Most of us are at least somewhat familiar with the board game checkers. Most will have played it at least as a youngster, and many have grandfathers, or uncles who are near fanatic about the game.In some circles the international game of checkers is seen as somewhat simplistic, although that is likely from a lack of getting into the game as deeply as the supporters of the game do.That said, checkers has been the root game of a number of variant developments, among them Checkers 2000, a game which has some rather unique properties combined with elements of international checkers and Chinese checkers.In spite of the name, the game was released in 1999 by Rex Games on the eve of the new millennium, and this game really does recreate checkers for a new audience.To begin with the board design is such that a half turn allows you to begin the game with two distinct piece configurations. This is a brilliant touch since it adds immediate variety to the game. Think you have the moves figured out on one lay out, a half turn gives you a completely different look, as well as requiring a different thought process to master.In Checkers 2000 the game pieces are well made, albeit plastic, which are numbered one through 12. Each piece can only jump other pieces of equal, or lesser value. This adds a lot of strategic depth to the game.Interestingly, the 12 pieces can be set up within the confines of the initial game start layout, as a player sees fit. This too is rather brilliant, since one can adjust their pieces to fit preferred tactics. It also changes the flow of the battle with each game depending on where an opponent chooses to set up.The numbering system also makes the 12 the important piece. It becomes essentially a cross between a king and a queen in chess. It is the single most powerful piece in the game like the queen, but if it is lost, like the king, the game is over.Players can jump their own pieces on their way to setting up position, or capturing opponent pieces, so in that sense there is a Chinese checkers feel to the mechanics as well.This is a game which can be taught rather quickly, although grasping the appropriate strategy is more challenging given the ever changing layout of pieces, and the ability to set up attacks which start deep in your own territory, and then proceed by jumping over your own pieces to set up attacks. Initially, one tends to be aggressive with the powerful pieces, but that can leave key pieces alone in the opponent's territory, and susceptible to capture. Like checkers a player must make a direct capture when it is available, so a key can often be sacrificing smaller pieces to force jumps which you can then respond to by capturing the opponent's large numbered checkers, preferably the 12.If you like checkers with spice, this is a game you must try. A great game for all but the youngest of participants.
-- CALVIN DANIELS
-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper April 23, 2008 - Yorkton, SK. Canada