Why a whole new game? Isn't 3D Chess good enough?
A lot of people have tried to adapt the rules of chess into three dimensions. Most variations are either logically inconsistent (rooks moving diagonally in the vertical, for instance) or have serious imbalances that affect playability. The Star Trek version looks best, but is probably the least playable. Others don't make very good use of the multiple layers.
We researched dozens of variations for the game of Chess, played most of them, learned a lot about playability and the evolution of the game, then started fresh using everything we learned. The best version of 3D chess was called Raumschach, invented in 1907 in Germany. It was catching on and becoming popular, sadly, World Wars One and Two destroyed every Raumschach club in Europe and sent the game to oblivion.
We used Raumschach as a starting point to develop this game. We simplified it, incorporated some of the more ancient features of pre-medieval Chess, made the game look awesome, then after some reflection and experimentation, we refined it into this modern version with the staggered playing field.
Why the slant?
In most versions of 3D chess we studied, the board's squares are re-imagined as cubes. A rook moves through the faces of the cube (the sides of the square in 2D), but the bishop moves through the edges of the cube (the corners of the square in 2D). This gives the bishop eight additional avenues of movement in 3D (through the four edges on both the top and bottom of the cube), but the rook only gets two new paths (through the top and bottom faces of the cube). A cube has twice as many edges as faces, whereas a square has equal numbers of sides and corners. This flawed logic of the cube analogy makes the pieces' movements both confusing and unbalanced.
A simple alternative is to have both pieces move strictly vertically in the 3rd dimension, the common Z axis is perpendicular to each piece's X,Y orientation, but we felt the Archid (Rook) and Squam (Bishop) deserved distinct movements in the third dimension. The slant provides two easy to comprehend but very different kinds of vertical movement. The singular slant direction also restores balance to the number of paths open to these pieces.
Why no ships with queen-like power?
In Raumschach the queen has twenty-six avenues of movement! The queen's power doesn't work very well in three dimensions. A common criticism of chess is that the queen is too powerful, and in three dimensions she has even more. Losing a queen makes a win almost impossible.
Before the modern chess game was developed there was no queen in chess, and we think the game is better without it. However, the particle cannon of the Command Ship and the anti-matter torpedo are both capable of destroying an opponent's ship similar to the queen in Chess, but their use is also limited.
Why three of the Neornith and four of the Squam?
A traditional 8 x 8 game board has a total of 64 squares, but Yavoch has 125 valid playing positions. More pieces are needed for this new game. Rather than create whole new classes of pieces as some other games have done, we increased the count.
In chess, each of your bishops can only reach half the squares on the board (one is limited to black squares, the other limited to white). Each rook can reach all squares of either color making the rook roughly twice as useful as the bishop. For this reason, we doubled the number of bishop-like Squam to balance the power between these pieces.
Two knights used together are incredibly powerful, even more so in 3D. The traditional movement style for the knight has far too much complexity and flexibility in a three dimensional field, so we created a simpler movement and ultimately decided a third piece was needed in the game.
Why are the Trych so powerful?
What happened to castling, en passant and pawn promotion?
Those rules are abominations! (In our humble opinion, of course.) But we were inspired by those concepts, among others, to create our secret weapons such as Hyperdrive, Tractor Beam, Evolution, Cloning and the rest.
What about the random elements and secret weapons?
Not at all. It adds excitement! A lot of people consider chess to be boring. There are only twenty possible opening moves in Chess. All chess masters memorize and use established and well-known patterns of moves starting from those twenty. This makes the game largely a memory game at the highest levels of play. Make a mistake in the first few moves, and the other player can force a win. In fact, grand master games are rarely played to completion. Both players can recognize an inevitable forced win and the loser will resign long before the game gets to a checkmate. Experts have said that a perfectly played game of chess will always end in a draw, the only way to win is for your opponent to make a mistake.
In real life, everything has an element of unknowable risk and happenstance. Risk management and the exploitation of random chance opportunities are very real aspects of competition, whether in business, the evolution of species, dating, athletic games and more. Learning to play the odds of pure chance is a different kind of skill. Good risk management requires practice, strategy and forethought. Adding random elements opens the game up to a wider variety of playing styles and skill levels.
Why is there not a specific layout to start the game?
Moving pieces into place on such a large field took too long and made for a very dull start to the game. We learned that different players like different initial set-ups depending on their defensive and offensive styles. This way is like giving both players a head start.
Also, in chess, the first mover has a distinct advantage. In tournaments, the first mover is statistically about 27% more likely to win among players with equal skill. By letting the second player arrange his pieces after the first player has set-up, the first mover's advantage is eliminated.
What do the names mean?
In the year 2160, Astronomers studying the Atlas of Images of NUclear Rings (AINUR) discovered that many of the planets in the Milky Way's nuclear ring were inhabited by very similar alien cultures. This cultural similitude was called the "Ainur Culture", after the galactic nuclear ring. We later discovered that these worlds had all been conquered by a single warrior species, thus the similarities. This is how the Ainur species got their name.
"Yavoch" is the expletive shouted by Capt. Decker anytime (and every time) he gets an opportunity. We don't know what it means. He claims it's an ancient family tradition going back to the early 21st century. We understand that the captain's ancestors were avid players of many types of Chess and they often endeavored to create Yet Another Variation Of Chess from time to time.
Neornithes is the order of birds.
What else do we know about the Ainur?
One of their favorite foods is a small, oily, salted fish called "Chovay", which, ironically, is Yavoch spelled backwards. The Ainur's typical meal is a flat bread, smeared with a paste made from a bland fruit that has been mushed, seasoned and cooked down to a thick, dark substance they call "Soss". Then the bread and Soss are covered with the coagulated form of a glandular secretion from their captive animals, called "Sheezz". They distribute the oily, salted fish on top of this and bake it, then serve slices of it to their children and young adults. The whole dish is called "Ain'Chovay Peezhah", and if we hadn't defeated them in battle, we might all have to be eating this disgusting food today.