The Chess Variant Pages Menu


MGM Information Services sells a rules pamphlet, containing the rules of their game Chessmen-At-Arms. Their advertisement, running in magazines Military History and Games, is at follows:
EXPERIENCE the thrill and pageantry of medieval warfare with CHESSMEN-AT-ARMS! Use your chess set, playing cards, and dice with our illustrated rules pamphlet to simulate combat with Middle Ages European, Crusader, and Saracen armies. Send $10 to MGM, Dept. A, 1350-E4 Mahan Drive, #211, Tallahassee, FL 32308, USA.
I was sent a complimentary copy of the rules pamphlet by Mercia G. MacMichael from MGM in the end of 1996, and was told in the covering letter that the designer of this game is a military historian and former army officer.

First impression

Unfortunately, I have not yet found the opportunity to play the game, but I would like to give here a first impression of the materials.

For $10, you get an 11-page pamphlet, with nine pages of rules (in black and white) and a colored diagram explaining opening setup and some other rules.

The rules are clearly written, and easy to understand.

The game can probably best be described as a wargame, played with chess pieces. Apart from the chess pieces, you need a deck of cards. The idea is that after shuffling the deck, cards are turned over one by one; the red cards giving a move to one player, and the black cards giving a move to the other player. This seems to bring a lot of luck in the game. The value of the card tells with how many and what pieces the player can move. Hence, a player could possibly move many pieces in a row, before the opponent gets a turn.

Pieces do not make moves as in chess, but can move a certain number of spots, as in usual wargames; depending on their type. Pieces represent forces of the European or Saracen army. (An option is that one or two players play with the Saracen army, which give different strengths and movement capabilities from the European army.) Then, when pieces meet, a battle is fought, and pieces take hits, depending on the strength of the attacker and the outcome of a dice roll. When the hitpoints are run out, then the piece is eliminated.

Is this game a chess variant? I'm not sure. It has so many of the elements of the classical wargames in it, and mostly differs from that kind of games by its more abstract setting, and its board consisting of squares instead of hexes. With chess, it has in common that the main materials needed for playing the game are the chess board and pieces, and that taking the king still is the object of the game.

WWW page created: January 2, 1997. Last modified: January 6, 1997.