Rostherne Games c.£6
Of the games I played with David Watts at Beer & Pretzels, this was easily the best. Although I played with a pre-production version, I'm pretty sure this one will be out in boxed form by the time you read this or soon after. It seems obvious to me that David has experienced a little flurry of designs with a Chess variant theme and although, as I've said many times, two player abstract games are not my strength, Manchester definitely had something going for it. Additionally, David's production standards have taken a noticeable upswing recently, featuring excellent DTP work from Wallace Nicoll, so the games now look more than presentable.
The basic idea is that you start with a number of pieces (ten I think) on a 6x6 board, faced off against your opponent who has exactly the same. Each turn, these pieces can move one square forwards or backwards but have no power to take other pieces. This apparent deficiency is resolved by placing, each turn, a card marked with a chess piece in one of the board's empty squares. If one of your pieces moves onto that covered square, it assumes the move and taking powers of the equivalent chess piece. So, if you start the turn on a rook card, your piece can move up and down the verticals and horizontals, taking any opposing piece in the normal way. Unless the taken piece is on a card, the taking piece reverts to its original lowly status until it can move onto another card. What transpires is a very neat game with lots of puzzling decisions and some subtle strategies. The board gradually fills up with cards, some of which are useful but limited pawns and others are powerful queens. The early game consists of building a strong defensive and offensive position, the middle game develops when most cards are in place and pieces start to take each other and the end game is not dissimilar to a chaotic chess game! It also runs to a fixed time limit as once all the cards are placed, the game comes to a quick end. I think the reason I liked it was that the game is heavily linear and far less structured than chess and my brain seems to be able to cope with it. It was always the bishops that got me in chess, I just couldn't see them coming! This is an excellent little game and I wish David the best of luck with a licencing deal from one of the majors. PS: I also have a copy of David's Chafts which isn't really my scene but I'd like to get a review in the next Sumo. If anyone would like to do a review in return for a free copy of the game, please drop me a line.
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