Saturday, September 27, 2008

"No Stress Chess": Game Review

Previous reviewers on Amazon US (where this review has today been uploaded) have generally given praise for this clever game, both an introduction to how its included pieces conventionally move and also, in a twist that even those who know how to play already may enjoy, giving this ancient game of skill a bit of chance. My post shows in more detail how this concept works on various levels according to the directions. Cards for each piece show the moves, and if you draw the card, you must move the piece. If you cannot, you lose your turn. This allows, as the clearly indicated instructions explain, a freedom not open to standard players.

This also liberates the King somewhat, to attack more often. The booklet, which also gives a concise explanation of standard chess, puts the rationale of this version thus: "You can take a chance of exposing your pieces to possible capture in the hopes your opponent won't draw a card picturing a piece he can move to capture yours." You also may draw, in six places in the 56-card deck, a "move same type of piece again," which allows you to use either the card your opponent would draw next or your own.

Level One follows these rules, after an initial non-carded set-up of one at both color's queen's file of the pawn two squares and each king's pawn one. Then, the card shuffle begins. This previous placement opens up the pieces in the back rank for action. Level Two deals a three-card hand to each player before play begins from which he can select one piece; Level Three does this with five cards. This mimics more closely the actual array of options in standard chess.

For advanced guidance into learning chess strategy, there's further variations. You can also add en passant, pawn promotion, castling, and checking to Level Three, therefore following regular chess with the unpredictable card-shuffle of "No Stress." Although by then, I imagine, there'd be enough tension akin to a conventional game! That can be done, naturally, by flipping the laminated cardboard over and pursuing a regular match. Plastic pieces can topple over very easily, a slight drawback, but they are large enough to grasp easily in a child's hand and the green-and-white layout's easy on the staring eyes. The novelty of this board game is that you can combine, for beginners or for the curious, the chance of cards with the skill of chess.

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