Several "Spectators" create secret rules which govern how the pieces move and two "Players" attempt to discover these rules. The game is traditionally played with chess pieces but may be played with different pieces (e.g.
Before the game starts, the "Spectators" decide between themselves which pieces they will write rules for. The secret rule for a piece may for example control the way that piece moves, captures, or is captured, and may cause it to affect other pieces on the board. A piece may be given an "invoke" command which causes it to affect other pieces on the board without moving. When he or she has written the secret rule for a piece, the "Spectator" also gives it a new name for the duration of the game. These names (and the existence of any invoke commands) are announced to the players at the start of the game.
On his or her turn, a "Player" attempts to move or invoke one of their pieces, and the "Spectator" for that piece declares whether the action is legal or illegal. If it is legal, that "Player's" turn ends and play passes to the other "Player". If it is illegal, the piece is returned to its position at the start of the turn. In the original game, play then passes to the other "Player"; in other variants the original "Player" continues making attempts until he or she succeeds in making a legal move or invoke.
As in standard
chess, the winning player is the one who forces his or her opponent's king (or equivalent piece) into checkmate. At the end of the game, the "Spectators" reveal their rules.
* [http://www.bcvs.ukf.net/eureka.htm#penul “Penultima”] by Michael Fryers, from "
Variant Chess", Volume 3, Issue 28, Summer 1998, pages 164-166
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