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Subject: Complete Rules Translation from the DJ Games edition rss

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Crazy Adam
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Hi all!

I just found the DJ Games edition of "Zen L'initie" at a local thrift store. (Woo-hoo!)

As this game was apparently published only in France, the rulebook was only printed in French. I have taken the past couple of hours to fully translate the French rulebook.

Many of the basic rules are already known about this game (and its similarity to Lines of Action) but several new things were discovered. For example, there are several variants presented in the rulebook. As well, it turns out that the Z pawn can be captured. (The commonly sourced site for the basic rules,, states that it cannot be captured.

I have included pictures of the Figures as well so that the necessary illustrations are included.

Lastly, there were a couple of instances where I was unable to faithfully translate the rules. In these parts I have made editor's notes. In both these areas, rules were suggested that did not make sense given the translation and I took the liberty of assuming the most natural rule for the situation.

I hope these serve you well! Zen L'initie is a little-known game that plays as a slightly deeper version of Lines of Action. I am glad to be able to provide the full rule-set here.

DJ Games presents: ZEN L'INITIE

Based on a concept by C. Soucie, E. Deluard, J. Barneoud-Rousset.

A strategy game for 2 or 4 players.

Age: For adults and children 6 and up.

Time: 15 to 30 minutes.

Contents: 1 board with 121 squares, 12 black pawns, 12 white pawns, 1 red pawn (named "Z")



1. Each player chooses a colour, white or black.
2. The pawns are placed on the board as depicted in Figure 1. The black pawns are placed on the Chinese symbols. The white pawns are placed on the geometric symbols.
3. The red Zen (“Z”) pawn is placed on the central Yin Yang space.
4. Choose a random player to begin the game.

Object of the game:

The winner is the first player who succeeds in forming a continuous chain with all of their pawns still remaining on the board, including the “Z” pawn if it is still on the board.

Figure 2 shows an example of the connections that could win the game.

-- If it is white's turn to play: the pawn on K1 is moved to H4. All the white pawns and the “Z” piece connect. Thus, white wins the game.
-- It it is black's turn to play: the pawn on J5 is moved to H5. All the black pawns and the “Z” piece connect. Thus, black wins the game.

Rules of play:

On each player's turn they move one of the pawns of their colour or the “Z” pawn. They must follow these 4 simple rules:

Rule #1: Pawns move in a straight line in any direction (horizontal, vertical, or diagonal). It must move as many spaces as there are pieces in the line that it is moving within. All pawns in the line are considered, including the pawn that is moving (horizontal, vertical, or diagonal). Figures 3 and 4 are examples of legal movement.

Figure 3 shows examples of possible moves at the beginning of the game.

- If black starts, the black pawn at F11 has 3 possible movements: to F8 (3 pawns in the vertical line), to C11 or I11 (3 pawns in the horizontal line).
- If black starts, the black pawn at B7 has 3 possible movements: to B9, D7, or D5 (in each case, there are 2 pawns on each line).
- If white starts, the white pawn at K1 has 3 possible movements: to H1, H4, or K4 (in each case, there are 3 pawns on each line).

Figure 4 shows examples of possible moves during the game.

- The black pawn on G7 has 7 possible movements: to G9 or G3 (3 pawns in the vertical line), F5 or H7 (1 pawn in the diagonal line), to C6 (4 pawns in the horizontal line), to E8 or I4 (2 pawns in the diagonal line).

- The white pawn on K9 has 5 possible movements: to K11 or K7 (2 pawns on the vertical line), J8 or J10 (2 pawns on each diagonal line), or H9 (3 pawns on the horizontal line).

- The white pawn on A2 has 4 possible movements: to A5 (3 pawns on the vertical line), B3 or B1 (1 pawn on the diagonal line), or C2 (2 pawns on the horizontal line).

Rule #2: A pawn can jump over one or more pieces of his colour, but it can never jump over any of his opponent's pawns. You must still follow Rule #1 when jumping pieces. (Ed: The spaces of the pawns you jumped over are still counted when moving.)

Figure 5 shows possible moves, jumps and blocks.

- The black pawn on G7 can pass over any of these black pawns: either to D10 or G3. It can also jump over the “Z” piece and continue moving, jumping over the black pawn at D7. It can also move normally to I9. For the 4 other directions, it is blocked by the black pawn at E5 and the white pawns at G8, J7 and I5.

Rule #3: A pawn can capture an opponent's pawn by landing on the space the opponent's pawn occupies. It is then removed from the game. You must still follow Rule #1 when capturing pieces. (Ed: You must be able to move to that space by exact move. You cannot stop short to capture a pawn.)

Figure 6 shows pieces that can be removed through capture. It is never mandatory to capture an opponent's pieces. You are never able to capture your own pieces.

