Sunday, March 28, 2010



Chess variants have always been an area of interest. The basic western version of the game is a favourite, and I am always excited when someone comes up with an intriguing variant.
Renniassance Chess was invented in 1980 by Eric V. Greenwood, and it certainly fits the bill as far as being an intriguing take on chess by expanding the familiar game.
Correctly spelled, the game would be called Renaissance Chess; Greenwood, however, thought it would be fun to deliberately misspell it as Renniassance. The game is also commonly referred to as Rennchess.
Rennchess is a big board variant, played initially on a 12X10 board, although reference to play on a 12X12 board certainly exists. My suggestion is to look for a 12X12 board to use, since it allows for play either way.
Being played on a large board, Rennchess boosts the power quotient on the board in terms of the pieces in play.
Instead of the familiar 16-piece array, Greenwood more than doubled the number. Each player has 34 pieces in play.
With 34 pieces per side, this is not a chess variant where you can go down to the local board game store and buy a set.
The alternative is to turn this game into something of a craft project and put your own together.
The best way to get started on such a project is to buy multiple sets to begin the process of creating the various hybrid pieces present in Rennchess. There are lots of cheap sets out there to work with, which is good since you reasonably need four sets to get all the pieces made. You can find suitable sets for as little as two - three bucks. Don’t over spend because you aren’t likely to play Rennchess everyday unless you have a regular chess bud who likes variants.
Recognize such sets will be made of hollow plastic. That is good since you can cut them up with a sharp modeling knife, or small saw.
The bad news is such sets are weightless, and chess sets need weighted pieces for the tactile enjoyment of the game. The solution, head down to the hardware store with the various pieces in your pocket. You’ll likely be able to find nuts that fit in the base. Five bucks should just about cover it. A bit of hot glue holds them in place.
The cheaper sets also tend to be easily knocked over. A wargaming store is the place to buy some plastic bases that you can glue the pieces to add stability. It will add about $20 bucks to the set cost, but it adds to the set.
I was also able to insert small washers inside the bases, which added just a bit more weight. In retrospect the amount of work may have been greater than the affect of the added weight though.
Back to the piece creation.
Some, such as the Archbishop which moves as either Bishop or Knight, or the Nobleman which moves as either Rook or Knight, the process is easy. You cut the top off the rook, or bishop, and glue to the top of a Knight piece. Superglue, or model glue gets the job done.
Other pieces, such as the Squire, which moves one or two squares in any direction, and may jump over other pieces, require some additional creativity. One handy and quick way to change the look of a piece can be to cut off the top of a bishop, and replace it by gluing a simple push pin on top.
That was the process I used for the Fox, clipping the top off a pawn and replacing it with a push pin top. The Fox moves one square horizontally or vertically.
Using the push pin option does mean a repaint at the end, but that helps create a unified finish, and if you use the bases, it will be a must.
A finishing touch is to glue some felt on the bottom of the bases, and trim.
You end up with a very functional, solid looking, and reasonably well-weighted Rennchess set.
You might want to snap a few digital pictures and create a cheat sheet so the variant pieces are quickly recognized, and the associated moves understood.
The creation of the set is as much fun as the game, and in the case of Rennchess there is a lot to explore game wise too. The wide piece array, and large board offer a very different ‘feel’ from the traditional game.
Do note this is a variant for true chess lovers, since games can be quite involved and take considerable time to complete.
In the end a great project in terms of creation, and a deep game to play.
-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Feb 10, 2010 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

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