Game of the Generals

Updated on April 2, 2020
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I'm fond of studying the history of my country and other countries and then teaching them to other people.

What Is Game of the Generals?

Game of the Generals is an original Filipino board game developed to test its players' strategical and tactical skills by using "modern-day" pieces as their pawns for "war."

Its Filipino name is "Salpakan," which is literally translated to "Crash" or "Clash." When I first heard the title of the game, I was like, "Wait, we have that kind of board game?" And so, after learning about it in high school and beating my friends and classmates a bunch of times, I got totally engrossed in it.

The game simulates armies at war trying to overpower, misinform, outflank, outmaneuver, and destroy each other. It optimizes the use of logic, memory, and spatial skills. It also simulates the "fog of war" because the identities of the opposing pieces are hidden from each player and can only be guessed at by their location, movements, or from the results of challenges.

If you haven't heard of or played it yet, then I'll explain the simple rules and guidelines of this game.

The board game's 1981 box cover design published by Mind Masters Inc.  Photo from Rarity Guide, edited via Canva.
The board game's 1981 box cover design published by Mind Masters Inc. Photo from Rarity Guide, edited via Canva. | Source

Brief History of the Game of the Generals

At least 40 years ago, this game made a commotion in the world of Chess before making its way to be one of the renowned and popular board games in the Philippines. It angered many Filipinos back then, especially avid chess players, because they thought that the game was meant to replace or "remove" chess.

The Game of the Generals is often shortened for GG or GOG.This game was invented by Sofronio H. Pasola, Jr., with the inspiration of his son Ronnie Pasola.

The Pasolas first tried the Game of the Generals on a chessboard. Even then, the pieces had no particular arrangement. There were no spies in the experimental game, but after Ronnie Pasola remembered the James Bond movies and Mata Hari, he added the Spies. Making the pieces hidden was the idea of the Pasolas after remembering card games.

The Game of the Generals' public introduction was on February 28, 1973. As quickly as a steamroller offensive, GG started to outsell Chess immediately after its formal public introduction.

The GG board.
The GG board. | Source

Rules of the Game of the Generals

1. The Board

The board consists of a rectangular board with 72 plain squares arranged in 8 rows and 9 columns. It is a "battlefield" in which, unlike chess's alternating colors, all tiles of the player are colored the same (four rows of white, four rows of black). The player's side is the "friendly" side, while the opponent's side is the "enemy's."

2. The Pieces

The 21 pieces are placed in various locations within the nearest three rows to each player's home side (a total of 27 squares). The fourth row of each player is called the "trench" or "no man's land" where their pieces would often meet and challenge, or just move and leave it there as it is. The decision of putting the pieces on the board is decided by the player. There is no particular order or orientation to where to place them.

3. The Players

This is a board game commonly played by three people: two opposing sides and an "arbiter" or "adjutant." The arbiter is the only neutral player and the judge of the game. The arbiter's task is to overlook the battlefield, memorize the ranks of the pieces, and remove pieces that are challenged by either of the players. Knowing who to go first is decided by a toss coin or a rock-paper-scissors.

There's also a case where two players can battle against each other, but the overall gameplay has a few catches.

Each piece can only move up, down, left, or right.
Each piece can only move up, down, left, or right. | Source

Preparing the Troops

There will be two to three players. In the case of three players, the third person will become the arbiter while the two other players become "enemies at war." Knowing who will battle who, or will become the arbiter, depends on the decisions of the players. Each player, including the arbiter, has their specific duty to fulfill before, during, and after the game.

  • Each "at war" players will choose their desired color (black or white).
  • Each opposing player will prepare their "troops" first by randomly or strategically placing them in their nearest three rows (as seen above).
  • Knowing who to go first is determined by tossing a coin or rock-paper-scissors.
  • Each player will take a turn by moving one piece, one box at a time.
  • The pieces can move one square on each turn and are not allowed to move diagonally.
  • Each player has 21 pieces, or soldiers, to command on the battlefield.

At the beginning of each battle, each "at war" player is tasked to place their current pieces on their respective territory (as seen from Figure A above). Unlike chess, there is no particular order to where a player will place a specific piece; the pieces are placed randomly, depending on the players' strategy. It's a game of disguise, infiltrate, trick, battle, win, and loss after all.