Figure 6: Captures

- The white pawn at B1 has a choice of captures: the black pawn at B4, D3, or F1.
- The white pawn at C6 can capture the black pawn at F6.
- The black pawn at E9 has a choice: the white pawn at B9, E7, or H6.

Rule #4: The “Z” pawn can be played by either player and can be considered either a white or black piece (friendly or enemy piece) - whatever is most advantageous to the current player.

Figure 8: the “Z” pawn is considered both as a friendly and enemy piece.

- If it is white's turn, the “Z” piece could be considered a friendly (white) piece and can be moved to I7. He could also it to capture the black pawn at D9.
- The “Z” pawn could also be considered as an enemy (black) pawn and captured by the white pawn at G10. It is then removed from the game.

Rules regarding the “Z” pawn:

1) When a player moves the “Z” pawn, their opponent cannot move it back to the same space on their next turn.
2) The “Z” pawn cannot move if it does not end its movement adjacent to at least one pawn (either black or white).

Draws (2 Possible Cases)

1) A player moves the “Z” pawn so that it creates a winning connection for both black and white at the same time.
2) A player captures their opponent's final isolated pawn while at the same time creating a winning connection with their pawns (as such, each player is in the winning condition at the same time)

Figure 7 shows two examples of draws:

A: White to play: White forces a draw if he moves the “Z” pawn to E4.
B: Black to play: Black forces a draw if he captures the white pawn at H9 with his pawn at H6.

4-player game (2 players on each team):

The pawns are setup as shown in Figure 1. Two players control the 12 white pawns while the other two players control the 12 black pawns. Each of the 4 players, in turn, moves a pawn of his colour, with each turn switching between the two colours. Communication between the two partners is not allowed. There are no other rule changes.

Variants for Advanced Players

Whether playing with 2 or 4 players, the basic rules are identical with some small changes.

Variant #1

The players use the terms “check” and “checkmate”.

A player positioned to win on their next turn must announce “check” to his opponent. If a player puts their opponent in check and there is no way for their opponent to get out of check in their next turn, they announce “checkmate” and win the game.

Editor's note: there appears to be a rule suggesting that if their opponent doesn't announce “check” that they may retake their last turn. However, there seems to be a spelling/grammar error in the rule and I am unable to faithfully translate it.

Editor's note: An example is given of how a “check” and “checkmate” would look like. It has been skipped here for brevity as this is certainly general knowledge.

Variant #2
All rules from Variant #1 are used. In addition, the game is won by the player who first earns or exceeds 7 points. Points are scored in each round and are added to the previously won points. The number of rounds played then is variable. At the end of each round, the losing player starts the next game.

Earning points:

The winner of the game earns as many points as there are pawns of their opponent that are not connected to the largest group of connected pawns.

Note: if there are several groups that have an equal number of connected pawns and these groups have the largest number of connected pawns, then only one of them is considered to be the largest group.

Warning: the “Z” pawn is considered a friendly piece of both players, and it will count against the loser if it is not connected to his largest group.

Figure 9: Wins wins the game and 1 point for the black pawn that is not connected to black's largest group.

Figure 10: White wins the game and 1 point for the “Z” pawn which although counts as a white pawn for the win, also counts as a black pawn that is unconnected to black's largest group (and thus earns white 1 point).

Figure 11: White wins. Black's largest group is 4 pawns. White wins 6 points as there are 5 black pawns that are not connected to black's largest group, plus the “Z” pawn which is not connected to black's largest group.

Figure 12: White wins. Black's largest group is 5 pawns (one of them is the “Z” pawn). There are 5 black pawns that are not connected to black's largest group. White wins 5 points.

Figure 13: White wins. Black's largest group is 4 pawns. There are 5 black pawns that are not connected to this group, plus the “Z” pawn. Thus, white wins 6 points.

Figure 14: White loses. As they have two groups that have 3 pawns each, and these are their largest groups, only one of them is considered the largest group. Black earns 4 points (3 for the other largest group, plus 1 for the other white pawn).

Editor's note: There is an odd wording in the original French that suggests if the loser has two or more groups that are the largest groups, then they lose the points instead of their opponent winning the points. I have taken the liberty of stating the winner earns the points, as this makes the most sense and follows the general trend of this variant. The other way would only slow the game down and create situations where players go into negative points. Yuck!

Variant #3

The rule that says the “Z” pawn must always be in contact with another pawn by the end of its movement is ignored. Thus, the “Z” pawn can be completely free from contact with other pawns. The game is still played in multiple rounds until a player meets or exceeds 7 points (Variant #2). Variant #1 (announcing 'check' and 'checkmate') is ignored.

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