War and Chaos (Preview)
I am not one to brag (okay, maybe I am), but I know my “Chess”. I used to play professionally in my youth, being a member of the United States Chess Federation and ranked second best in Western Pennsylvania for my age group at one point. When “Chess” games or variants come across my table, you can imagine how hard it is for me to say no. “War and Chaos” is quite a unique idea, doing away with some of the standard “Chess” rules all the while adding new ones. It even has the capacity to handle four players…but where are my manners? Before we get started with the preview, I’d like to thank Patryk K Braganza-Gallagher from Mad Puppy Gaming for providing me with a prototype copy. It’s important to stress that the game is still in development via the Kickstarter process, making everything you see below subject to change.
My prototype copy came with one board and a number of tokens consisting of four different colors. The board itself was made up of a 12×12 playing grid (up from the standard 8×8), except that the four corners were out-of-bounds. The four different colored sets of tokens actually represent four unique races in the game: Humans (White), Elves (Green), Goblins (Red), and Undead (Black). They each have their own unique art style and ways of moving, though you can forgo the advanced game and treat them as your standard “Chess” pieces should you so choose.
Yes, you read that right…I said “advanced game”. There are actually a few different ways to play “War and Chaos”, allowing folks to make the game as easy or as hard as they’d like to make it. Those new to “Chess” could start out with the basic rule set and those familiar with “Chess” can jump right into the advanced game. Of course, long time veterans like myself can appreciate the basic rule set as it doesn’t mimic the standard “Chess” rules exactly…after all, this is “War and Chaos”.
In the basic game, each player receives a set of colored tokens and sets them face-up in the standard “Chess” format with one exception: the Queen is placed on the space to the right of the King (instead of her own color). A starting player is chosen at random and proceeds to pick a piece and move it. I was surprised to learn that checkmating the enemy King is not your goal…in fact there is no “Check” or “Checkmate” as such. Kings in “War and Chaos” can be taken and the game does not always end should that happen. Odd, I know…it admittedly took me some time to get used to that way of thinking. There are actually two separate victory conditions and players are free to choose either or: “Cut Off The Head” and “Annihilation”. In the former, you’re aiming to be the only player with a King piece still standing and in the latter, your goal will be to wipe ALL of the enemy pieces off the board.
The advanced game is a bit different. Racial piece movements and come into play, requiring players to break the mold and think outside of the box a bit. Pieces are set up in a player’s start zone face down (hidden) in any formation they’d like. During the game, players will have the option to flip up (reveal) the piece they’re moving or leave it face down. Face up pieces follow their appropriate movement rules and special abilities, while face down pieces are treated as pawns of their race and behave accordingly. This adds a bit of excitement to the game, as you don’t know what some pieces really are until they attack or attacked. The King also requires two hits to kill (except if attacked by another King or Queen). Since each race has a different way of moving their respective pieces, players should certainly be patient and allot more time to their play session on their first few games.
No matter which rule set you go with, players will need to observe the “Chaos Zone”, or the four squares in the very center of the board. Pieces that remain in the Chaos Zone for a full round can sacrifice themselves to resurrect another token of their choice. Pieces that remain in the Chaos Zone for two full rounds can be promoted into any other piece (except for the King). If that weren’t enough to throw you for a loop, players can sacrifice tokens of their color to move one token onto any of the Chaos Zone spaces…even if it means capturing another piece. It’s a desperate and risky move, but has a strategic value if utilized properly.
I honestly think that “War and Chaos” is not only a unique idea, but an ingenious one. This game has the benefit of allowing players to go off the rails with racial movement rule sets and/or allowing folks a way to play three or four player “Chess” without the hassle of buying a separate board. There’s even a variant listed in the rulebook for team play titled “Good vs. Evil” which has its own way of playing. My time with “War and Chaos” has been thoroughly enjoyable. The game itself, without a doubt, is a worthy addition to the long list of “Chess” variants on the market. If you’re a “Chess” player at all, you’d do well to check this Kickstarter project out!
You can learn more about and support “War and Chaos” by visiting its Kickstarter page, here: