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Game of the Generals

Darius is a former high school literary and feature writer with a Bachelor of Science degree in Information and Communications Technology.

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.

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," from the Filipino root word "Salpak," which is literally translated to "to crash," "to clash", or "to collide."

When I first heard of the game, my initial reaction was like, "Wait, we have that kind of board game?" And so, after learning about it in high school, beating my friends and classmates a bunch of times, and losing to them as well, I got totally engrossed in the game.

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.

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 most Filipinos board gamers back then, especially avid chess players because they thought that the game was meant to replace or "remove" chess. Chess was big and popular during that era in the country, especially to schools and competitions.

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.

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.

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.

Similar to chess and other board games, both enemies at war players will sit facing one another while the arbiter overlooks the entire battlefield. If you were a player who's at war with the another player, you'll only be able to see your pieces but not the player's. The arbiter, however, sees all the pieces and judges when a battle is between two pieces (usually a piece with a higher rank than the other) is happening.

  • Each "at war" players will choose their desired color (black or white, there are other colors too).
  • Each opposing player will prepare their "troops" by randomly and/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.
  • Only one piece can move one square on each turn and all pieces are not allowed to move diagonally. They may, however, return to their former position if the player decides to.
  • 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, infiltrating, tricking, deceiving, winning, and lossing after all.

The very lowest ranking piece of each player is the flag while the very highest piece 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 on the board. However, they can only be eliminated by "Privates." The ratio of Privates VS Spies per player is six against two. 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 highest-ranking pieces are the only ones capable of eliminating lower-ranking pieces. The Spy, Private, and Flag follows the same rule but with added twists.

The Soldiers

These pieces are placed from highest to lowest ranks in the game. There are a total of 21 pieces per player.

Name of the Piece and HierarchyNumber of Pieces per Player (Except for the Arbiter)Power/Description

Spy

2

Eliminates all lower ranking officer and the flag, but can only 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.

In some mechanics, depending on your gameplay, if and only if a private successful lands on the end square of enemy, then it will be ranked as a new spy.

An example of GoG gameplay.

An example of GoG gameplay.

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.

Each player will decide which of their desired pieces can move and challenge from one square to another and can only move or challenge one square forward, backward, left, or right given that it cannot move to any boxes or challenge any piece diagonally.

Each "at war" players will take one turn at a time while the arbiter overlooks the whole battlefield.

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

All of the pieces can only occupy one square at a time/turn. One move is equivalent to a piece changing its square (moving to a new location) or challenging an opponent's piece by placing it above that piece's square.

In the case of three players, the arbiter will sometimes ask the challenger if the challenge made is final.

In a case where there are only two players, both players will publicly declare that piece's hierarchy if the challenge is made.

Once a challenge is made:

  1. When a piece outranks the other piece, the lowest-ranked piece is eliminated and the winning piece will remain in that eliminated piece's position.
  2. When two pieces are of the same rank, both pieces are eliminated from the board and are placed from the sides of the players, with each discarded pieces facing away from the visibility of each player.

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).

All eliminated pieces are to be placed on the player's graveyard (beside the player), facing away from the enemy's views. This adds the challenge and turmoil to the winner, and loser, of the battle of trying to guess the enemy's discarded pieces and remaining pieces.

A wrong move for a flag.

A wrong move for a flag.

Winning the War

The entirety of the game will end if and only if:

  1. The Flag is eliminated or captured by any player. This is done by a successful challenge. The player who "captures the flag" will be the winner.
  2. When a player, except the arbiter, resigns or surrenders. The player who does this will automatically lose the game and will show his or her flag's position in the board.
  3. When both opposing 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. BUT when the Flag successfully reaches the opponent's home base (any square at the home base of the opponent), it has to survive one more turn without being challenged or eliminated before the arbiter declares a decision (victory for the flag-owner player, defeat for the flag-landed player).
  5. A player's Flag reaches the opposing back rank and there are no nearby or adjacent enemy pieces that can challenge it. The player wins the game after one more turn.

Any player may reveal his Flag at any time and for any reason, before, during, or after the entire game. 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).

This is what a typical GG board and pieces would look like. Photo by Ayel Buensuceso Magsombol.

This is what a typical GG board and pieces would look like. Photo by Ayel Buensuceso Magsombol.

If you have any questions regarding this article, feel free to use me as a resource and comment below. If there are rules that I may have forgotten to write down in this article, also feel free to comment it down. 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.

Questions & Answers

Question: What is the difference between Game of Generals and Chess?

Answer: One primary difference would be their pieces. Both games follow their hierarchal systems of which the players must learn first. Both games also follow a turn-based mechanic. Although, the moves of each piece on GG are very different from how the moves of each piece in Chess.

Any piece on GG can move one space forward, backward, left, and right and cannot move diagonally. Eliminating pieces on GG follows this rule, given that the player "challenges" the other player. The moves on Chess depends on the piece. For example, a Rook piece can only move in a straight line (up, down, left, right) from one place to another but can never move diagonally. The Bishop piece can move diagonally but never in a straight path. The Horse piece can only move in an L-shape form. Each Chess piece has its own rules and limitations for moving.

In terms of eliminating pieces, GG players must challenge the other players first if their pieces would be in a standoff. The Arbiter would then eliminate the lowest-ranked piece from the two challenging pieces. Whereas in Chess, any piece can eliminate any piece even the King (a Checkmate) at any point in time within a particular Chess match.

© 2019 Darius Razzle Paciente