Wot I Checked: Chess 2 – The Sequel

Ah, Chess 2. A joke made real? Seems like it, only they’re not joking. This is a straight up remix and rebalance intended to shuffle the game away from its standard opening/closing moves and to fix the “problems” of the venerable chequered board format. But how can that work? And more importantly: does it work?

Read on for my handful of chess anecdotes and some writing about Chess 2, too. Toooo.

It’s easy to assume that most of you are familiar with Chess, the original boardgame version. It’s a bit of a classic, dating back beyond Cluedo to the medieval era, and from there to 3rd century India as the game Chaturanga. In a sense, Chess is a Chaturanga clone, and I bet the developers of that never really got the credit they deserved. Anyway, you’ve definitely seen it, and you will understand its gravity, even if you don’t understand how to play. Basically, Chess is sort of important, and was the only game (other than the ones involving actual submarines and aircraft carriers) to feature heavily in the international politics of the Cold War.

Chess 2 is a game by David Sirlin and Zachary Burns. Sirlin a game designer and prolific writer on game design. His deepest interest is in rebalancing multiplayer games, and he’s done some interesting work on exposing how and why that process is so tricky. He’s a clever chap, no doubt about that. The consequence of his cleverness is that this isn’t some cheap novelty predicated on silliness, but a considered and intelligent remix of the great-grandmaster of games. It introduces new rules and new armies, and their moves and powers change the feel and pace of the game. You may snort with knee-jerk derision at such a brazen overhaul of the ancient game, but it kind of works. Equally you might snort at the potential boringness of the idea, but it kind of works.

The main change is a single rule: if you get your king safely over the mid line of the board, you win. This single change of course completely alters the dynamic, and creates utterly different strategies for play. And yes, it’s a clever change. It immediately made the challenge of this new game interesting.

But there’s a much wider change, and that’s the new pieces and the six armies, any of which can be played against each other. Each army has a different set of abilities. The Classic army is the only army with a Queen, and plays as per the original rules. The Two Kings army has super kings which have an extra move. The Empowered army features bishops, knights, and rooks, and these work together to gain each others movement properties when adjacent. The Animals army features a set of quite different pieces with unusual moves, while the Nemesis army and Haunted armies have a couple more esoteric sets of abilities, including rather random teleportation things. Weird.

The armies certainly make things different, and I like it, but it’d take countless years play to properly evaluate the effectiveness and play of these pieces against each other.

But there’s more. You can also play a limited set of beads to win “duels” between pieces, negating the possibility of something automatically taking another piece. This is a limited resource, however, and one that means you can gamble on critical moves. I’m not sure I like this, and it feels like a move too far. I can’t deny that it brings even more life to the proceedings, however.

You can play the computer, which is rubbish at playing, or you can play in the ranked matchmaking. That took me a while to get a game on, which suggests the population of the game might be its main undoing.

So that’s Chess 2.

And here’s where I step back for some anecdotal perspective. Chess 1 has always been sort of theoretically important to me, although I’ve studiously avoided playing anyone who was particularly good because I am a terrible loser.

In an event that makes my life sound like it was invented by Ian Fleming, I was taught to play Chess by an American architect in Singapore, and I consequently came to associate the game with a sort of austere tropical intellectualism, and also iced tea. Being a boy at the time meant I wasn’t ready to conduct much of a critical analysis of the game, but I do remember finding it odd that the game was actually pretty boring. Even as a kid, I was able to force the architect into a draw. Yep, here it was, the game of kings, and you have to assume kings like stalemate situations where nobody wins. Because that is chess. The developers of Chess 2 came to similar conclusions, as they explained an interview with Eurogamer.

“If I were to make a completely new competitive game,” Sirlin explained to Chris Donlan, “then tell you that over 60 per cent of games played by experts ended in draws, and it takes like an hour to play, it would be rejected right away as a competitive game I think. At the very least, it would be a bad property that you’d want to fix. That’s one issue with chess, though, and it seems to have gotten more extreme over time.”

