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[Review] Bosworth

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  • Tom Vasel
    When I originally played Card Chess, I wasn t sure who would be interested in this version of four-player chess. While I enjoyed it, it certainly wasn t for
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 1, 2006
      When I originally played Card Chess, I wasn't sure who would be
      interested in this version of four-player chess. While I enjoyed it,
      it certainly wasn't for everyone; Chess purists would be unhappy with
      how the game worked, and folks who didn't like Chess were unlikely to
      be won over. When I read the rules to Bosworth, I figured that the
      same thing would be the case, as it was another four-player variant on
      chess. However, John Kovalic's artwork and the small board interested
      me, so I was ready to give it a go (Oh, who am I kidding - I'm always
      ready to play a new game!)

      As much as Card Chess intrigued me, I found Bosworth to be a
      "tighter", nicer game. While retaining a luck element (something I
      wasn't adverse to), Bosworth also uses a mere sixteen to twenty-four
      spaces, as opposed to the sixty-four of the chessboard. Using almost
      the same rules as chess (with a few distinct differences), the game is
      a quick, deadly affair and plays equally as well with four as with
      two. (Three is a little "iffy".)

      (I'm assuming the reader knows how to play chess.)

      The game is played on a five by five grid of squares with the corners
      not used. Each player places four pawn pieces on each end space on
      their side of the board. If there are less than four players playing,
      the sides of the board that are not used have markers placed in them
      to show that those four spaces are not used. Players take the rest
      of the twelve pieces (the rest of the chess set - but pictures on the
      side of a disc, rather than plastic pieces) and shuffle them into a
      pile, drawing four of them into their hands. One player is chosen to
      go first, and then play proceeds clockwise around the table.

      On a player's turn, they must move one of their pieces on the board,
      just like that particular chess piece moves. All pieces move the
      exact same way that they do in Chess, with the exception of the pawn
      and King. Pawns may, in addition to their normal move, move one space
      sideways in either direction, except in their own "base camp" - the
      four starting spaces. Kings can actually capture their own pieces and
      can move into check and be captured. Players don't have to announce
      that they have put a king into check; but they may if they wish,
      forcing the enemy to move it out of danger, etc.

      After moving a piece, and possibly capturing an enemy piece they land
      on, a player then must fill all the unoccupied spaces in their field
      camp with pieces from their hand. The player then fills their hand
      with pieces from their draw pile. If a player runs out of pieces,
      they place markers into their empty field spaces, effectively shutting
      them down. When a player captures an opponent's king, that player's
      pieces are removed from the board, and the capturing player receives
      the queen of the opponent to use, even if it's already been killed.
      Play continues until only one player remains, who is declared the

      Some comments on the gameā€¦

      1.) Components: The artwork on each piece shows a picture of one of
      the characters from John Kovalic's popular comic Dork Tower. Lest
      players become confused, like in most themed chess sets, a silhouette
      of the real chess piece is shown in the background. Each piece is a
      large, round cardboard token (a little thinner than I'd like), with a
      background in red, yellow, blue, or green, to differentiate between
      players. The board has some campsite and tree artwork on it, and the
      dark green/light green coloring of the spaces helps get one away from
      the stark contrast of many chess boards. Everything fits nicely into
      a flat, smallish box with more artwork from Mr. Kovalic.

      2.) Rules: The four page rulebook does not take for granted that
      players already know how to play chess - the moves for each piece are
      explained in the rulebook in illustrations and explanations. At the
      same time, the rules that are different than normal chess are
      italicized, so that players can quickly skim them to learn the
      differences and grasp them. The game is easy to set up and learn -
      only about thirty seconds if the players know chess - possibly longer
      otherwise (I don't know).

      3.) Tight: Bosworth is a bloody affair, with pieces being killed
      right and left. In such a small area and especially when four players
      are playing, it's impossible for the game to go on too long, and
      deaths occur all over the battlefield. Sometimes a player can get
      into a difficult position, when many of their pieces are dead; because
      the other player(s) can simply kill off each of their new pieces as it
      lands on the board. It's tremendously difficult to guard against more
      than one player at once, and this may frustrate some people. With
      three players, the game is especially deadly for the player in the
      middle, as they are caught in the middle between players on both

      4.) Pieces: While queens are still the most powerful pieces, the
      tight, small board causes the positions of the others to change
      somewhat. Rooks aren't nearly as strong, since they are often boxed
      in and can't maneuver around as well. Bishops are probably just as
      good on the small board. Knights are extremely useful, as they can
      jump pretty much all over the board in only a few moves. The pawn is
      also more capable - as there are just so many of them! - making them
      fairly deadly.

      5.) Kings: it's very easy for kings to get trapped by pieces - in the
      fact that there are so many more pieces, and so fewer spaces. Thus,
      the rule that a king can capture his own piece, which usually is only
      resorted to when a player has no other choice, is a nice rule. While
      it seems a bit sadistic for thematic purposes, it does come in handy;
      and I've used it several times in my playings.

      6.) Randomness: There is a bit of randomness in the form of what
      pieces you draw. But I have yet to see a player who didn't hold their
      king until the end, anyway, or a player who complained that the luck
      of the draw was the reason that they lost. For me - you simply had to
      make do with the pieces you got when you got them. If you drew
      knights early, then it was time to get them into position where they
      could slaughter the enemy. If you drew rooks, then you wanted to get
      them out where they had more room to maneuver, etc.

      7.) Fun Factor: I can see serious Chess players divided on whether
      they like the game or not. Some might see the smaller board and
      multiple opponents as a challenge. Others might be irritated at any
      change to their precious rules. For ordinary folk, like myself,
      Bosworth allows me to play Chess in a light, fun way. Sure, you can
      get all serious about the game; but since movement is more limited and
      play a bit more chaotic, it's just too tough to get serious about it.
      Most Bosworth games that I've played have only taken about half an
      hour to complete, and that's the light, fun feeling that I want.

      As long as the game is played with people intent on having a fun,
      quick variant of chess, I can see Bosworth going over very well. It's
      fast, a bit chaotic, but still retains the basic feel and tactics of
      Chess. Strategy and well thought out opening moves aren't going to do
      a person much good in Bosworth. Tactical maneuvering and learning how
      to deal with pieces drawn both by oneself and the opponent(s) will. I
      usually shy away from Chess because of the fact that there is no luck
      in it and most opponents take it a bit too seriously. Bosworth has
      neither of those problems.

      Tom Vasel
      "Real men play board games"
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