I am still surprised that ochmir has so little web presence, so part of the point of this page is simply to provide a static reference to the game. However, what this is really about is to document my thoughts on how ochmir could really be played, what the rules should be, and how playing pieces could best be made.

This is very much a work in progress, so by all means drop me a line with any comments, questions or contributions.



What is ochmir?

Ochmir is a board game described in two books by Mary Gentle, Golden Witchbreed and Ancient Light. The game is a metaphor for the political system of the Orthean Southlands in those novels.

The game itself is played on a hexagonal board divided into triangles, and the pieces are double sided. The goal is to occupy more spaces on the board than your opponent. Pieces can be played anywhere on the board, and your opponent's pieces can be turned over to your colour by occupying a majority of spaces in a minor hexagon (that is, a group of spaces formed by six triangles sharing a vertex).

The players each make their moves from a hand of six pieces drawn from a tile bag, and on each turn may either place a piece or move any mobile piece they own. There are three piece types:

  1. ferrorn - stays put once played. The most common piece.

  2. thurin - may move one space. Rarer than the ferrorn, but still reasonably numerous.

  3. leremoc - "has complete freedom of movement". Very rare.

That's the core of the game. I want to develop a full set of rules, but haven't done so yet.

There are a number of outstanding questions about the game:

  • how do thurin move? - the game descriptions talk about thurin moving one space per turn, but is this across an edge only?

  • how do leremoc move? - what does "complete freedom of movement" mean? Can a leremoc move to any other open space on the board?

  • how does the three handed game work? - two variations of ochmir are described, one for two players and one for three. It is difficult to imagine how a game based on flipping pieces would work for a three player game...

  • what's the turn structure? - a hand of six pieces is drawn, but is thie replenished whenever a piece is placed? Only when the last piece from the hand is put down?

  • what's the piece distribution? - no hard numbers are given for the relative frequency of the three piece types. All that's stated definitively is the ferrorn are more common than thurin, which are themselves more common that leremoc. How these relative distributions can be applied to the three handed game is another huge puzzle.

  • what about cheating? - as described in the book, cheating is seen as an integral part of social play. It's not allowed, but if you can get away with it it's not frowned upon either. I have no idea if this is something which should be codifed!

  • how playable is the game? - my instinct is that this should be an interesting game to play, and should play something like a cross between go and reversi, but there are a lot of variations which will influence playability.

All of these questions can be answered in several ways, depending on authenticity and playability.



my goals with ochmir are roughly as follows:

  • write an FAQ

  • write a ruleset. I shall concentrate on the two handed game first, since that seems to make more sense.

  • make a board. Using Scrabble racks to hold the tiles in the first instance should work, but making some ochmir-specific racks would be cool too.

  • make some pieces. Again, the focus here will be on the two handed game, but I don't want to put too much effort into this until I've got a better idea of the piece distributions.

  • computer opponent - just in case I can't find any humans to play with!


Last updated 07-May-2009