The lowest ranking piece is the flag while the highest is the spy. To make the overall game fair, some conditions that are needed to be remembered:

  1. Any piece can capture the flag once it has been challenged. A captured flag means victory for the player.
  2. The "Spy" can eliminate any piece, except for the "Private." That means the "Private" can be eliminated by any piece, except for the "Flag" and the "Spy." The "Private" can still capture the enemy's flag.
  3. To know more about the whole mechanics of every piece, please direct your attention to the table below. These pieces are sorted from the highest-ranking to lowest-ranking pieces.

The Soldiers

Name of the Piece and Hierarchy
Number of Pieces per Player (Except for the Arbiter)
Power/Description
Spy
2
Eliminates all lower ranking officer and the flag, but can be eliminated by the private.
5-Star General
1
Eliminates any lower ranking officer, the private, and the flag.
4-Star General
1
Eliminates any lower ranking officer, the private, and the flag.
3-Star General
1
Eliminates any lower ranking officer, the private, and the flag.
2-Star General
1
Eliminates any lower ranking officer, the private, and the flag.
1-Star General
1
Eliminates any lower ranking officer, the private, and the flag.
Colonel
1
Eliminates any lower ranking officer, the private, and the flag.
Lt. Colonel
1
Eliminates any lower ranking officer, the private, and the flag.
Major
1
Eliminates any lower ranking officer, the private, and the flag.
Captain
1
Eliminates any lower ranking officer, the private, and the flag.
1st Lieutenant
1
Eliminates any lower ranking officer, the private, and the flag.
2nd Lieutenant
1
Eliminates any lower ranking officer, the private, and the flag.
Sergeant
1
Eliminates the private and the flag.
Private
6
Eliminates the flag and the only piece that can eliminate the spy.
Flag
1
Can eliminate the enemy's flag when challenged by the player. Any piece can eliminate this piece once it has been successfully challenged.
These pieces are placed from highest to lowest ranks in the game. There are a total of 21 pieces per player.
An example of GoG gameplay.
An example of GoG gameplay. | Source

War of the Generals

As the game progresses, a time where each player is either moving to the "trench" (the empty rows) or beyond enemy lines, challenges can be made by either of the players.

The player will decide which desired piece can move and challenge from one square to another and, can only move or challenge one square forward, backward, left, or right and cannot move or challenge diagonally.

Each "at war" players will take one turn at a time while the arbiter overlooks the whole battlefield. Deciding who to take the first move is sometimes decided by all of the players by rock-paper-scissors, toss coin, etc.

A challenge is then made when a player (on his or her turn) moves his piece above the square of the enemy's piece since each piece can only occupy one square.

In the case of three players, the arbiter will ask the challenger if the challenge made is final. In the case of two players, both players will publicly declare that piece's hierarchy.

Once the challenge is done, a piece is removed when:

  1. A piece outranks the other piece.
  2. When two pieces are of the same rank.

And, in some rare cases, when a player's flag (on his or her turn) successfully challenged the other player's flag, that player automatically wins the game (because the flag is captured).

A wrong move for a flag.
A wrong move for a flag. | Source

Winning the War

The game will end if and only if:

  1. The Flag is eliminated or captured by any player (the winner of the game).
  2. When a player resigns or surrenders (the one who didn't surrender wins).
  3. When both players agree on a drawn position (a truce).
  4. When a player's Flag reaches the opposite end of the board of the other player. When the Flag successfully reaches the opponent's back rank, it has to survive one more turn without being challenged before the player can declare a victory.
  5. A player's Flag reaches the opposing back rank and there is no adjacent opposing piece that can challenge it, the player wins the game immediately.

Any player may reveal his Flag at any time and for any reason. They will continue playing the game until that revealed flag is captured by the opponent or if the overall game meets one of the above conditions.

Most often, a player reveals his or her Flag after it has already secured victory at the opposing back rank (Victory) or if it has successfully been challenged by the opponent (Defeat).

Have you ever played any board games like this?

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If you have any questions regarding this article, feel free to make me a resource and comment below. Also, do share this article for anyone who might be interested in the game. Thanks!

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

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© 2019 Darius Razzle Paciente

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