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Game Reviews by Anthony Viens

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Wizard's War. Game with piece-creating Wizards and a board divided into arena and enchanted sections. (10x10, Cells: 84) [All Comments] [Add Comment or Rating]
Anthony Viens wrote on 2020-03-26 UTCGood ★★★★

Well hey, apparently I never commented on this!

I quite like it! The interplay between needing pieces on the arena/safer on the enchanted squares is quite unusual.

Creating your own army is fun, and ensures no game start will be quite the same.

This is a very cohesive & well thought out variant.

Elevator. Three-dimensional chess variant with moving elevators and walking, vaulting and flying pieces. (8x8x4, Cells: 192) [All Comments] [Add Comment or Rating]
Anthony Viens wrote on 2020-03-11 UTCGood ★★★★

Very good, well-thought out game, with pieces which compliment the board--some require elevator movement, some use the empty shafts, and the ox can use them to capture. Nicely done.

I will say the rules allowing the flying pieces to go 'up, through an elevator trapdoor' feel very unintuitive; especially if playing with a physical set. It makes more sense to me to allow flying pieces to go either up or down through the empty shafts only; this would also make it impossible to threaten an identical piece without also being in danger.

Still, a very good variant!

Xhess. Decimal variant with Nightriders and Cannons. (10x10, Cells: 100) [All Comments] [Add Comment or Rating]
Anthony Viens wrote on 2020-03-05 UTCAverage ★★★

This looks like a decent 10x10 variant; it has the basic Chess pieces--with more mobile Pawns-- and well-known Knightriders & XiangQi Cannons.

The King game-winning 'promotion' rule could liven up the endgames without totally changing the game.

However, I am confused as to the logic behind the apparently abitrary initial setup. The Rooks have an open rank (like Grand Chess) which is fine.  But the Horsemen (modified Pawns) are more mobile--but start very close to each other.  So close, in fact, they can't use their forward most moves initially without being captured.   Except the Horsemen on the far ends; they start one rank farther back for no discernable reason. 

The forward pawn lines leave a bunch of space to the rear; considering the vast area there aren't very many other pieces.

Also, the Knights are back a rank from the Horsemen, consequently they cannot move forward as the first move. They are protecting Horsemen, but it seems like there ought to be another way to do this.

Xhess is quite playable, but I'm left with the impression the starting setup could use an overhaul.

Deception Chess. Each piece has two identities, Cloak and concealed Base.[All Comments] [Add Comment or Rating]
Anthony Viens wrote on 2020-03-03 UTCGood ★★★★

This is a really good idea, the only problem being it really needs a custom Chess set.

I'm guessing it would require similar bluffing strategy like Stratego. I can see myself thinking "hummm, that faux Pawn can't be anything valuable, it's too exposed.... unless that's what he wants me to think....or, he could be counting on me to think that's what he wants me to think...."


This actually has a decent chance of commercial success, in my opinion. It's got 'wow' factor, but close enough to normal Chess to feel familiar.

Great idea.

Euchess. Grand chess variant on 10 by 10 board. (10x10, Cells: 100) [All Comments] [Add Comment or Rating]
Anthony Viens wrote on 2020-03-01 UTCPoor ★

In my opinion, this is not a very good Grand Chess variant.

Grand Chess is built upon two main ideas; getting rid of castling by freeing the Rooks in the back rank, and introducing the two 'missing' compounds to be additional high-value pieces--the Cardinal & Marshall.

Euchess moves the Rooks back and re-introduces castling, and then doubles the number of Cardinals & Marshalls--but, inconsistently, keeps one Queen.

Ignoring the lack of numerical consistency, this is really bad from a playable perspective--the sheer number of power pieces diminished the value of Knights & Bishops significantly.

Euchess is much too top-heavy, power wise, and significantly dimishes the point of the open back row. (Marshalls, with their Knight move, don't need the room to be developed.)

I think there is room for some interesting variants of Grand Chess, but this isn't one of them.

Pocket Mutation Chess. Take one of your pieces off the board, maybe change it, keep it in reserve, and drop it on the board later. (8x8, Cells: 64) (Recognized!)[All Comments] [Add Comment or Rating]
Anthony Viens wrote on 2018-11-29 UTCExcellent ★★★★★

One of the very best variant on the site!