This, then, is the true aim of Chess 2. The new victory condition and armies aren’t arbitrary or just wild invention, they’re a calculated attempt to make the game play so differently that it alters the fossilising techniques – such as simply brute memorising possible plays – and changes the game from one that is computationally boring, to one that is less predictable and more dynamic. This goal, I would argue, has been achieved. The wider goal of making a game that matters, however, isn’t really there. The game never looks interesting, and it lacks the range of features that are actually required to facilitate online play – such as p2p chat – and that cripples its forward momentum.

Indeed, I can’t help feel that this sort of well-meaning, well-encapsulated redesign was actually one half the puzzle of making the game of Chess 2. I once wrote a back page joke feature on the notion of “Chess 2” for PC Gamer magazine, and while it was wholly stupid, I’ve ever since been haunted by the thought that a genuine satire of how games work, based on Chess – THE LONG AWAITED SEQUEL TO THE GAME BOBBY FISCHER CALLED “LIFE ITSELF” – complete with cover flashes “NEW ARMIES!” “FIGHT THE JUNGLE QUEEN!”

Chess 2: The Sequel is the clearest opportunity I have seen for a deep satire of games and game design, and that opportunity has been squandered here. It’s even in the title, for goodness sake! THE SEQUEL. Look, I’m not saying everything should be done for a cheap laugh, but I think there’s actually an opportunity for an expensive, complicated laugh here. It could have been a satire of marketing, rebranding, even design itself. It could have been a golden chance for an all encompassing punchline.

But it isn’t.

Chess 2 is out now on Steam. You can also download Sirlin’s rules for free to play it with any old chess set.


Top comments

  1. Freud says:

    Might have to check this game out, mate.
  1. princec says:

    Beaten to it by years with Zatikon. An utterly brilliant game.

  2. Ross Angus says:

    What I don’t understand about modern board games is the complexity of the rule sets. I see the point about the issues with Chess, but it’s complexity arises out of an extremely simple set of rules. Modern board games seem to take a few games to even absorb the basics. Tetrus is beautiful in it’s minimalism.

    Bobby Fisher advocated that the back row of pieces should be randomised (but mirrored), so as to combat the issues in competitive level with Grand Masters simply memorising huge numbers of move sets.

    If this approach is too complicated, one can randomise the pawns instead.

    • TillEulenspiegel says:

      It’s true that not a lot of new games are being made in the “pieces on a regular board” genre (though watch out for Mouse Guard: Swords & Strongholds), but there are plenty of simpler card/board games out there. Including basically anything played on Wil Wheaton’s Tabletop.

      Something like Through The Desert is a good example of simple rules leading to complex play. Or look at Dominion, which does take one full game to understand the mechanics if you’ve never played a deck-building game before, but after that it’s all about very simple rules and the cards on the table. Really, there’s so much out there, and I’ve played lots of them even with people who profess to hate board games. Kingdom Builder was a particular success, I think.

      • Ross Angus says:

        Doesn’t Dominion require players to memorise the many different cards, for optimal play?

        • Steven Hutton says:

          The real optimal play in Dominion is not to play. Instead Play Puzzle Strike. Also by Sirlin.

          • Kitsunin says:

            Puzzle Strike is freaking fantastic. And you’d think it would be difficult to pick up since it’s a bit more complicated and has far more depth than the likes of dominion, yet it really isn’t. Even my grandmother understood it fine after her first couple games. Easily my number one game of all time to play with one other player.

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          FhnuZoag says:

          What do you mean by memorization? The contents of each card is displayed prominently, so there is no memorization there. Knowing what is in your deck and what is in your opponents’ deck is important, true. And some dominion setups are essentially solved problems. Still, there’s a sufficiently large variety of cards that you will generally not play the same game several times, and hence there isn’t much value memorizing openings.

          • Ross Angus says:

            OK. I’ve never played it (if that wasn’t obvious). So it’s purely a game of cards and deck building, then?

          • RogueNite says:

            It’s a game in which you build the deck within the game. A CCG, TCG or LCG is where you build the deck outside of the game. Dominion is a game about building a deck. Magic, for example, is a game about playing a deck.

          • JFS says:

            It’s basically a game of “buy gold to win”. It goes with the Zeitgeist, I’d say. And I still don’t understand how Ticket to Ride and Dominon became such bestsellers, both being really flawed and not very exciting.

