PuzzleNation Product Review: Chessplus

Chess is one of the all-time classic games. Alongside Checkers, Go, Tic-Tac-Toe, and mah-jongg, chess is one of the cornerstones of the genre, one of the first games we’re introduced to, and one of the formative games upon which we build concepts of strategy, timing, and opportunity.

Over the centuries, there have been numerous attempts to reinvent chess or find new ways to play. We’ve talked about puzzly variations on chess in the past, all of which can be played with a standard chess set. (Except for that guillotine set we featured last year.) But if you’re looking for a truly unique chess experience, the team at Chessplus have a simple, elegant game for you.

Chessplus is played under standard chess rules, but with one crucial difference: you can combine your pieces into more powerful ones.

Do you want a pawn that can make less-expected moves, or a knight that can play conservatively? Combine a knight and pawn into a single piece with the abilities of both. Do you need to keep your queen where it is, but still want a versatile piece that can command the board? Easy. Combine a rook and a bishop, and you’ve got a new piece that works just like a queen.

[Only the king is a solid piece. Every other piece can be combined with others.]

Merging pieces not only allows you to take advantage of each component’s abilities, but it can also allow you to more swiftly transport pieces across the board. Instead of a pawn crawling across the board one square at a time, combine it with a rook who can send it straight across the board, where it is then promoted to a queen! Or combine two pawns so you only have to escort one piece across the board safely, then split them again and voila! Two pawns promoted into new queens.

Oh yes, merging the pieces doesn’t link them forever. You can split them at any time. That feature adds another layer to your gameplay, since putting one merged piece into play deep in your opponent’s territory can suddenly become two separated pieces again.

Now, this piece-combining mechanic is a double-edged sword. Yes, you have a more powerful, mobile game piece. (I was very excited to try out combining a knight and a queen, just to make the queen even more dangerous.) But if someone takes a merged piece, you lose BOTH halves, making them as vulnerable as they are valuable. Imagine an opponent capturing my merged knight/queen, so I lose a knight AND a queen in one turn. That could be a devastating loss.

As you’d expect, it took a little while to grow accustomed to these new variant pieces. With so much to keep track of during a normal chess game, pieces with greater mobility make strategy — both offensive and defense — a bit more complicated.

But it was also great fun. Early Chessplus games tend to be faster, more aggressive, because of the greater mobility allowed by some of the merged piece combinations. But once you’ve played a few games, your more traditional chess mindset settles in, and gameplay tends to become more measured and tactical.

Just imagine. A single change that offers a world of new possibilities and challenges. That’s brilliant, in my estimation. Chessplus is a wonderful way to reinvigorate chess if the game has lost its luster for you. And if you are a dedicated player, I think Chessplus will prove to be a welcome change of piece from the traditional game.

[Chessplus sets start at $35.95 (for just the pieces) and are available from the shop on Chessplus.com.]


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This chess game will cut you to the quick!

chess

When it comes to games, chess is a certified classic, the benchmark against which many tactical games are still measured to this day.

We’ve discussed chess several times in the past here on the blog, whether we’re talking products inspired by chess, like All Queens Chess and Scrimish, or tackling puzzles using chess boards, like knight’s tours or other chess-based brain teasers.

In today’s post, we’ll be looking at a new variation on chess, one meant to dissuade players from careless gameplay by use of a historically appropriate method of enforcing the rule of law: the guillotine.

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Fellow puzzlers and PuzzleNationers, say hello to Tour De Force chess.

According to the creators:

Tour De Force chess entices the players to strategize and invest more thought into the game by introducing consequence in the form of a guillotine that beheads captured pieces. Based on early testing with a rough and ready model we confirmed that this game addition makes the prospect of losing a piece unsavory enough to motivate more careful strategy.

You see, in Tour De Force chess, a captured piece isn’t gone immediately. It goes into the stockade until another piece is captured. There are two stockades, which means that once your opponent captures a third piece, that first piece goes to the guillotine, loses its head, and is gone for good.

Not only is this meant to enhance the feeling of loss that comes with having a piece taken, but it introduces an interesting mechanic to the game: saving pieces from a nasty end.

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According to the official rules, “a player can save a captured piece that has not yet been beheaded by taking a higher value piece with a pawn. That pawn is then substituted with the piece closest to beheading.”

Although the higher-value rule means that there’s no saving your captured queen (unless you capture the king, which of course, ends the game anyway), it is an intriguing wrinkle to standard chess that could definitely alter your gameplay. Do you continue to play as you always would, immediately accepting the consequences when a piece is lost? Or do you try to rescue that piece, diverting temporarily from your primary goal of capturing your opponent’s king?

What do you think, PuzzleNationers? Is Tour De Force chess a welcome variation to the game, or an unnecessary twist on a classic? Sound off in the comments below!


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PuzzleNation Product Review: Fidelitas

In today’s product review, we delve into a medieval world where courting influence wins the day and the best players can move people like chess pieces. Welcome to Fidelitas, a card game created by Green Couch Games and distributed by the good folks at Game Salute.

In Fidelitas, each player tries to manipulate characters into position around the city in order to accomplish specific tasks and gain valuable allies.

There are two sets of cards in Fidelitas: Missio cards and Virtus cards. Virtus cards allow you to manipulate the cards and maneuver characters into place, while Missio cards detail the tasks you must complete in order to earn points.

