Few, no make that no, game interests me overall than chess. The basic game most of us are at least generally familiar with is a classic, and it has spawned so many interesting chess variants, and other games borrowing elements from its design, that it remains a game I admire greatly.That said, there is no reason game designers can't improve on, or makes changes so, that new chess variants don't hold charms of their own.Enter Jeff Knight who created Plunder Chess in 1988.Plunder Chess is a game that is immediately familiar in as much as the piece array is that of western chess, and the pieces move in the same, well-understood fashion.So what makes Plunder Chess different? Well Knight has added an element to the game that is reminiscent of Shogi (Japanese Chess). In Shogi captured pieces can be brought back into play on the side of the captor.Knight has added some of that flavour to western chess, albeit in a distinctly different way.In Plunder Chess when a piece captures another piece, it essentially captures the movement of the piece taken, which it can use once on some subsequent move.The simple mechanic adds a whole new dimension to the game. A rook which captures a knight can suddenly attack with a knight's jump on a subsequent move. With each capture the abilities of pieces grow, and the resulting strategies for both offence and defence change.A knight that can move as a queen adds a different dimension to the game, even if the queen move can only be used once.To his credit, designer Knight has come up with a simple, and ingenious way to track what pieces have enhanced powers.There are a set of collars, each representing the standard chess pieces, so for example two bishop collars. If a knight captures a bishop, you simply slip a collar over the knight piece, and it is easy to see it has enhanced movement potential, and what that movement is. The method works easily, with little disruption to the game.Once the enhanced move is used, the collar is removed.The game, since it uses a standard chess set and board, also facilitates playing basic chess, so when purchasing this set, it is in essence a two-for-one proposition.In terms of pieces, the design is sort of nouveau in nature, with the pieces tall, and slender, to facilitate the collars. The unique look is most noticeable on the knight.The weight of the pieces is good.The pieces can be purchased with, or without a board, again a nice option since many will have suitable board options.In terms of chess variants Plunder Chess is easy to pick up since there are no new pieces, or unique moves introduced, yet the 'plunder' mechanic adds a new feel to an old game, adding many new options to the game's strategy. The combination of familiarity, and new games options make this one a winner.A simple concept pulled off smoothly to create a compelling chess variant very much worth picking up.
Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Feb. 25, 2009 - Yorkton, SK. Canada