Truly beautiful concept, and it appears to work.  (I have not had an opportunity to try it myself, yet.)

Reading through the comments, much of the complaints seem to focus on the power of the knightrider's ability to reach the back row and promote.  I wonder if anyone has considered that the knightrider move and the promotion rules may not work together perfectly?  Changing them would result in a different game, but possibly a better one.  Just a thought.

Time Travel Chess. Pieces can travel into the Future. Kings can also return to the Past! (8x8, Cells: 64) [All Comments] [Add Comment or Rating]
Anthony Viens wrote on 2018-11-29 UTCExcellent ★★★★★

Excellent time travel twist on chess!  Beautiful!

Shatranj of Troy. A Shatranj variant with Shogi-like drops, a Trojan Horse (with 6 pieces inside),. (9x9, Cells: 81) [All Comments] [Add Comment or Rating]
Anthony Viens wrote on 2018-11-28 UTCGood ★★★★

Another clean design by Gary Gifford.  Nothing here but the pawns, king, and fully-loaded trojan horse.  Set-up-your-pieces opening, essentially.  Interesting, but personally I prefer a bigger variety of pieces.

I can still admire the clean design!

Sirlin's Chess. Alternative presentation of "Chess 2 - The Sequel". (8x8, Cells: 64) [All Comments] [Add Comment or Rating]
Anthony Viens wrote on 2018-11-19 UTCAverage ★★★

This page contains the rules for this game:

Sirlin's Chess2-the Sequel

I agree that name reeks of hubris.  However, that page has all the discussion about the game on it.  I would be great if this page were linked to it in the main body of text.

Chess 2. Different armies, a new winning condition, and duels. (8x8, Cells: 64) [All Comments] [Add Comment or Rating]
Anthony Viens wrote on 2018-11-19 UTCAverage ★★★

I've played a fair bit of Sirlin's Chess2, so I'm going to make a bunch of posts to move the rules onto CV website, in case the game is ever abandoned by Sirlin games.  I will also comment on the game in general.
Sirlin's Chess2 is quite balanced, and has clearly gone through a lot of playtesting.  Being developed by a modern boardgame company owner clearly shows here!

First, Sirlin's Chess2 adds 3 things:

1)win by centerline invasion
2)dueling stones; possible loss of an attacking piece
3)different armies.

Quote from offical rules:

New Win Condition: Midline Invasion
You can still win by checkmate, but you also win if your king crosses the midline of the board. Each move has added significance, because you must weigh how much it helps or hurts each player’s chances of winning by king crossing the midline in addition to the usual considerations of furthering a checkmate.
Just like in Chess 1, it’s illegal to move into check, so to win by Midline Invasion, your King must land on the 5th rank without being in check. Unlike Chess 1 though, there are no stalemates. If you have no legal moves, you lose the game.  While stalemates are common in Chess 1, they aren’t needed in Chess 2 because the Midline Invasion rule provides an even stronger option that a player can aim for when he’s down on material.

In practice, against reasonablely competent players, the majority of games will end by midline invasion.  For one thing, whoever is winning can typically move his king up before he checkmate's his opponent.  The big change, however, is when a player starts to loose, he will usually make a quick attempt at midline invasion win.  This makes the transition between the mid- and end-game very chaotic.
Most non-chess boardgame players will find this a very exciting change; instead of a long slow grind as one player increases his advantage, the the game ends in an explosion of desperate dashes-for-the-midline.  While the player who is in a better position will still usually win, there is more hope for the loosing player.  Having more on the line, it is more exciting for both players, despite the fact that the game still usually ends as expected.
This also esentially eliminates the chess endgame--which most casual players consider the most boring.  Once a player has a significant advantage, chess tends to grind toward an inevitable conclusion.  This is why experienced chess players will conceed when the game gets past a certain point--going through the motions is just a waste of time.
As a side affect, Sirlin's Chess2 games tend to be shorter.  Modern boardgames (not chess variants) tend toward shorter is better, so non-chess enthusasts would generally consider this a good thing.

