|Mastery is a strategy game plucked from a fantasy
world (see Background Notes). I maintain a modest
Mastery Mailing List,
and if you want to play Mastery against opponents around the world please
visit Super Duper Games, a free
website providing turn-based strategy gaming at your own pace (with a large
choice of games). Some time ago, the very-groovy Armin Sykes made a Windows
Game for playing Mastery in real-time over the 'net. I recommend snagging
it; it's still a great way to practice your moves and learn the game, though
apparently it has difficulty with modern net connections due to technical
concerns beyond my understanding.
Board and Pieces
The Mastery playing field is an ordinary checkerboard (an 8x8 grid). Each side consists of thirteen pieces: three Masters, four Officers, and six Pawns. Each side's pieces should be easily distinguishable by color. A Mastery set can be built easily by scavenging the pieces from two identical chess sets, using Rooks for Masters, Knights for Officers, and Pawns for Pawns.
The Game's Object
Each player acts in turn, with the darker-colored side moving first. On his turn, a player must do one of three things: Move, Capture, or Control.
All pieces must move in straight, unobstructed lines to their destination.
No piece can jump over another.
When making a Move or Capture, players must move one of their own pieces.
When making a Control play, however, players must move one of the enemy's
pieces. When a piece is moved by an enemy, it is referred to as a treacherous
piece. For the duration of a Control move, the treacherous piece is considered
to be of it's opposite color, and follows the normal rules for movement
and/or capture. Thus, a Control play will be either a Move or a Capture,
using an enemy piece as if it were your own.
Only those enemy pieces sitting in the Zone of Control of one of your
ally pieces may be controlled. Furthermore, pieces only exert control over
pieces of lower rank: Masters may exert control over Officers and Pawns;
Officers may exert control over Pawns only, and Pawns exert no control
The Reflection Rule
The Lost Power Rule
Whenever either side loses either all six Pawns, or all four Officers, it loses the power to make Control moves. This remains in effect for as long as that side is completely without either Pawns or Officers.
I designed the original Mastery in 1990 in a fit of abstract-strategy madness. I'd decided that my fantasy game-world needed more unique games. I could never wrap my brain around chess, and the idea of my Wise Old Wizards and Sinister Emperors sitting around playing chess bothered me; I wanted them to have a game of their very own.
I had already devised one of the world's popular card-games - called Centaur - and a children's boardgame called Capstones. I sat down determined to make the adult strategy game to accompany tem, and this is the result, evolved through several years of playtest with friends, most notably Ron Wiltshire. For a stretch, Ron played several games a night with me, on a heavy marble chessboard. He was, alas, many times better at the game than I was! These days, Ron and I are both married and live in different states, but the game wouldn't exist in any kind of polished form without him.
Another thing that wouldn't be the same without those gaming days is Uresia: Grave of Heaven, the fantasy world that descended in large part from the campaigns of those years (Ron knew the original Fhario, for example, and for that matter Ron's character was born in the original kingdom - rather than world - of Uresia)! In 2000, when I was drafting the original edition, Mastery was included ... but I was a little gun-shy about it, since (at the time) it would have meant selling the rights to Mastery to another game publisher, when I was already enjoying having it on the site. I also wasn't sure if it would cause any kind of legal difficulties with Armin's software if I did that, so with regrets, I omitted Mastery from the submission drafts (it probably would have run up against space limitations, anyway).
In 2005, I approached Guardians of Order looking to buy the rights to Uresia, and Mark made me an offer we could both afford. With Uresia back home, I began outlining what I'd do in a new Cumberland edition, and - of course - I put Mastery back in.
In 2006, I formally began working on the new Uresia edition, and decided that I'd update the Mastery page and so on as part of a general release blitz. To my surprise, however, Super Duper Games contacted me and asked permission to include Mastery in their lineup of web-playable games. They're a friendly free site, so I happily agreed and that gave me an excuse to update a little early ... But there's still more to come (including a Uresia-style graphic update to this page) when Uresia 2nd comes along, so stay tuned!