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Bosworth adds the speed, variety and unpredictability of battle to the game of chess. In fact, this international favorite has been called the most enjoyable chess variant ever!
Each player in Bosworth controls a small kingdom represented by the 16 pieces of a chess set. The way these game pieces are introduced, the innovative board design, and the 3 and 4 player options create this dynamic game of battlefield chess.
To win, you will need a combination of skill, timing, luck ...and maybe just a little help from your friends!
I had an opportunity to play several games of Bosworth earlier this year, and enjoyed it immensely!
Since many people already understand the basic movement rules of chess pieces, and those that dont can pick it up quickly, the learning curve on this game is almost non-existent. We all got a 60-second rules explanation from the games owner, and jumped right in with few questions.
While Ive got great respect for the game of chess, Ive never been a big fan of it. But Bosworth is a purely fun version of chess. First, youve got four players participating, so the game is less predictable, and there are many opportunities for temporary and shifting alliances during the game. Second, the game board is smaller, forcing more continuous conflict instead of making the game all about setting up huge, complicated offenses and defenses. Everyone has fewer pieces on the board at any given time, and a well stocked resource of replacements, so losing a piece to an opponent isnt the devastating blow it can be in chess. Third, the game feels like it moves quicker. With fewer possible moves for a player to make on each turn, the decision is made quicker. And watching the other three players make their moves is also engaging because youre never sure how theyll decide to play. Will they leave a piece undefended against you in hopes of an alliance with another, stronger opponent? Will they drop their alliance with you and team up with another opponent? With they do something else totally unexpected? There are no 'standard openings' in Bosworth, and its very refreshing.
I havent played this with my kids yet, but I plan to. My sons a chess fan, and Im sure hed enjoy Bosworth. Im betting that I can get the other members of my family, who are definitely not chess players, to get into the game as well.
My only complaint with the game was the components. I played the first edition of the game, which used rectangular playing cards to represent the pieces. The cards were also nearly the same size as the spaces on the board. These two factors made playing the game a little awkward physically. But, it looks as if the second version of the game has solved this issue completely by replacing the pieces with thick cardboard disks and making the grid spaces square. Be sure you get the second edition of this game, and not the first. With that, Id have no complaints with the game at all, hence my 5-star rating.
As much as Card Chess intrigued me, I found Bosworth to be a "tighter", nicer game. While retaining a luck element (something I wasn't adverse to), Bosworth also uses a mere sixteen to twenty-four spaces, as opposed to the sixty-four of the chessboard. Using almost the same rules as chess (with a few distinct differences), the game is a quick, deadly affair and plays equally as well with four as with two. (Three is a little "iffy".)
(I'm assuming the reader knows how to play chess.)
The game is played on a five by five grid of squares with the corners not used. Each player places four pawn pieces on each end space on their side of the board. If there are less than four players playing, the sides of the board that are not used have markers placed in them to show that those four spaces are not used. Players take the rest of the twelve pieces (the rest of the chess set - but pictures on the side of a disc, rather than plastic pieces) and shuffle them into a pile, drawing four of them into their hands. One player is chosen to go first, and then play proceeds clockwise around the table.
On a player's turn, they must move one of their pieces on the board, just like that particular chess piece moves. All pieces move the exact same way that they do in Chess, with the exception of the pawn and King. Pawns may, in addition to their normal move, move one space sideways in either direction, except in their own "base camp" - the four starting spaces. Kings can actually capture their own pieces and can move into check and be captured. Players don't have to announce that they have put a king into check; but they may if they wish, forcing the enemy to move it out of danger, etc.
After moving a piece, and possibly capturing an enemy piece they land on, a player then must fill all the unoccupied spaces in their field camp with pieces from their hand. The player then fills their hand with pieces from their draw pile. If a player runs out of pieces, they place markers into their empty field spaces, effectively shutting them down. When a player captures an opponent's king, that player's pieces are removed from the board, and the capturing player receives the queen of the opponent to use, even if it's already been killed. Play continues until only one player remains, who is declared the winner!
Some comments on the game...
1.) Components: The artwork on each piece shows a picture of one of the characters from John Kovalic's popular comic Dork Tower. Lest players become confused, like in most themed chess sets, a silhouette of the real chess piece is shown in the background. Each piece is a large, round cardboard token (a little thinner than I'd like), with a background in red, yellow, blue, or green, to differentiate between players. The board has some campsite and tree artwork on it, and the dark green/light green coloring of the spaces helps get one away from the stark contrast of many chess boards. Everything fits nicely into a flat, smallish box with more artwork from Mr. Kovalic.
2.) Rules: The four page rulebook does not take for granted that players already know how to play chess - the moves for each piece are explained in the rulebook in illustrations and explanations. At the same time, the rules that are different than normal chess are italicized, so that players can quickly skim them to learn the differences and grasp them. The game is easy to set up and learn - only about thirty seconds if the players know chess - possibly longer otherwise (I don't know).
3.) Tight: Bosworth is a bloody affair, with pieces being killed right and left. In such a small area and especially when four players are playing, it's impossible for the game to go on too long, and deaths occur all over the battlefield. Sometimes a player can get into a difficult position, when many of their pieces are dead; because the other player(s) can simply kill off each of their new pieces as it lands on the board. It's tremendously difficult to guard against more than one player at once, and this may frustrate some people. With three players, the game is especially deadly for the player in the middle, as they are caught in the middle between players on both sides.
4.) Pieces: While queens are still the most powerful pieces, the tight, small board causes the positions of the others to change somewhat. Rooks aren't nearly as strong, since they are often boxed in and can't maneuver around as well. Bishops are probably just as good on the small board. Knights are extremely useful, as they can jump pretty much all over the board in only a few moves. The pawn is also more capable - as there are just so many of them! - making them fairly deadly.