          • Grey Cap says:

            Don’t listen to the haters. Dominion is a far superior game to Ticket to Ride, and a very decent game overall. The biggest problem is that there is only one best strategy on every randomised board: once your circle of friends gets really good at the game, everyone will recognise the best combination of cards immediately and you’ll all pursue the same strategy. After a few dozen games, you’ll have to buy an expansion to keep things fresh or move on, but I’d say that’s not a particularly bad lifespan.

          • Kitsunin says:

            It is a horrible lifespan compared to Puzzle Strike or Thunderstone though. God, put $70 into Thunderstone and you have a completely massive number of possibilities.

            To be fair, I understand why Dominion is popular. It’s very easy to get into, adapts pretty well to all its recommended player numbers, and is pretty fun up front. It really falls off if you’re interested in serious strategy, or want to play 50 games of it, but most people who are willing to spend as much as dominion costs probably won’t play it enough to wear it out before considering a new expansion.

    • Aninhumer says:

      There is a wide variety of complexity in modern board games, including many abstract games that are closer to the style of traditional ones. However, if you want to know why most tend to be more complicated, there are a couple of reasons I can think of.

      It allows the games to create stronger themes, by having their mechanics more closely match the narrative they represent. Chess may be warfare themed, but in practice it bears very little resemblance to any real conflicts. Whereas a more complicated game involving hit points and attack roles offers a much more compelling simulation.

      Also for many people learning a new set of intricate rules, and then working out how they interact, and how to optimise within them is a fun exercise in and of itself.

      • Ross Angus says:

        There’s two kinds of complexity here: complexity arising from a very simple set of rules and complexity arising from simply adding more game play elements. In chess, you could add a second board where counters move along a linear path, to keep score, for example. A dreadful idea, of course.

        You make a good point about simulation. Hadn’t thought about that.

        • WHS says:

          I like both kinds of complexity, and you see them both in video games too, but the reason Chess 2 doesn’t appeal to me very much is that it takes a game that derives its existing complexity from incredibly simple rules and expands on it by layering in a bunch of complicated new elements. It feels wrong.

    • WHS says:

      This is what sort of bugs me about the Chess 2 thing: they overdid it. The “cross the center line to win” condition destabilizes the game enough to complicate strategies considerably; considering must of us aren’t exactly grandmasters (and those of us who are probably pretty dedicated to the original game), that alone might have been sufficient to freshen up the game.

      Throwing in a bunch of increasingly crazy sets, and especially throwing in a “duel” system that exists outside the usual mechanics of the game, is just too much.

      • Steve Catens says:

        The Centerline King Gambit will get you to Chess 1.2, or maybe 1.3, but not all the way to Chess 2.0. If they rested on their laurels there, people would complain that Chess 2 is more of a glorified DLC rather than a full sequel. Confidence would be lost in the entire Chess franchise, and might negatively impact sales of Chess 2: Directors Cut, Chess 3, and Chess: Origins.

      • GardenOfSun says:

        Pretty much this ^

        I’d add that the quote about 60% of games ending in a draw in my opinion shows a distinct lack of comprehension for the point of the game – which is the pleasure of reasoning with – and not against – your opponent.
        I’ve always bounced off chess myself, because I found it too heavy on maths and too punishing on fantasy and improvisation, but that can just be solved by rendering the memorization techniques impossible. And i’m sure we could find more elegant ways to do that.

    • Scurra says:

      “What I don’t understand about modern board games is the complexity of the rule sets”
      This is often, but not wholly, down to the requirements of multiplayer balance. There’s a reason why a lot of videogames even now struggle with making multiplayer (as in “each player against the others with a single winner at the end”) work, outside of shooty-bang-bang games where balance is moderately trivial, or games that are really just boardgames made digital.
      The designer needs to make sure that the game includes multiple strategies that are viable for victory, without having one that is blatantly better than the others, so that each player can feel that they are making their own choices, rather than having the game determine them, and also needs to make sure that there are mechanisms to deal with issues like runaway leaders, player interaction (both direct and indirect) and a relatively clear goal. It takes a long time to balance things like this correctly, and even then there are liable to be issues.

