Chess 2: the Sequel Preview – Crossing the Rubicon

Chess is the world’s oldest and most beloved game. It is the foundation of all strategy games, and is still a revered form of entertainment. Many would argue that it is gaming perfection, which makes the concept of a sequel almost blasphemous.

How could you possibly improve Chess?

That’s what I had to figure out when I was sent a copy of Chess 2: the Sequel for the Ouya. I found what is one of the more interesting takes on Chess I’ve seen.

Chess Dark

Imagine if you had to sit down and make up a different set of rules for Chess. How would you reinvent the wheel, and could you even improve something that is so ingrained into the fabric of gaming as a whole? That’s exactly what Sirlin and Ludeme Games set out to do with a normal board and a few different pieces.

There are a few different sets of pieces to this new chess, but let’s talk about the rules real quick. The way they revolutionized this classic game was simple: they went and added a bit of Poker to Chess. Then they added one simple rule, if you get the king moved into opponent territory, the game is won. I’ll touch on that in a second, but let’s talk about the Poker-esque Duel system.

How this new Duel system works is that you’ll acquire chips by collecting your opponent’s pieces. A maximum of 5 chips can be acquired at one time. When you attack your opponents pieces, the two players are locked in a standoff. You can bet anywhere between 0 and 2 chips at this time. If your opponent bets higher than you, both pieces are removed. If he bets lower or equal, you win and are allowed to remove his piece like normal.

Chess Classic

I started my match against the computer AI by playing in my head without the midway rule in a straight classic vs classic match. Unfortunately, it was no contest. I was simply playing a lesser opponent and wasn’t exactly impressed with the new addition. However, midway through, I started to perk up once I felt myself playing more aggressively. Managing chips so you don’t start losing your stronger pieces as you start attacking the King is a real concern. You have to start managing how your opponent will play their chips by bluffing or pressing them.

The AI never presented a problem for me, but when the online goes live later this week I’ll really be able to figure out how deep this is in a competitive environment. Chess is all about playing your opponent against themselves. This new addendum is only a slight change to the formula, but what it adds to the game is ultimately a brilliant new layer. I can’t say I was captivated by the somewhat simple AI, but I’m dying to put this into action against human opponents.

Chess Army

My biggest concern is that this addition is smart and might be spoiled by the other additions in the game. Having your King obtain victory upon crossing the middle is a bit hard for me to swallow. This adds a whole new level of aggression to a match that one could argue steals strategy away from the game. On top of this is the fact that you can play as 1 of 6 different teams, all with greatly different strategies.

Chess is about using an even playing field and starting points to discover who is the best strategist. Adding different sets with greatly different abilities really breaks this apart as you have to plan for one of 6 different matches each time you play. Bump this to one of 36 games if you like to play different sets. There is room for upper level play on this, and it could be brilliant, but I feel that the crossing-the-midway rule was applied to accommodate these newer pieces.

It is really tough to judge this game right now without the time to do so. Forcing an active King is something I’m not a fan of, but it I won’t say it isn’t without its merits. Right now though, until I have an actual opponent that I can properly gauge this off of, I won’t be sure.  Playing against some of the newer sets presented a few great strategies I might implement, but my matches were never threatening enough to grow off of.

Chess Check

We’ll see what happens, but I will say that I’m a bit concerned with how this game will fare in the long term. It is free-to-play with online matches costing 8 crowns. With 240 crown awarded (for you math kids, that’s 30 matches), it should be a while before I need to purchase any crowns, but I’m concerned as to the long term of the multiplayer. The crowns are fairly cheap with 120 crowns only running $1.99, but it is an interesting thing to note when the AI just isn’t there for you to play seriously against in single-player.

Fortunately, there is couch co-op and it costs you absolutely nothing but an Ouya. Friendly people with a penchant for chess should be even more happy that you don’t actually need an additional controller to play it, since the controller can be passed from friend to friend.

For single-player gamers, there are a few ideas here to get you started. For online gamers, you’ll really have to hope that this catches on or you’ll be paying to get a challenge. For local co-op players, here is a Chess game that might really wet your whistle. Doubly so since you can’t really replicate the very interesting Duel mechanic on your personal chess board. My only regret from playing this game is that there isn’t a Classic Duel mode with no cross the line to worry about or funny pieces to block up the works. I feel this Duel mechanic could stand up on its own in a classic game.

Regardless, in its free-to-play form, every Ouya owner should have Chess 2 on their system. My hesitations on the longevity of the online can only be trumped by the free single player, couch multiplayer, and inclusion of 30 free-to-try online matches.

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