This is where Sirlin's modern boardgaming design experience is showing....he has designed a change that appeals to the masses (more exciting desperate chance of a win) and eliminated the masses least favorite part of chess (the grinding endgame) and shortened the game in one simple rule.

There is just one problem.
I don't like it either!!!
Effectively getting rid of checkmate just feels WRONG.

Sum it up=theoretically a good change that appeals to casual players, but chess enthusists won't like it at all.


Quote from offical rulebook:


Dueling allows you to spend a new resource called stones to threaten to destroy a piece that takes one of your pieces. Try to trick the opponent into wasting his stones because if he runs out first, you automatically win any further duels.

You start with 3 stones and gain 1 stone each time you capture an enemy pawn, up to a maximum of 6 stones.

Whenever you would capture any piece, the defender can initiate a duel. If your piece is higher rank than his (ranks: pawn -> knight/bishop -> rook -> queen), he must pay 1 stone to initiate a duel. To duel, you each put 0, 1, or 2 stones in your closed fists, then simultaneously reveal them. All stones revealed are destroyed. The winner of the duel is the one who showed more stones--ties go to the attacker.

If the attacker wins a duel, he takes the piece in question as in normal Chess. If the defender wins, he still loses his piece, but the attacker ALSO loses the piece he attacked with.

Initiating a duel and bidding 0 is a bluff to make the opponent waste stones. The attacker calls your bluff by bidding 0 himself. He wins because attacker always wins on a tie and in addition, the attacker can choose to gain 1 stone or cause the defender to lose 1 stone. (A player can't have more than 6 stones.)

Kings cannot be involved in duels because they have "Diplomatic Immunity." (They can't initiate a duel or be dueled.)

Players with 0 stones cannot initiate duels, but they can be dueled against. When you duel against a player with 0 stones, you must bid 1 and you automatically win the duel. If you lose a pawn in a duel, your opponent does gain a stone.


Dueling is another change designed to switch the game up.  Normal chess has a very mathmatical quality to it--good players can predict moves very far in advance.  The farther forward you can think, the bigger your advantage.

Dueling changes this.  Now, sometimes you won't keep a victorious piece.  Consequently, there is only so far out it is practical to predict moves, leveling the playing field a little bit.
Dueling accomplishes this WITHOUT resorting to chance.  The number of stones each player has is public knowledge, and he who correctly reads the importance of the current board position and his opponent will win the duel.  (And the attacker has the advantage, so ties in skill will result in the same board state as if no duel occured.)  However, this requires a very different set of skills than chess.

Consequently, it is possible for someone who is really really good at typical chess to be beaten by a player who is better at reading his opponent and bidding accordingly.  Someone who is bad at bidding may be winning--until they run out of stones.  This gives the othe player a big advantage.

By broadening the useful/necessary skills to win AND lowering the ability to look ahead, a larger variety of player types can be effective players.  Plus each duel is a mini-game, which gives flashes of excitement in the middle of the game.

Again, Sirlin's skill at designing modern boardgames shows.  This is a rule that should appeal to the masses and create some excitement, while lowering the necessity of mapping out future moves.

There is just one problem.
I don't like it either!!!
Effectively making it uncertain if you are keeping a piece just feels WRONG.

Sum it up=theoretically a good change that appeals to casual players, but chess enthusists won't like it at all.

CHECK 11 ~ Original Vision ~. 11 different original factions, chosen secretly, each with extra powers when few pieces remain.[All Comments] [Add Comment or Rating]
Anthony Viens wrote on 2018-11-18 UTCAverage ★★★

I strongly encourage continuing work on this....I love the idea of 'choosing different armies'!

Sirlin's Chess2

Betza's Chess with Different Armies

Fantasy Grand Chess

And your idea of a one-time enhancement Trance (spell) appears to be an excellent idea of something different while not being too powerful.