      “What I don’t understand about modern board games is the complexity of the rule sets”
      The other response to your question is that this is a bit like saying that all modern video games are like Civ5. The spectrum of board games is as wide as that of video games, with experimental indie ideas jostling with full-on AAA titles. If you are put off by a complex rule set, then there are plenty of games that will provide just as much satisfaction on a single page.

    • 0positivo says:

      That’s a rather subjective statement. I don’t know about others, but I can speak to myself, and I say: I rather like complex rulesets and “busy” aesthetic, feel. Which is why I simply havent bought in in this (not so anymore) new way to design smartphones, just to pick an example, with as little buttons as possible. Give me my QWERTY foldable phone anytime, I say!

    • jrodman says:

      Chess is clearly too compilcated. Nim is where it’s at.

  3. GibletHead2000 says:

    At first glance and not having played it, my initial reaction is that the armies thing and ‘beads’ thing are steps too far. As far as tweaking the original game goes, the king-over-the-midline rule seems significant enough on its own, and the scope of that change is fascinating. Just that one change completely scraps pretty much all existing knowledge of openings, whilst keeping the core mechanics of the game the same.

    It also means you can play it with a standard chess set. I think I’ll give this a go with my friends shortly.

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    Lexx87 says:

    May I just say it’s great to see Jim back with some of those word type things.

  5. Freud says:

    Might have to check this game out, mate.

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      FhnuZoag says:

      Enh. I’ll passant.

    • Steven Hutton says:

      That joke’s a little stale, mate.

    • WhatAShamefulDisplay says:

      Rooks like I’ll have to fork out B4 the day is done.

      I wonder whether I can illegally download it from PawnHub?

    • Morlock says:

      Technically speaKing you probably have the game at home already. If not, why not wait for a promotion?

      • Geebs says:

        Charging for this when everybody’s already got a set at home? They’re taking us all for fools, mate.

    • Gap Gen says:

      Sure, I’ll take a rook one knight this weekend.

  6. DrollRemark says:

    Being a boy at the time meant I wasn’t ready to conduct much of a critical analysis of the game, but I do remember find it odd that the was basically pretty boring. Even as a kid, I was able to force the architect into a draw. Yep, here it was, the game of kings, and you have to assume kings like stalemate situations where nobody wins.

    I think I get what you’re saying here. Just. Bit garbled, like.

  7. Steven Hutton says:

    It’s probably also worth talking a little bit about the actual software as it currently stands on Steam. It’s… um, not finished?

    It’s still missing a few important features from the cosmetic (resolutions, windowed mode, volume sliders, rule options and view angle defaults) to the essential (custom games, friend invites, lobbies).

    It’s brilliantly fun and I’m sure everything will be there eventually but if this kind of thing is going to annoy you while you’re playing then you may want to buy it now and wait to play.

    But still buy it now because it’s awesome.

  8. Calculon says:

    Im generally a purist so I dont understand this re-working of chess. Chess is a brilliant and deep game on its own without any changes or tweaking. One could spend a lifetime working on the content already available for this single game (and many do). Anecdotes (I dont know how true they are) state that there are more possible variations in a single game of chess than all of the atoms in the solar system, so I dont think I need to consider more variations.

    That leads me to conclude then that the reason for making these changes are in the interest of 1) Casual fun play – ok – but you can do that already 2) Making the game of chess ‘more fun’ – Im not sure thats possible, although Im sure the definition of fun varies widely, or 3) attempting to give those not well versed in chess a fighting chance with a new version of the game that will ‘level’ the playing field – again, Im not sure I see the value in that given the ELO system is well established and allows one to see steady improvement in their game of chess.

    Not getting it.

    • kd_ie says:

      It’s just the opposite. Chess 2 is for people who are so invested into Chess that they memorise openings and endgame moves, and many of their games end in a draw. Chess 2 tries to propagate analytical thinking over studied moves.
      People are worse in chess than computers already, because chess is too “simple”. With Chess 2 you’d need magnitudes more computing power to match the best players.

      • Premium User Badge

        FhnuZoag says:

        But people who have gone to such effort that they have memorised moves and openings would surely not go for a game that makes their training useless.


          They would if their intent was to enjoy themselves rather than win. And the good parts of their training will still be relevant; it’s the boring ones (like memorization) that are left behind.

