• Published 24th Feb 2013
  • 2,152 Views, 41 Comments

The Game of Six - shallow15

A thousand years ago, Celestia was challenged by an ancient entity for the fate of her domain. She won, but at a terrible cost. Now, the Game begins again...

  • ...

Setting the Board (I)

“The Game of Six?” Twilight echoed. “Well, it's an old Equestrian game, dating back before the pre-Classical Era. It kind of fell out of fashion after chess was invented. I don't think anypony plays it anymore.”

“You've never played it yourself?” Celestia asked.

“No,” Twilight answered. “I've read about it, of course.”

“How is it played?”

Twilight quirked an eyebrow, but quickly realized this was Celestia's usual technique for finding out what she knew before offering any new information. This had been her teacher's preferred method of instruction when Twilight had been her student.

“The easiest way to explain it is as a combination of chess and a blocking game like backgammon or the griffin game Senat. Each player has six pieces; the Wizard, the Centurion, the Merchant, the Farmer, the Druid, and the Fool. Like chess, the object of the game is to take your opponent's Wizard, but the difference is that, in the Game of Six, the only way to remove a piece from the board is to either block it from moving by using at least two other pieces, or by taking the piece with the piece that it has a direct vulnerability to.”

“And which pieces are vulnerable to which?” Celestia asked.

Twilight smiled, enjoying the routine the two of them had fallen into. “According to Road Scholar's A History of Games, the vulnerability of the pieces follows a circular progression: Wizard takes Centurion, Centurion takes Merchant, Merchant takes Farmer, Farmer takes Druid, Druid takes Fool, and Fool takes Wizard. Obviously, other factors are in play such as how many hexes on the game board a piece can move and how they are allowed to move.

“The Wizard, like the king in chess, can only move one hex at a time in any direction. The Centurion can move any number of hexes, but only in a straight line. The Merchant may move up to six hexes, but can only move three hexes in one direction, then it must move in a different direction. The Farmer also must move in a straight line, but can only move four hexes at a time. The Druid may move up to three hexes in any direction. The Fool may move up to eight hexes, but it cannot move in a straight line for more than two hexes. I think that covers everything about how the game is played.”

Celestia smiled at her former student. “And did your research tell you why it is called the Game of Six?”

“No, but it seemed fairly obvious,” Twilight answered. “Six pieces per player, the board is hexagonal. The number six is all over the game.”

“It's more than that,” Celestia said. “Six is an important number in Equestria. Six archetypes as the game pieces, six Elements of Harmony, six tribes of ponies – ”

“Six tribes?” Twilight interrupted. “How can there be six tribes? History states there's only ever been three.”

“Think it through, Twilight. Add all the things you've learned since moving to Ponyville to what you learned during your studies here.”

Twilight frowned as she thought and began to speak her thoughts aloud. “Let's see... the first three tribes are obvious: pegasii, unicorns, and earth ponies. I suppose... even though there's only four of us... alicorns could be considered their own tribe?” Twilight looked up at Celestia, who nodded with a small smile on her face.

“Okay, so that's four,” Twilight said, returning to her thoughts. “One of the tribes could be the bat-winged ponies that Princess Luna has with the night guard... but recent evidence found by Cloudsdale genealogists proves that they're a subspecies of pegasii, and technically part of that tribe. However, nopony said that there would be vast differences between the tribes in appearance. Given that they have that odd shine to them when their emotions are up and their feelings of love radiate across Equestria, plus the fact they weren't seen for over a thousand years... yes, that makes sense. The crystal ponies have to be the fifth tribe!”

“Excellent, Twilight,” Celestia said. “The crystal ponies are indeed one of the tribes. But can you identify the sixth?”

Twilight bit her lip in concentration. “Well, they could... no, that doesn't make sense. Pegasii, unicorns, earth ponies, alicorns, crystal ponies and... and... what other ponies are there? I don't think I've ever seen any other type of pony in Equestria or the Crystal Empire.”

“Try a different approach,” Celestia suggested. “You know the various physical traits that separate each tribe from the others. What do they have in common?”

“Well, we're all quadrupeds. We have enlongated muzzles. Honestly, the basic pony shape is pretty much an earth pony with additional physical features that distinguish the other tribes. Pegasii have wings, unicorns have horns, alicorns have both and they tend to be taller than the other tribes. Wait... taller.”

Twilight's mind raced as memories of her brother's wedding to Princess Cadance surfaced. There had been somepony taller than most of the other ponies at the wedding. Somepony who had disguised herself as Cadance and also had wings and a horn. And her minions were also quadrupeds with enlongated muzzles and the basic shape of an earth pony. Twilight's eyes widened as she came to a realization.

“Changelings?” she whispered. She looked up at her mentor. “The changelings are the sixth tribe?”

