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Review of Roundtable Chess

Roundtable Chess is a commercial Chess variant that is played on a very unusual board. It is a circular board with small solid circles for spaces. It has both diagonal and orthogonal movement between spaces, and it introduces circular movement as a third kind of movement. The whole board is a circle, and within the board are a series of concentric circles. These concentric circles make it easier to see the relationships between spaces, and they also connect together groups of spaces. Besides moving vertically or orthogonally, some of the pieces may move around the spaces which are connected by one of these concentric circles. This adds a new dimension to the game that is absent in Chess.

The board seems to be designed with the four player version of Roundtable Chess in mind. It is divided into four quadrants, named after the four directions. In the four player game, each player begins with his army in one of the quadrants. In the two player game, parts of the east and west quadrants are not considered part of the playing area, and the two players place their armies in the east and west quadrants.

One bothersome detail about the board is that orthogonal movement is colorbound, and diagonal movement is not. This is just the opposite of how it is in Chess, which means that the Rooks and Bishops in this game take some getting used to. Yet this is not an inherent feature of the board. If it were turned 45 degrees, diagonal movement would be colorbound, and orthogonal movement would not.

The object of the two player game, which is the only version of Roundtable Chess which I played, is to capture the enemy King or to move one's own King into the center space without being forced to move out of it on the next turn. This helps eliminate any chance that the game will end in a draw.

Roundtable Chess is an enjoyable game, and the circular board certainly prevents players from using any knowledge of opening games in Chess. The new board, with its circular shape and the ability to move in circles, adds new challenges, making the game interesting for anyone who may have grown a bit bored with regular Chess. Remembering how pieces move on this new board takes some practice, but it is not an insurmountable problem. I played Roundtable Chess twice, a week apart. The second time I played, it was already easier to remember how pieces move.

The whole set includes rules and pieces for Roundtable Chess, both two-player and four-player, and Roundtable Checkers, which also comes in two and four player versions. It comes with four standard size sets of 15 plastic checkers, colored red, black, brown, and light brown. The king side of each checker looks very nice, even better than some other full-size checkers I have, but the reverse side is merely blank instead of having a star on it. It also comes with four sets of medium sized, hollow, plastic, Staunton style Chess pieces, colored white, black, burgundy, and gray. The Chess pieces are generally nice looking, because they are shiny, and the shiny burgundy pieces look especially nice. But they are also cheaply made, with cracks in some of the plastic bases.

I am not qualified to review Roundtable Checkers, since I have not played it, and I'm not very good at Checkers anyway. But I imagine that it would appeal to people who have mastered Checkers and are looking for similar challenges.

Written by Fergus Duniho.
WWW page created: August 24, 2000