Virtus cards can affect how many cards you play that turn, where you can play them, and sometimes, where other players can play their cards. (Regular players of Fluxx or one of its many variations will be familiar with this sort of short-term rule-shifting gameplay.)

Different Missio cards have different point values, reflecting how difficult that card’s given task is. The player with the most points at the end of the game wins, having proven him or herself the master manipulator at the table.

Seven cards make up the City, the setting of the game. There are nine guild alignments (which work almost like the suits in a standard deck of cards), and several of the locations are tied to specific guilds. With many location-specific Missio cards, a strong knowledge of the City is crucial to advantageous gameplay.

Fidelitas is reminiscent of another card game I’ve mentioned in previous blog posts, Guillotine. But in Guillotine, you’re only manipulating the order of characters in a single line, whereas in Fidelitas, you’re dealing with numerous locations and plots in motion. It ratchets up the difficulty level somewhat, but the core mechanic remains simple and accessible, both key components to a great group card game.

It took me a few games to get the strategy of the game under my belt, since between trying to achieve my own Missio tasks and trying to hinder other players in their gambits, it was hard to be sure if the card I was playing would end up helping me or my opponents and their mysterious Missios.

If you’re hunting for a game with some historic flavor, look no further. This one will test your diplomatic skills as you try to sway people to your side, as well as your poker skills by seeing how well you can read your opponents and devise a plan to thwart their Missio cards from being completed.

Fidelitas incorporates a lot of quality gameplay elements in a small package, not only making it a great quick-play game, but one with more replay value than you’d expect.

Thanks for visiting PuzzleNation Blog today! You can share your pictures with us on Instagram, friend us on Facebook, check us out on TwitterPinterest, and Tumblr, and be sure to check out the growing library of PuzzleNation apps and games!

TableTop Day: PuzzleNation Style!

The third annual International TableTop Day was last Saturday, and according to reports across the Internet, it was the most successful and joyous TableTop Day yet! Games were donated by some of the top companies (our friends at Looney Labs and Steve Jackson Games among them) as well as by the folks at Geek & Sundry, and the puzzle game community came together once again to prove how amazing and warm puzzlers and gamers can be.

For the second year in a row, we at PuzzleNation had our own little TableTop Day event with our friends at Penny/Dell Puzzles, and it was great fun! Games were played, an insane amount of sugary treats were prepared, snacks were consumed, and fellow puzzlers and PuzzleNationers were introduced to some terrific games.

I raided my personal puzzle and game collection to provide some choice offerings for my fellow puzzlers, and readers of the blog will no doubt recognize several items from previous product reviews!

Here’s the full rundown of games we had:

(Sadly, a lot of personal favorites had to be excluded because they would take more than 30 minutes to play, like some of the offerings from Cheapass Games and other great companies, and it was a work day. I promise, this is a fraction of my full puzzle and game collection.)

Timeline proved to be one of the biggest hits of the day, because it’s so simple to play and offers endless replay value. (Especially with seven different editions of the game to choose from!)

I also managed to win my first game of Jenga in what seems like a decade!

There was plenty of switching between games as well. Here, a game of Just Desserts immediately followed a round of Bananagrams Wild Tiles!

But that wasn’t all! To include fellow puzzlers who couldn’t attend the event in person, we had our own Hashtag Game running in-house all day. Inspired by both @midnight hashtag games and our friends at Schmovie, we had a contest to create “Penny/Dell Puzzle Movies.”

I’ll be posting ALL of the entries on Friday, but here are a few favorites:

  • The Scarlet Letterboxes
  • Schindler’s List-A-Crostic
  • Double Trouble Indemnity

All in all, it was an awesome time. Hope everyone enjoyed!

Thanks for visiting PuzzleNation Blog today! You can share your pictures with us on Instagram, friend us on Facebook, check us out on TwitterPinterest, and Tumblr, and be sure to check out the growing library of PuzzleNation apps and games!

It’s Follow-Up Friday: TableTop Day edition!

Welcome to Follow-Up Friday!

By this time, you know the drill. Follow-Up Friday is a chance for us to revisit the subjects of previous posts and bring the PuzzleNation audience up to speed on all things puzzly.

And today, I’d like to return to the subject of puzzly holidays!

Saturday, April 11 is the third annual International TableTop Day, a day that has been set aside for family and friends to get together and play games. Board games, card games, role-playing games, puzzles… anything that involves gathering in person and having fun around a table fits the bill!

Although the actual holiday is tomorrow, we’re celebrating early around here! The PuzzleNation Crew is getting together with our friends from Penny/Dell Puzzles for a few hours of TableTop Day fun this afternoon!

[A few of the games we’ll be partaking in today.]

I’ll be posting pics on social media throughout the day, and there will be a full recap in Tuesday’s blog post!

Not only that, but we’ve added two new collections to our library of puzzles for in-app purchase for the Penny Dell Crosswords App! The April 2015 Deluxe Set has 35 puzzles to challenge you, and Collection 5 has a whopping 150 puzzles to choose from! Just in time for TableTop Day!

 

Will you be participating in tomorrow’s festivities, fellow puzzlers and PuzzleNationers? Let me know! I’d love to hear about your plans!

Thanks for visiting PuzzleNation Blog today! You can share your pictures with us on Instagram, friend us on Facebook, check us out on TwitterPinterest, and Tumblr, and be sure to check out the growing library of PuzzleNation apps and games!