5.) Kings: it's very easy for kings to get trapped by pieces - in the fact that there are so many more pieces, and so fewer spaces. Thus, the rule that a king can capture his own piece, which usually is only resorted to when a player has no other choice, is a nice rule. While it seems a bit sadistic for thematic purposes, it does come in handy; and I've used it several times in my playings.
6.) Randomness: There is a bit of randomness in the form of what pieces you draw. But I have yet to see a player who didn't hold their king until the end, anyway, or a player who complained that the luck of the draw was the reason that they lost. For me - you simply had to make do with the pieces you got when you got them. If you drew knights early, then it was time to get them into position where they could slaughter the enemy. If you drew rooks, then you wanted to get them out where they had more room to maneuver, etc.
7.) Fun Factor: I can see serious Chess players divided on whether they like the game or not. Some might see the smaller board and multiple opponents as a challenge. Others might be irritated at any change to their precious rules. For ordinary folk, like myself, Bosworth allows me to play Chess in a light, fun way. Sure, you can get all serious about the game; but since movement is more limited and play a bit more chaotic, it's just too tough to get serious about it. Most Bosworth games that I've played have only taken about half an hour to complete, and that's the light, fun feeling that I want.
As long as the game is played with people intent on having a fun, quick variant of chess, I can see Bosworth going over very well. It's fast, a bit chaotic, but still retains the basic feel and tactics of Chess. Strategy and well thought out opening moves aren't going to do a person much good in Bosworth. Tactical maneuvering and learning how to deal with pieces drawn both by oneself and the opponent(s) will. I usually shy away from Chess because of the fact that there is no luck in it and most opponents take it a bit too seriously. Bosworth has neither of those problems.
"Real men play board games"
This 32-square board (6 x 6 without corners) provides the arena for many a lively battle. Cards represent chess pieces, but you needn't be an expert chess player to enjoy these sneaky skirmishes. Pick your color and fill your field camp, a four-space "wing" on your side of the board, with pawns. Shuffle your 12 remaining cards, pick four at random to start your hand, and place the rest facedown. Everything moves and captures as in chess, with several minor differences. After moving, fill all empty spaces in your field camp from your hand and replenish your hand from your pile. When you capture an opponent's king, you abduct his queen for later use, and clear the board of other pieces in his color. One player emerges victorious when all enemy kings are captured.
One of the obvious rules at Essen is that you should check out any stallthat is doing good business and this one was. I was also intrigued tolearn how an American company had come to do a game about the battle ofBosworth. They haven't. What they have done is invent a fast moving andvery entertaining multi-player game which uses chess pieces as its base.Casting round for a name for it, they decided that kings, queens, bishopsand knights constituted a medieval sounding cast, asked an English friendfor the name of a medieval battle and Bosworth was the one that came to mind.
Each player has a set of 16 cards which correspond to one of the sides ina game of chess. These are played on a board, where they will move andcapture just like their chess equivalents (with a simple and logical extensionfor the pawns to enable them to cope with the fact that this is a 4-sidedrather than a 2-sided game). As the designer points out, this means that youhave very little to learn, because there can't be many games-players whodon't already know how chess pieces move. The object, as in chess, is tocapture the opposing kings.
The board has a 4 by 4 centre area, with four side extensions, each onesquare deep. So the whole is a 6 by 6 square with the four corner squaresremoved. The side extensions are the "field camps" and it is from thesethat each player's pieces enter the fray. At the start of the game youplace four pawn cards in your field camp. The rest of your cards are shuffledand placed face down in a deck next to you, with the top four forming yourinitial hand. On your turn you move one of your pieces and whenever a gapappears in your field camp, you fill it with a card of your choice from yourhand, drawing a replacement from your deck after doing so.
This is not a game that I could ever have invented, because I have seen lotsof games over the years and know that multi-player games involving piececapture don't work. And they don't work, because what inevitably happensis that as soon as A and B get locked into an exchange of pieces, Cand D will start rubbing their hands in glee, as they are gainingground on both of them. This is obvious to everybody and so players playdefensively, waiting for a mistake, and everybody gets bored. However, allrules have exceptions, even mine, and Bosworth is one of them. Because theplaying area is small and the piece density high, defensive play is not anoption. There isn't room to hide and there isn't room to stand aside whiletwo of your opponents slug it out. The four sets of pieces are jumbledtogether, leaving you with no option but to attack.
The skill lies in recognising threats while there is still time to dosomething about them and judging when to bring on the various pieces.The king will clearly make his entrance last, but it is a closer call withmost of the others. Off the board they can't do any damage; on the boardthey are vulnerable. People who have played a fair amount of chess willhave a slight advantage because they are likely to have a better "sightof the board", but that is all. The subtleties of chess are not thereand so you don't need to fear someone who knows about them. This is nota rarefied and intellectual game; it is a straightforward street fight.Added to which, if you do come up against an experienced chess player, abit of judicious ganging up will soon handicap him down to size.
The cards are very attractive, showing a silhouette of the appropriatechess piece superimposed by a very well drawn cartoon figure. They gota good professional cartoonist to do them and he has done an excellent job,his work adding to the pleasure of what is an interesting and fun game.
Bosworth also has a web site (www.otb-games.com) where you can find some variants to try.Editor's note: the following was submitted to Funagain in January 2002:
John Kovalic here.
Just wanted to correct the above, VERY kind, review. Particularly the line 'asked an English friend for the name of a medieval battle and Bosworth was the one that came to mind.'
I came up with Bosworth's name, mostly because it was a chess-based game about killing the king. The last battle in Britain where a king died on the battlefield (that I knew of) was Bosworth. Hence the name.