- When I mentioned QQchess (Mozo Edutainment Technology, 2005 - Lewis
Lim Ee Hee) on my podcast, the Dice Tower, my co-host Joe Steadman
made a disparaging remark about how "just what we need - another
four-player chess game." But Joe's missing the point - QQchess has
the ability to play with four players but is at its heart a two player
abstract game that builds off the both Western and Eastern chess.
And it's an enjoyable abstract game - one that I find superior to
chess - although I will be the first to admit that the "newness" of it
may have something to do with it. Still, it's a tight game and
rewards good strategy. I've enjoyed all of my games immensely; and
while I think the two player game is the most enjoyable, I'm still
happy with the multi-player game. The ability to have traitors, the
way the pieces work together, and the fact that players quickly
understand the game make QQchess a tremendous two player abstract
Each player receives sixteen pieces, which are placed in a triangular
position on a large 169 square chessboard, as shown in the rulebook.
On a player's turn, they simply move a piece, possibly capturing an
opponent's piece. The pieces a player has are these:
- Leader: If this piece is captured, that player loses. It can be
put into "check". Leaders can move one space either vertically or
horizontally. They cannot face another leader orthogonally without
another piece in between.
- Infantry: These five pieces can move one space horizontally or vertically.
- Brigade: These two pieces can move as many spaces diagonally as
possible, but only on the white squares.
- Squadron: These two pieces can move as many spaces diagonally as
possible, but only on the black squares.
- Chariot: These two pieces can move as many spaces orthogonally as possible.
- Archer: These pieces move just like a chariot but can only
"capture" a piece by jumping over a single other piece.
- Cavalry: These pieces move one square forward, then one square
diagonally. Cavalry can jump over their own pieces but not over
opponent's pieces. Cavalry can jump onto their own piece and "bounce"
off, making another complete move, but only to capture another piece.
The only pieces that can "jump" are the archer and cavalry; all other
pieces can capture another opponent's piece by moving into it.
If playing with the assassin variant, each player has a card that
shows a chariot, cavalry, archer, or infantry unit on it. The player
can play this card at any time, to turn one of the associated pieces
into an "assassin", which can move like a chariot, cavalry, archer,
and infantry for two turns. Assassins can only make moves that
checkmate or kill the opponent's leader; they cannot kill other
pieces. After two turns, the assassin turns back into the piece it
If playing with the traitor variant, each player has a card that
shows a chariot, cavalry, archer, or infantry unit from another player
on it. The player can play this card at any time, to take control of
an associated piece from the opponent. The player can use this piece
for three turns and only move it to checkmate or kill the opponent's
leader; they cannot kill other pieces. After three turns, the traitor
piece is removed from the board, but the player whose piece it was can
return any dead piece to their side - anywhere in their "Kingdom"
(their fourth of the board). A player cannot use a traitor and an
assassin at the same time.
When playing with two players, each player can simply use one army or
can use two armies that are allied with each other, needing to
checkmate only one of the opponent's leaders to win. In a three
player game, one player uses two armies, with the other two players
ganging up on him. In a four player game, each player controls one
army and can either join up in two teams or can attack the player on
their left, while defending the player on their left.
Some comments on the game…
1.) Components: The artwork on the box doesn't have much to do with
the game that I can tell - a bunch of manga folk in battle gear - but
it might appeal to many. Thankfully for those folk, there is a hole
in the box that is specially designed so that one can hang the box on
the wall! I'm not sure how many people will do this, but I thought it
was a humorous idea. The board is a medium-sized folded piece of
cardboard with alternating white and gold squares and diagonal lines
splitting the "kingdoms". The pieces are all wooden round tokens of
good quality, with stickers showing the symbol of each piece on them.
Each army comes packaged in their own bag, and I found the symbols
fairly intuitive; it was easy to quickly know which piece did what.
Still, a player guide would have been nice; I kept the rulebook open,
but a player guide would have been easier and more convenient. The
traitor/assassin cards long, thin cards, with manga-style artwork on
them, but they work well for the game purposes.
2.) Rules: The rules are fairly clear; although it's obvious that
they are a translation, since there is broken English throughout -
although it's understandable. The rulebook is nineteen pages, showing
examples of how pieces capture each other and some detailed examples
of how a leader can be captured outside of checkmate in a multi-player
game. I've only taught the game to people who know European chess, so
they've easily picked up on the differences and strategy.
3.) Tactics: Speaking of strategy, the game is as deep as chess, and
probably deeper. One can easily lose to someone of greater skill, as
I found out when playing the designer. He toyed with me, I think, and
still I was massacred. But despite this fact, which slightly turns
off a game for me - as I like a bit of chance in games, I was and
remain intrigued. The board is huge, allowing for more tactics; and
when combining the cards with the many different pieces, players have
a huge amount of options each turn. Even though the board is bigger,
the presence of powerful pieces allows checkmate to happen about the
same level of frequency as normal chess.
4.) Cards: I really like the assassin and traitor cards. Rather than
give the game the same feel that Knightmare Chess does, with a lot of
utter chaos, the cards become a focal point of the game - the nail in
the coffin. A player only uses it at their most critical juncture;
and since both players know that these cards exist, it's not too great
of a surprise. Use the cards too early, and they become useless. Use
the traitor card at the wrong time, and you might give the opponent
one of their most powerful pieces back. I like using them in games,
however the rulebook states that a couple games should be played
before incorporating them, and I agree; they raise both the strategy
and the tenseness of the game several notches.
5.) Pieces: Most of the pieces correspond to those in normal chess,
but with some radical changes (no queen!). My personal favorite is
the "bounce strike" of the cavalry. With this ability, a clever
player can use their brigades, squadrons, and infantry to supplement
their cavalry, giving them a good striking distance along with the
element of surprise to the unwary player. I also quite enjoyed the
archers, which seemed to be the focal point of almost every game I've
played so far. Needing to jump one piece to make a capture sounds
like a penalty, but in reality it allows the archer to constantly
threaten and harass the enemy leader.
6.) Multiplayer: Multiplayer chess has some problems - namely that
players can gang up on each other, and the fact that three pieces move
between your turns, making long term strategy much more difficult. I
wouldn't buy QQChess for the multiplayer aspect, as I'm quite content
with a two player game, but it does work fairly well. Some of the
problems with multiplayer chess still exist, but the larger board, as
well as the fact that you are only seeking to capture the leader on
your left, helps to mitigate it.
7.) Fun Factor: If you hate Chess, I'm not sure that QQChess is going
to change your mind; it's certainly a different game, but they
definitely have the same feel. I personally like the larger board,
the extra movement of most of the pieces, and above all, the cards.
This adds a bit of uncertainty to the game (which piece is my
traitor?) but not so much as to overwhelm the sheer tactics and
strategy. The game has a fairly steep learning curve, as chess does -
in the fact that a better player will most likely defeat a newcomer.
However, unlike chess, QQChess doesn't have thousands of books written
about it, leveling the playing field.
If you like abstract strategy games, like Chess, give this one a try.
I personally like it better than Chess because it's more interesting,
and the cards add a key ingredient to chess that's not there -
surprise. Fans of "pure" Chess may disagree, but I think games like
QQChess can revive what sometimes has become a boredom with that
ancient game. At least for me, QQChess has replaced normal chess and
has earned its place as an entirely different game. Besides, you can
hang it on your wall!
"Real men play board games"