However, I think the rules need some clarification.
In particular, the army 'Hologram' appears underpowered rules-as-written.  You gain the ability to suicide your queen to teleport your king.  Useful, but only so much.  You can't use it offensively (teleporting your king to the front lines is not smart) and if you use it to get the king out of check you're already in a bad way, and probably only delaying the inevitable.
Meanwhile, you loose the ability for the queen to capture--but it can still be captured, apparently.  So the queen is essentally useless.  (The rules specify only that the queen cannot capture.  All other rules being the same as chess, that means the queen can be captured.  A queen that cannot capture or be captured is useful as a blocking piece--is that what you meant?) 
The Trance is not that powerful, only allowing the queen the ability to capture kingwise.  (If the queen is uncapturable, this is very powerful.)
I'm left with the conclusion that you must have meant the queen cannot capture or be captured.

Four Towers. Irregular board with special tower squares upon which pieces can combine with each other or detach from each other. (Cells: 85) [All Comments] [Add Comment or Rating]
Anthony Viens wrote on 2018-11-14 UTCBelowAverage ★★

I've got to comment on this....a crazy lot of ideas in this game.

I think they need to be refined, but I am attracted to the unusual.
This is definitly unusual!

Knights of the Round Table. Missing description (8x8, Cells: 64) [All Comments] [Add Comment or Rating]
Anthony Viens wrote on 2018-11-11 UTCBelowAverage ★★

The idea of Knights promoting into a set list accessable by both sides is an interesting one.  It should encourage aggression.

However, the high probablity of uneven play drops the game's rating.  Maybe if the pieces were closer in value....

Not knowing which side will get thid king is also interesting.
There are some unusual ideas here.

Diplomat Chess. Round-board variant with a Diplomat to suborn opponents. (Cells: 43) [All Comments] [Add Comment or Rating]
Anthony Viens wrote on 2018-11-11 UTCGood ★★★★

So, a couple months ago, I wondered about a circular board that uses the center.

I figured someone must have invented it, and looked through CV.
Apparently my google skills are weak, because I didn't find this or any other.   :-(
So I began working on it.
It took some thinking, but I more or less hammered out the rules on paper.

Today I stumble across this!  It has identical movement rules to what I have come up with!  Brilliant!
Also, this looks to be a nice little variant.

If only I had found Diplomat Chess before I spent that time reinventing the round rules......

CHESSAGON. CHESSAGON® is like traditional Chess, but with Triangles, with one new additional piece named the Duke.[All Comments] [Add Comment or Rating]
Anthony Viens wrote on 2018-10-24 UTCGood ★★★★

I am interested in seing some of the more 'out there' piece ideas you have.  In my personal opinion, once you've gone through all the trouble to develop a triangular board, you need to push the envelope on the pieces.

Other than just being chess on a triangular board, this looks perfectly playable!  Very nice!

Palace Shogi. A complicated hybrid of Shogi, Xiang Qi, and Chess.[All Comments] [Add Comment or Rating]
Anthony Viens wrote on 2018-10-24 UTCGood ★★★★

This is probably the best Chess/Shogi/Xiang Qi combination I've seen.  Very good.

Afterlife Chess. A game based on Ancient Egyption mythology, played on four boards totaling 42 squares. (Cells: 42) [All Comments] [Add Comment or Rating]
Anthony Viens wrote on 2018-10-24 UTCAverage ★★★

Average score for sheer higher due to my doubts of actual playability.

This is crazy. Very interesting ideas hidden here though.

Catapults of Troy. Large variant with a river, catapults, archers, and trojan horses! (8x11, Cells: 88) [All Comments] [Add Comment or Rating]
Anthony Viens wrote on 2018-09-14 UTCExcellent ★★★★★

This is one of my favorite variants on the site!  Very well done.  I like the concept of the river as a barrier, but you didn't stop with that as a gimmick.  You also made the piece types work with the river!  There is an archer to shoot over the water, the ram could be too powerful but the river hampers it's deployment, and a catapult to toss pieces....great job.

Now, there are a few things I would do different (imitation being the sincerest form of flattery, I may design a derivative) but there is only one thing I think is not designed very well.

Why do you have 5 ranks on each half of the board?  Xiang Qi also has 5, but the pawns start on the fourth rank.  Catapults of Troy's pawns start on the second rank, and don't have an initial double (or triple) step.  I would venture to say this makes pawn development very very slow.  