      • Calculon says:

        Im not really sure about that. There is enough content/strategy already to spend a lifetime studying it and not even be half way competent at the game. There are people who spend all of their free time at it, and they are good, but they are usually eventually beaten because of a new theory, new moves, new approach to the game. The game of chess is probably the most well balanced and complex board game there is – ever.

        • Scurra says:

          Yes. I once concluded that if I spent my life committed to learning Chess, I’d be moderately good at it. So I decided not to bother. (I actually learned a couple of openings and I can still remember quite a lot of endgames, which are probably more important anyway.)

        • jalf says:

          And what do you base that on?
          Chess is a solved problem. A computer can beat you at it. It’s just a matter of computing the highest number of moves ahead.

          Heck, some of the worlds best chess have said this themselves.

          What you’re saying could better be applied to Go. A vastly higher number of possible moves, simpler, more elegant rules, and it’s something that a computer isn’t near being able to solve, the way chess has been solved.

          There’s nothing particularly sacred or pure about chess. It’s an old game, which is cool, but it’s not some kind of god-given Perfect Game.

          • Jez12 says:

            Chess is far from solved.

            Solved games are games that can be played perfectly. This requires knowing if any given position is theoretically won, lost or drawn, assuming both sides play perfectly, and knowing how to go about forcing that result through. Noughts & crosses, connect four, and, as of fairly recently, draughts fall into this category (not that this really detracts from us puny humans having a good time blundering through these games).

            Chess has far too many possible positions for this to be currently feasible. Computers try to evaluate how good a position is by crunching through lots of possibilities branching out from the starting position for many moves, but they don’t have complete knowledge. Computers play much much better than the best humans do, but not perfectly – there are even computer chess competitions where people pitch programs they’ve written against each other!

            There is still enough mystery around how to go about playing as well as possible for the game to be endlessly fascinating, from beginners to the highest possible level.

    • DrollRemark says:

      Anecdotes (I dont know how true they are) state that there are more possible variations in a single game of chess than all of the atoms in the solar system, so I dont think I need to consider more variations.

      But isn’t that simply because it has no time limit, so n is essentially infinite? You could equally say that there are as many variations in results from flipping a single coin, n times.

      • Premium User Badge

        SuddenSight says:

        Not quite, because there are only so many ways to arrange the pieces on the board. ~32 pieces on ~64 squares works out to ~2*10^54 possible positions. Once you’ve tried all of those, the game starts to repeat.

        Additionally, because of the 3-repeat rule (if the same position is repeated three times during the same game, that game ends in a draw) all games must eventually end in a win or a draw.

        So, technically finite, but it would take too long to iterate over every possible position. Of course, in practice you can eliminate most positions because they are obviously bad for one player or the other, or because they are against the rules, etc… Knowing when to ignore possible positions is the key to making a good chess AI, and also important in becoming a good human chess player too.

  9. Grey Cap says:

    Is it possible to opt out of the token thing? Because I’m not prepared to deal with that.

  10. Niko says:

    That beads part reminded me of a 1994 game called Dark Legions.

  11. Gog Magog says:

    When I first saw this thing my immediate thought was that someone should CHECK themselves before they… well… you know.

    It looks somewhat interesting though but I already fucking hate chess and consider it worse than a terse purse. I think these bouts of desiring rhyming word formations is a sign of schizophrenia. But fuck ’em. You can’t put a label on this asshole no you can’t man this dog. Nah. Zero. Nyista. Nada. Absolutely curtains nope.
    (I should not drink before 8 PM)

  12. Geebs says:

    What I don’t really get: Chess’ main features are that it’s symmetrical, turn-based, with simple rules but deep strategy; it also features no RNG or gambling. Chess 2 is the opposite in all of these elements apart from the turn-based bit. Doesn’t really justify sequel status.

    • danielfath says:

      it also features no RNG or gambling.

      Well good, because Chess 2 doesn’t have those two elements. Armies aren’t randomized, you blind pick your army before match starts.

      There is no classic gambling element that depends on chance, once you capture the piece opponent can secretly put into his hand 0,1 or 2 stones and if he shows a higher number than what you secretly choose, your capturing piece gets captured. You just need to outguess your opponent.

