Chessplus is a great twist on an old—very old—classic
Chess is a game that really needs no introduction or explanation. I mean, we’ve been playing chess for roughly 14 centuries. So the odds are good that you know the basics. There are some who may not be familiar with Ruy Lopez or the Sicilian Defense but you hardly need to know these things to play. You may not even remember exactly how the pieces move but after a minute or two you’d recall, I’m sure. The only new concept to learn in Chessplus is that each piece you control can merge with any other except the king. Upon merging, the pieces combine their move abilities. So a rook and bishop can merge and suddenly move as a queen. And, yes, you could merge a pawn with a rook and carry it straight to the eighth square and exchange it for a queen. In fact, the game comes with two extra queens for just such a reason.
I don’t want to belabor the point since most everyone is familiar with the rules already. Merging the pieces gives you extra options for each piece. But surprisingly, this does not make the decisions on the best moves more agonizing. I found my playthroughs to be quicker and more nuanced. A merge counts as a move. So does a separation (just move whichever half to wherever it can legally move). A merge may telegraph your intentions. However, it may also get your opponent to abandon a plan. So it is definitely not a wasted move.
You may be thinking, 3 queens makes things too powerful! and I hear you. But if you’ve ever played poker with several wild cards you’ll see that this doesn’t make the game unbalanced. Going back to my poker reference, you may think it’s wonderful that you have four aces. But once you lay down your hand you find that, due to so many wilds, so does everyone else. All the wilds did was give you more options.
I know this write up is incredibly brief and that’s not to say I was not impressed or did not like the game. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. I loved it! I worry that a purist may be turned off by what (s)he may consider an adulteration on a classic game. However, Australian chess player Max Illingsworth (2018 Australian Chess Champion) is an advocate for Chessplus.
To my knowledge, the only place you can currently buy this game outside of Australia is via the Chessplus website. They are actively working with distributors to get the game into retail stores in the U.S. also, if you’re ever in the North Georgia area, look up a store called Meeple Madness. I dropped off a demo copy with them a few weeks back.