Tradition Tinker: “Assault Chess”

Welcome to the first of what will hopefully be a series of articles on tinkering with classic games. Before I get started, I want to make an important blanket statement. This series is not about “fixing” classic games. They are classic for a reason and don’t need my help to be fun. Instead I want to use this series to show some modern tabletop game design techniques in a fun way.

The games I’ll be talking about are the kind that you might find in almost any game closet. Even people who aren’t gamers will likely have some familiarity with games like Chess, Clue, Monopoly, or War. So with any luck you’ll have a copy nearby, and you can give this variant a try some time.

So without further caveats, let’s talk chess…

Chess is possibly the most popular game in the world. It started in India or Persia (sources differ), but people from all nationalities are likely to know the rules today. For the most part, the rules were passed on through word of mouth and they have evolved into what we popularly know today over about 500 years.

Those rules, however, aren’t as fixed as most people think. Many cultures have their own variants, and many of them play in very different ways. The rules for Chess aren’t sacred, they weren’t laid out in a holy text. The basics are pretty fixed (players take turns moving pieces) but even the win conditions and pieces can change.

So what contemporary mechanic do I want to try adding to Chess? I want to change the rules to simulate two armies charging at each other. If it helps, imagine the king as the standard bearer for a group of soldiers, the goal is to break their line or take their standard, whichever comes first. To achieve this goal, I’ll be using some modern style mechanics that bring a game to a close faster, and provide an alternate road to victory.

Here are the addiitional rules for Assault Chess:

  1. When a piece reaches a space along the opposing player’s board edge the piece is removed from play. The piece’s controlling player gains 1 point. If any player has 8 points the game immediately wins with him as the victor.
  2. Pieces may not end their turn in a space closer to their starting board edge than the space they began their turn in. This rule does not apply if the piece captures an opposing piece with its move.
  3. If 8 or fewer pieces remain on the board, the player with the most points wins (with a draw if both players have the same points).

That’s it. Just those 3 rules. All the standard rules of chess still apply. If you checkmate the opposing players king you still win.

The first rule is simple, it’s there to bring the game to a close when you’ve managed to get half your force off the opposing players board edge. The second rule keeps everyone moving in that direction, but still allows backwards movement to grab an opponent’s pieces. The third rule ends possible stalemates, and makes late game capturing important for the player who is ahead on points. Many games might be won with only 2 or 3 points.

When played, the game focuses on moving forward while stopping your opponent from reaching your board edge. Another possible name for the variant is Football Chess, as each game can feel a bit like American Football, with the King representing the quarterback who needs to be protected. Obviously there are two balls in play in this metaphor, but I feel like the gameplay is fairly representative otherwise (with the scoring pieces representing receivers down field).

I hope you enjoyed this little bit of tweaking, and hopefully it inspires you to break out that old chess set and play a few games. Next week I’ll be tackling Monopoly!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *