I am a fan of chess variants in general, so that drew me.
But then add the idea of battling tanks, and it was a game I had to check out.
So off the top, this is a far ways from being a game that feels in any meaningful way like chess. Yes you are moving pieces around a board, and in most cases, you are looking to capture a particular piece, (like the king in chess), but it really doesn’t ‘feel’ like chess.
Chess in the title is merely to attract attention, although since this is an abstract strategy game, chess players are likely to appreciate it immediately.
While this may not satisfy the diehard war scenario game player, it is in my mind just the right game to get a feel for tactics.
So I will preface the rest of this review by simply saying a handful of moves into my first game and I was totally in love with Tank Chess.
The game is actually pretty straightforward in terms of rules.
All tank pieces can move straight forward, rotate in place 45 degrees, or a combination of both. Each 45 degrees rotation and each movement from one space to another counts as one step. Initially, this means a lot of counting to ensure you are following movement rules, but over time players will know what they can do for each tank type, as different tank types have different speeds, with the speeds determining the maximum number of steps a piece can perform in one turn.
Pieces can also move a single space directly backward; however, this cannot be used in combination with forward movement and/or rotation.
“Once a tank has been moved, it may target a single opponent’s tank from its final position. If there are multiple valid targets, the tank may choose only one, but it can also choose none. A tank can shoot in three directions – straight ahead or diagonally to the left or right,” details the rules.
“The shooting tank must have an unobstructed straight line of sight between itself and the target. Additionally, a tank may not shoot any pieces immediately next to it. There must always be at least one empty space between the two.”
You will note the rules mention an unobstructed line of sight. The double-sided game boards, (they come in two sizes), have buildings outlined on the board that tanks must maneuver around, which is one of the best aspects of the game design.
The other side of the board is an empty grid and there are terrain pieces with the game, so you can set up a variety of board designs which is another huge plus for the game.
But back to attacking, in order to destroy an opponent’s piece, the attacking piece’s gun value must be higher than the armour value of the tank side (front, side, or rear) that is being targeted. “In others words, when speaking of light, medium and heavy tanks, a tank can only destroy a tank of the same type from the sides or rear, due to the gun value being equal to the front armour value,” notes the rules.
This is easier to understand that it might seem, and while it again is not a perfect representation of tank battles it works pretty slick.
“When a piece is destroyed, it is flipped on its side, remaining on its space. Through the course of a game, destroyed tanks become obstacles, through which tanks cannot move or shoot,” notes the rules.
Again this is a great aspect of Tank Chess. As the game develops the little tanks that have been destroyed litter the battlefield, (board), and it is visually very cool.
I will admit the tanks are rather small and plain in this game, and obstacles are just card cut-outs, so think function more than aesthetics. The pieces are functional but there is a lot of opportunity to a version with detailed tank pieces and even 3-D terrain that would be simply incredible.
The goal of the basic game is to either destroy your opponent’s command tank or to ‘escape’ with your own command tank by strategically moving it to the opponent’s side of the game board and exiting the board during its movement.
In game one I was so focused on attacking, my little command tank was blown to bits from half a board away. It is easy to forget that tanks have such deadly long-range guns.
“To make the game even more diverse, the players have the option to choose the exact pieces they want to play within each battle. The players don’t have to choose the same pieces; the only thing that matters is that they have the same number of pieces and that one of them is the command tank. In this case, the pieces have to be placed on the marked squares, but the symbol and the piece type don’t have to match. Also, you can choose different piece type to be your command tank: you just need to attach the antenna to that particular tank,” state the rules.
The ability to customize board size, layout, tank array, all add up to huge versatility within Tank Chess, and that just makes the game better in my mind.
This is one that has my highest recommendation. Check it out at www.gamesforsage.com
Thanks to fellow gamer Adam Daniels for his help in running through this game for review.