      • Steve Catens says:

        I’m holding out for Chess 3 with “Light RPG Elements”. I want to be able to level up the movement capability and stats of my pieces, specialize them in a number of different professions, and have each of the opposing pieces burst like a pinata of loot when taken off the board.

        Also, crafting.

        • Geebs says:

          I’m mostly looking forward to Chess 4. I hear it’s going to have a really deep lore, and moddability.

          • Steve Catens says:

            I’m keeping my fingers crossed for a hex grid. Square grids are so…15th century.

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            SuddenSight says:

            Obnoxious meddling marketers, repackaging features that used to come standard and selling them as if they were new. Chess 1 had tons of modding capability – in fact, some Chess mods have gone on to become their own games!

      • Geebs says:

        A mechanic which involves two people making bets against each other is pretty much gambling, I think.

        Still doesn’t take away from the point; chess is notable and popular because of its simplicity in terms of its most basic mechanics. Making it more complicated and harder to pick up isn’t so much an update as just totally missing the point.

        Disclosure: I’m writing this from the point of view of somebody who would be perfectly happy never to play another game of chess, and has moved on to the far more rewarding and internet-friendly pastimes of sophism and eye-watering pedantry.

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      SuddenSight says:

      This is the biggest problem I have with Chess 2: the naming and marketing as a “sequel to chess” is incredibly misleading. Chess 2 is not a “spiritual sequel” to chess – it’s an entirely new game that borrows most of the ruleset of chess.

      For something more chess-like, look at the hundreds of chess variants and games from other cultures that swap out pieces, win conditions, and more. A short list:
      Shogi, Chinese Chess, Arimaa, Cannon, The Duke, Tafel, Navia Dratp, Camelot, Khet, Gipf

      Any of these games has as much right to be considered a “sequel” to chess as Chess 2.

  13. Steve Catens says:

    The Classic army is the only army with a Queen,

    The under-representation of strong female characters continues.

    • LennyLeonardo says:

      Maybe the horsies are ladies, or the castles.. Heck, even the bishops could be these days.

      • Steve Catens says:

        The point is that the Queen was the most powerful piece on the board. Clearly the developers were threatened by this strong female presence, so of course they marginalized her in the expanded armies. And what did they replace her with? The Two Kings army. Mmm Hmm. I am outraged on the behalf of one of the most powerful female characters in the history of gaming!

        However, I join with the LGBT community in applauding the inclusion of the “Two Kings” army. They seem to make a nice couple.

        • Calculon says:

          Im hoping there will be a scantily clad Queen DLC – otherwise Im not interested in this game.

        • Steven Hutton says:

          In fairness the Queen is still the most powerful piece. It’s just that now it’s the Reaper Queen who can teleport anywhere on the board that wears the crown.

        • LennyLeonardo says:

          Where will the political correctness end??????? Soon all the squares will be a homogenous brownish colour and the pieces will be made from recycled bottlecaps and Deep Blue is a tranny and Garry Kasparov can’t play because boycott Russia and ohjesus my sarcasm chip just fused.

  14. Scurra says:

    What gets me is that the folk who have spent, oh, a century or more on exploring alternatives to Chess were content to merely add an adjective to the name (thus Fairy Chess or 3d Chess or Fischer Chess or, my own favourite, Knightmare Chess) rather than claim the egotistical hubris of 2.0 (although I grant you that this is only an option that has existed in the last few decades.)
    I am willing to grant that some of the novelties here are a direct result of digital gaming enabling things that would be inconvenient to say the least IRL, but they are still just novelties. They may even be good novelties.

  15. kwyjibo says:

    I can’t wait for Go 2: Faster and Furiouser.

  16. NathanH says:

    I think the image that memorization is very important in chess is, at least at amateur level, mostly a myth. Few people you’ll play at amateur level will be able to remember very many opening moves and if you’re scared they might it’s pretty easy to play a decent move that they probably won’t know. As for memorization at endgame level, I think even fewer people memorize much.

    The lots-of-draws thing is a myth at amateur level. Decisive games are more common. Draws aren’t particularly bad things anyway, they can be logical and they can also give the losing player something to fight for.

    Does anyone with a decent national or international rating have any opinions of Chess 2?

    • Jez12 says:

      Totally agree with this.