“Yes, they are,” said Celestia. “After the wedding I did a little research of my own. I found an ancient scroll which proved that, many eons ago, the changelings were much like the other pony tribes. They had insect-like traits back then, but not to the same extent. I have no idea what caused them to become what they are now, but that's something to consider another day. The point, Twilight, is that the number six has power in Equestria, and the Game of Six is a reflection of that. This is the game that I will be playing against Arbosh... and that you, and whoever joins you as my pieces, will have to experience. And I must inform you, Twilight, that it will most likely not be a pleasant experience.”

“I didn't think it would be,” Twilight murmured. She took a deep breath and looked at Celestia. “But I said I would be one of your pieces and I'll do anything you need me to do. Should I get my friends so you can ask them?”

“Not quite yet,” Celestia said. “First, let's play.”

“I'm not following you,” said Cherry Jubilee. “You want me to go to Ponyville in twelve days for what reason, exactly?”

“You're very perceptive, Miss Jubilee,” said the stallion across the counter. “And I'm not going to insult you by telling you an untruth. I am about to partake in a game with Princess Celestia, and the nature of this game requires that we both act as... coaches, for want of a better word, for a team of six ponies that fit certain criteria. I would like you to be a part of that team.”

The cherry farmer quirked an eyebrow. “I'm not one for games, Mister...?”

“Arbosh,” answered the stallion.

“That's an unusual name for a pony.”

“I am an unusual pony,” Arbosh said. He reached down, produced a sack of bits and placed it on the counter between them.

“I also understand that I'm asking you to take some time away from your orchards for vague and nebulous reasons. I'm hoping this is enough to compensate you for your time.”

“Money isn't the issue, Mr. Arbosh,” Cherry said. “You say this is a game, but it sounds distinctly unsavory.”

“But you're also intrigued,” Arbosh countered. “I can read it in your face.”

Cherry Jubilee flushed and she took a breath to regain her composure. Before she could speak, Arbosh held up a hoof.

“Let me assure you that what I'm asking you to participate in is exactly what I said it is; a game. There will be nothing illegal, unethical, or treasonous about it. All you need to do is follow the instructions I give you and the rest of your team. And in return, on top of the travel expenses in that bag, I will guarantee you the exclusive distribution contract for the top six restaurants in Manehattan.”

Cherry frowned again. “I find that highly unlikely.”

Arbosh smiled, reached into the sack of bits and pulled out a scroll tied with a red ribbon. He undid the ribbon and snapped the scroll open across the counter. Cherry Jubilee looked the scroll over, disbelief evident on her face. After a few moments, her expression changed to a completely different kind of disbelief. She looked back up at Arbosh.

“This is impossible. I've been trying to get any sort of distribution contract to just one of these restaurants for years. How could you possibly –“

“I'm also very well connected,” Arbosh replied with a grin. “So, Miss Jubilee, do we have a deal?”

Comments ( 20 )


I literally just read the first two chapters this morning(having waited since before the second chapter existed), in an attempt to start working through my backlog.

Well, it's been a while since I saw this. Glad to see it's still alive. It is quite a memorable idea, and I was wondering every couple of months if we'd see it again.

I like the headcanon on the six tribes. And the chess-like rules only reinforce that yes, this is actually a game, unlike what we saw in The Immortal Game, etc.

As a board game lover, I have to try this!

However, there are still plenty of ambiguities in your description of the rules. Do players sit at sides or points? What counts as a straight line on a hex grid? How is the board set up?

In any event, I'm still interested.


I'm working on a playable version of the Game of Six. I'll post rules in the author's notes when it's ready.

Oh, this is interesting.

The usual default for a straight line on a hex grid is with the grain, crossing hexsides and continuing on over the opposite hexsides of the hexes passed through.

Some games do make use of 'alternate hex grain', (crossing a point and then travelling along a hexside to the point of the hex two away), but that is almost never used for movement.

3963801 The thing is, that still allows for six directions. How is that different from "any direction"?

Also, from what I know of the rules so far, it sounds like the kind of game where draws would be relatively common. A lot more than in Chess at least. Maybe that is why Chess superseded it in-Universe.

I still want to try it though.


"Straight line" means that once that piece has begun moving in one of the six directions available on a hex, it must keep moving in that direction until the end of its move...or until it hits the edge of the board.

I was defining 'straight line', it is also possible to further restrict which of the six possible directions one can travel in.

3965252 Some pieces were defined as only able to move in a straight line and others as able to move in any direction. I'm asking what the difference is.

There are two likely possibilities:

The druid and fool don't have to move in straight lines, allowing the druid to reach any space within three hexes and the fool any space up to eight away that does not moving three or more spaces in a straight line.

Twilight is not Don Greenwood[1], the description given is informal and does not make a point of defining and then using carefully defined terms.

[1] Known in wargaming circles for writing rules that are highly precise and free of multiple interpretations.

Clicked this on a whim, color me interested in what you're setting up here.

WIll this ever be updated?


It will. However, my computer and my backup drive were stolen recently so I've been having to rewrite the next chapter entirely from scratch. It's been uphill going. Sorry.

So, will this be continued?

just found this story, kinda sad to see its been cancelled. i was enjoying it, and was looking forward to seeing where it was going

If I go back to it, it's going to need a LOT of reworking.

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