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How to play the Chinese Land Battle Game

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the playing mat or board of luzhanqi (Chinese army land battle chess)

Pronounced “loo-tsahn-chee,” written Luzhanqi or Lu Zhan Qi, meaning “Land Battle Game,” this chess variant is popular throughout China. It is also known as Lu Zhan Jun Qi (Land Battle Army Game), or simply Jun Qi (Army Game), It appears to be derived from the very popular chess form Xiangqi, perhaps influenced by Dou Shou Qi, and bears similarities to several Western war games.

The Board

The playing “board” is usually simple folded paper, marked as shown on the cover of this pamphlet. Here are the meanings of the Chinese marking:

the soldier station in luzhanqi

Soldier Station.
An ordinary playing space. Pieces are moved on and off these spots and can be attacked while standing on them.

the camp space in luzhanqi
Camp. A safety circle. A piece on this spot can not be attacked.
the headquarters space in luzhanqi
Headquarters. There are two of these on each side. One of the two holds the flag.
the front line (not a playing space) in luzhanqi
Front Line. These markings stand between the two sides of the board. Pieces do not land on these squares; they pass over them.
the mountain border (not a playing space) in luzhanqi

Mountain Border. Two obstacles that stand in the dividing line of the board. Pieces do not move onto or over these spaces; they are forced to pass over the Front Line.

the line on which pieces move in luzhanqi
Lines. Pieces move from one playing space to the very next one, following these lines.

the railroad, on which pieces may move long distances in luzhanqi

Railroad. Any moving piece is allowed to go any number of playing spaces as long as it stays on one straight railroad line.
The Engineer has the special ability to travel around Railroad corners as well.

The Pieces

The pieces shown below are from two different sets: The black calligraphy is from a modern plastic set and the red images are from an older wooden one. Note three differences: The older set has pictures, has vertically arranged calligraphy, and uses old style Chinese characters. Your set may have characteristics of either of these sets — but it’s the same game.

Each piece is shown here with:
its English equivalent (e.g., Field Marshal),
its rank (e.g., Rank: 1),
its Chinese pronunciation (e.g., “siling”),
and the quantity in each player’s army (e.g., (1) )

The first nine pieces are soldiers of various ranks, shown from highest (1) to lowest (9); the remaining three are objects, each with its own special characteristics.

pieces and their ranks in luzhanqi

pices and their ranks in luzhanqi

Setting Up

To begin the game, each player places his 25 pieces on the Soldier Stations and Headquarters spaces on his side of the board. Pieces do not begin on the Camp circles. They are placed so that each player can see the identities of his own pieces, but not those of his opponents’.

Arranging the pieces is the first strategic consideration of the game.

The Flag must be placed on one of the two Headquarters squares.

The Landmines must be placed somewhere in the two rows closest to the player (i.e., the Headquarters row, or the one next to that).

The Grenades may not be placed on the front row (but you probably wouldn’t want them there anyway).

Playing the Game

Either player begins by making a move, and then the two opponents take turns, as in most strategy board games.

Soldiers (all ranks, 1 through 9) and Grenades move along a single Line, only as far as the very next playing space (to any Soldier Station, Camp or Headquarters). But on the Railroad, these pieces move as many spaces as they want, staying in one straight line, and not passing over any other pieces.

The Engineer has the special power of continuing around corners on the Railroad. As long as his path is unobstructed, his move may cover any number of Railroad linked spaces, turning as many corners as he likes.

Note that the Landmines and Flag do not move. They remain in place until attacked by an enemy piece.


Among soldiers, it is the pieces of higher rank that capture the pieces of lower rank (as if they went out onto the battlefield and “out-ranked” each other). When a soldier attacks by moving onto a space occupied by an opposing piece, the piece of lower rank is removed, and the one of higher rank remains. (Note “1” is the highest rank; “9” is the lowest.) You may need to keep the diagram above on hand as you play, until the ranks become familiar to you.

If a piece attacks another of equal rank, both pieces are removed.
If a Grenade attacks or is attacked by any piece, both pieces are removed.
If any piece other than an Engineer attacks a Landmine, both pieces are removed, but if an Engineer attacks a Landmine, the Landmine is removed and the Engineer remains.

All pieces are safe and may not be attacked while on a Camp space.


When a piece attacks the opponent’s Flag, he has won the game.

The Referee

It is preferred that this game be played with a referee. Whenever a piece is attacked, the referee determines which piece (or pieces) are to be removed. The players never see the opposing pieces and are never told their identities, even when attacks are made and pieces are removed. This mystery is the fun and intrigue of the game.

If no referee is available, the game proceeds in the same way, but every time there is an attack the players must temporarily show the identities of the two pieces, to determine the outcome of the attack. A little less mystery.


Regional variations in these rules are not uncommon. In the northern areas of China, for instance, the Landmine is not removed when attacked by another piece — except by the Engineer who defeats it entirely. If you meet someone who knows this game from China, show some courtesy and cultural interest by asking how he plays it at home.


This pamphlet was compiled with the greatly appreciated assistance of Shuping Zhang , a long time native player of this game and innovator in the design of playing pieces. He can be contacted at:
Please copy email address by hand.

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