Which would be fine, except I see absolutely no benefit from it.  The river already has a huge damper on pawn development/attacks, so even if you wanted to limit pawn interaction in the game it's already redundant.  Not to mention, slowing the game (particularly the opening) down for no actual change doesn't seem like a good idea.
It slows down getting the bridge builder into position, it slows down getting the Trojan Horse into the also makes developing the bishops really awkward....Honestly, it makes everything except the catapult sadly out of position.  I'm afraid the opening of Catapults of Troy would devolve into catapulting most of your pieces close to the river just to save 30 turns of development.
Frankly, I think there is so much empty space eliminating only one rank from each side would still play almost the same.  Slightly shorter opening, sure, but nothing else. 
Again, all this would be OK, except I see no benefit at all.  Just an unnecessarily stretched opening.

Am I missing something?  Please inform me, if so.
(Maybe you like a long opening!  That's OK.)

I would allow pawn double step and eliminate one rank per side, personally.  I think that would speed up the opening tremendously and lose nothing--maybe lower the importance of the Catapult a little bit, but at the moment Catapults look too central to moving pieces.

All that being said, this is STILL an excellent game.   I can handle an unnecessarily long opening, so long as the rest of it is great!  One of the best on the website!

Courier Chess. A large historic variant from Medieval Europe. (12x8, Cells: 96) (Recognized!)[All Comments] [Add Comment or Rating]
Anthony Viens wrote on 2018-09-03 UTCGood ★★★★

The historicity of this variant vastly increases it's's possible this is the beginning of pawn's double move, and the first appearance of a diagonal slider.  Very important.

Chariots. Standard pieces start as pairs with shared capabilities, but can separate and recombine. (10x10, Cells: 100) [All Comments] [Add Comment or Rating]
Anthony Viens wrote on 2018-09-03 UTCAverage ★★★

This has some very interesting ideas, but the end result feels a little much.  I'm not sure I completely understand the moving over full squares rule.

Cannons of Chesstonia. Cannons launch a Pawn, Wazir, Ferz and Stone to increase strategical and tactical play. (12x8, Cells: 80) [All Comments] [Add Comment or Rating]
Anthony Viens wrote on 2018-09-01 UTCAverage ★★★

I just have to say, this is a clever idea.  Very nice.

Chess Cubic. Chess board is a cube with each side a 4x4 grid. (4x4x6, Cells: 96) [All Comments] [Add Comment or Rating]
Anthony Viens wrote on 2018-08-23 UTCGood ★★★★

I rather like the idea.  Assuming fairly normal piece moves.

  I would expand the piece set to start some fairy pieces on the empty faces, myself.

Flipworld. Pieces are on both sides of a disc. (6x7x2, Cells: 84) [All Comments] [Add Comment or Rating]
Anthony Viens wrote on 2018-08-22 UTCGood ★★★★


Wow.  I like. 

Bishop moves are darn tricky.  They have an abundance of paths to take, I'm guessing they are valued approxamently the same as a rook.
Also, don't rooks tend to be more dangerous on a circuar board?
Consequently, the queen might be overly powerful.

I honestly think that there could be more peices to play with the different angles.

I think this has a germ of brilliance, but incomplete.  This definitly has some unrealized potential.

Wizard's Curse. Missing description (8x8, Cells: 64) [All Comments] [Add Comment or Rating]
Anthony Viens wrote on 2018-08-22 UTCBelowAverage ★★

This has a lot of rather interesting ideas...however, I don't have quite enough information to attempt to play.  How exactly do you use blessings or curses?  Are they automatic, or take a turn?  Aimed at a piece?  I think you can you only use them when K/Q adjacent to a bishop....

Do you always move both knights on a single turn?

Dragons sound too powerful.  I think they would dominate the game.

All-in-all, interesting, but the rules are not clear.

Advanced Wizard Chess. Chess variant on 10 by 10 board with fantasy chess pieces. (10x10, Cells: 100) [All Comments] [Add Comment or Rating]
Anthony Viens wrote on 2018-08-22 UTCGood ★★★★

Very interesting.  I like the different moves on each board and how they relate to each other.  Nice job!

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