We tried a four-player game of Kaos, the Game today. This is an abstract strategy game that is home produced by the designer. The components are fairly simple, but quite nice, consisting of a rolled vinyl mat printed with a 7x7 grid of squares and a set of 4 wooden pieces for each player. The top of each piece has been drilled with a shallow hole, and the hole painted in four different colors to indicate ownership of the piece. There's also a wooden cube with the four colors on the four faces that is used to determine the start player.
The rules are very simple. Each player's four wooden pieces has different movement capabilities. The pieces are named Alpha, which moves like a king in chess, Beta, which moves one or two spaces any direction (like a queen with a limited range), Gamma, which moves one or two spaces in a straight line, and Delta, which moves diagonally one or two spaces. The rules show the starting location of each players' pieces, with each player starting with their Alpha piece in a corner and their other pieces surrounding it.
Players capture opposing pieces by moving into their square, like chess. The player whose Alpha piece is the last to be captured wins the game.
Play proceeded tentatively. It's pretty easy to see all possible moves for your opponents' pieces, and therefore pretty easy to avoid leaving yourself in position to be captured. Once the first piece was captured, however, it seemed like we all became a little less cautious, and left pieces where they could be taken in order to try to threaten someone else.
After a flurry of moves with several captures, we were left with my white pieces having an Alpha and a Delta, Jeanette's green with an Alpah and a Beta, Sam's black with just an Alpha, and Nick's red with just an Alpha. And here the game bogged down. We found that it was virtually impossible to "checkmate" an Alpha, since in order to cover the squares immediately adjacent to the Alpha you would need to put your attacking piece under attack from the Alpha. The range of the pieces was just too small. Also, Since there is no rule preventing you from moving into "check," an Alpha could capture a piece that had another piece covering it. Sam did this to Jeanette's Beta, backed up by her Alpha, and then I captured her Alpha on my next turn with my Delta, before she could take his Alpha. This is quite unlike chess, where the victor is the person who best maneuvers his entire army.
After Jeanette's Alpha fell, Sam took my Delta with his Alpha. This left 3 Alphas on the board with a rule set that looked to us like it would not allow the game to end before one of us made a mistake. We decided to terminate the game at that point, and called Jeanette the winner for having created a checkmate situation. I'm not sure why the rules don't include anything about not allowing the move Sam made, but we will play that way from now on. Otherwise it seems like the game could drag on quite a while after people inevitably lose pieces.
Despite my criticisms of the game, I think this is one that we'll play again soon. It's simpler than chess, allows for some interesting interaction between multiple players, and moved along rather quickly. I also liked the quality of the components despite being home produced. All in all it's a pretty nice game.