Hexchess! - A review
Together with my father and my two brothers, we tried out HEXchess! - a chess variant for three players, played on a board, composed of hexes, instead of squares.
The nicely decorated box contains a board, a set of rules, and three sets of pieces. Game components are more or less of standard but good quality: a good sturdy board, pieces made of heavy plastic in white, black and a nice red color.
The rules consist of one piece of paper. As there were some uncertainties about the precise rules, we made some decisions ourselves. For instance, the movement of the bishop is open for interpretation: can the bishop `jump' pieces or not? (See for instance Glinski's hexagonal chess for the bishops move.) In Glinski's variant, the bishop can `jump' the pawns in the opening setup.
Overall, we had the feeling that more effort could have been spent to remove the last unclarities of the game rules.
My family members complained about the kings move. The king moves one square in each of the six directions, a rook moves. We felt it more reasonable to have the king also move in the bishops directions. (Rooks and bishops move as in, e.g., Glinski's hexagonal chess.)
Also, there is a rule that forbids taking en-passant. We didn't see any reason why this should be the case.
The problems of three players chess
Chess was a game, designed to play with two players. There have been several designs of chess for three players, but all have a common problem: exchanging is in the advantage of the player that is not involved in the exchange. Thus, combinations, where a player wins a strong piece against a weak piece of himself, are often not advantageous. Hexchess has the same disadvantage. In its favour is that pieces have great mobility, and hence new types of tactics become possible.
To win a game of Hexchess, one does not only need to have tactical insight, but also one must be good in diplomacy. A common tactic which was used in the games we played, is that one player checks a king of a second player, and the third player takes a piece of this second player in the same round. Thus, the checked player must avoid check, and cannot take a piece of the third player.
This actually is a lot of fun, except when oneself is the victim. However, the player with most material advantage should not be too happy: he is the most likely candidate for a conspiration.
As written above, due to the hexagonal nature of the board, and moves of the pieces, there are usually ample attack possibilities, which is nice, as it increases possibilities for joint attacks.
We had lots of fun while playing Hexchess. I felt that this is a game, which should not be played too seriously, due to the fact that the diplomacy aspect plays a large role. But in good company, this is a nice and entertaining game.
So is this game something for you? It depends on what you want. If you want the same combinatorial depth of normal chess, you should forget playing three-player chess variants, and also this one. If you want to have a game that gives you a nice time to play, you might like Hexchess, as I did.
(Scores are on a range from 1 to 5.)
A setup to play the game with two players is also given with the rules. I didn't try this.
Hexchess can be ordered from Hexchess incorporated; information can be found via the following hyperlink.
Written by Hans Bodlaender.