      The draw thing is overblown for vast majority of players’ enjoyment of playing the game. Decisive games are the norm for most people. The draw frequency at the very highest levels is (arguably) more of a concern when trying to market the game as a spectator sport and trying to get people interested in top tier chess – but I don’t imagine Chess 2 really has this audience in mind!

      The rote memorisation thing is also hugely overblown. You really can go a long way in chess with very little rote learning. Most useful chess knowledge is in recognising patterns such as, “in this type of position, its good idea to consider arranging my pieces like this/trading these pieces off/attacking this part of my opponent’s position etc.” and applying these to new positions.

      What level “decent” starts at is very debatable, but here’s my 2p from the perspective of a moderate club player (1600-1700ish)!
      – The midline rule is very creative and I like it a lot. It definitely meets the stated aims of speeding the game up, and introduces a new element of risk/reward and pushing your luck with your king in the middle game.
      – The new armies vary between sounding interesting and over the top wacky. If you muck around with the basic mechanics too much it stops feeling like chess. Too much volatility precludes the positional struggles and long term planning that are really interesting in regular chess.
      – The gambling mechanic is dreadful and anti-chess is every way imaginable.

  17. Chaz says:

    How does the story compare to the first one?

    • LennyLeonardo says:

      Well, Rook’s storyline is pretty linear, Knight’s plot takes a weird turn, and Queen’s questline is pretty much open world. It’s all a bit to cod-medieval for my tastes, though.

  18. jaheira says:

    Who is that frowning in concentration? I think it might be Tal in the 70’s.

  19. Quirk says:

    This “draws” business thing is seriously overblown.

    If you’re neither a very weak player, or over 2000 ELO (which is, to be serious here, a tiny fraction of one percent of the chess playing population), draws aren’t really common enough to be any kind of problem. Very weak players fail to leverage their advantages and end up with insufficient mating force, or blunder into stalemating their opponent. The very strongest players end up in positions where they can discern that the player who attempts to force through an advantage will lose, and that with no way to win, there’s no point in playing. For most of us in between (personal disclosure: I used to be a reasonably strong club player, in the 1600-1700 ELO range), a draw is an occasional novelty rising out of a particularly closely-fought game.

    Sirlin doesn’t have a clue, as usual. He’s from the school that thinks rock-paper-scissors is a model of game balance. This leaves him seriously out of his depth when dealing with the serious and ancient strategy games which have absorbed multiple lifetimes of theoretical development. Luckily, his ego saves him from realising this.

    • Steven Hutton says:

      “He’s from the school that thinks rock-paper-scissors is a model of game balance.”

      That’s not actually true.

      • Quirk says:

        link to sirlin.net

        Sirlin: “Every competitive game I can think of has some conceptual tie to paper, rock, scissors.”

        He’s written entire articles on rock, paper, scissors (e.g. link to sirlin.net). It is, unfortunately, a totally inappropriate filter through which to look at chess and go.

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      Phasma Felis says:

      What a shame that all the people who enjoy his games don’t realize they should stop having fun, eh?

      • Quirk says:

        If he were content to say “yeah, I make fun little games, don’t take them too seriously”, that would be fine. Instead, the guy spouts acres of nonsense on “balancing” games, ostensibly strategically, without any very deep understanding of what strategy games entail.

        FWIW, I haven’t seen any signs of the chess playing fraternity flocking toward Chess 2 with enthusiasm, and it’s dubious whether many people are even having fun with it. It’s one of those novelties like 3D noughts and crosses – people will buy it out of curiosity even if the game is actually broken (and too much of chess survives in Chess 2 for me to make that claim).

        Edited to add:
        It’s possibly difficult to understand why this kind of stuff annoys more serious chess players and strategy buffs; the best analogy I can give you is that of Molyneux. Sirlin is the same kind of hype machine and, here, outside his comfort zone, similarly underwhelming in delivery (or worse), and he shouldn’t be getting cut a break for it.

  20. MellowKrogoth says:

    You guys should really check the Gipf Project games. They’re a set of games with abstract mechanics that were all invented in recent years, and they’re great. I particularly like Zertz.

  21. johnny b says:

    Wrote an article about why I don’t like Chess 2: link to gamasutra.com