First: I admit chess is a smart game. It is. There is no question that chess with its luckless gameplay, and pieces with variable types of movement has a way of revealing genius, or the lack thereof in its players. But so what?
I don’t solve math puzzles for fun and when it comes down to it, that is all chess is: a math puzzle whose equation changes from turn to turn. I will always remember my disappointment as a child when I discovered that chess was not the cool game of battlefield maneuvering I thought it was. Bishops? You’ve sent your bishops into battle? And what kind of foppish knights hop and scoot? The notion of the all-powerful warrior-queen zooming around killing everyone is rather silly too. The reason Boudicca stands out as an historical figure, is that queens like her were so fucking rare. And let’s not even discuss the ridiculousness of the rook. But why does chess have to be this way?
While chess is certainly an ancient game originating with either the Indians or Arabs (depends on who you ask), the current way it is played is – in the historical sense - rather new. Chess in its most ancient form used playing pieces that represented actual military units and it was played with dice. Royalty used it as a way to both pass the time and to train in tactical concepts. Rooks were chariots, and dice rolls determined the outcome of two units clashing. There is another thing the ancients got right as well: they knew how to have fun*. So let’s look at the score:
|Ancient Kick-Ass Chess||New Crap Chess|
Variable Die Rolls
Real Military Units
Sweet, Representative Miniatures
Abstract Playing Pieces that Might Display a Face or Horse Head if You’re Lucky
Dripping with Theme
Tacked-On Theme Easily Replaced with Random Concepts Such as Car Salesmen VS Circus Roughnecks
See where I am going with this? The Ameritrash – Euro debate that we see as new has been raging on throughout the ages, and chess is its first victim. What was once a sweet wargame is now a boring mathematical puzzle that boils down to who can figure out the most optimal moves to win. Of course New Chess isn’t purely Euro – after all it is still a game that features confrontation, and everyone knows real Euro players drop loads in their shorts at the thought of interacting with the players they are competing against, unless that competition comes in the form of something inane like bidding on art, energy commodities, or who can prepare the fastest root beer float (just watch, Z-Man Games will probably release a game called Soda Jerk in the near future – screw you Hanno).
So what is a gamer to do with chess? I say throw it out since it has been neutered by time. In its current form it is really a game designed for people who aren’t into games. Euro gamers want to lay tiles and trade goods, and Ameritrashers want to slaughter each other or build empires. Leave chess to the bored nuclear engineers looking to pass a few hours.
*Fun is the intellectual property of Fantasy Flight Games, all rights reserved.