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Subject: "Space checkers" - excitement for 2-4 players rss

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Jonathan Crosmer
United States
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I picked this up at a used bookstore for a few bucks. Money well-spent.
I jokingly refer to this game "Space Checkers" because of the obvious genre connection and checker-like pieces. All of the pieces move the same way, but their sizes determine capture strength---you can only capture a piece of equal or smaller size.
The board is 3-D and 8x8 (in the original version), with squares arranged in steps called Terraces. The object is to move your T-piece (which I refer to as the "king") to the lowest enemy corner OR to capture all enemy king(s).
There are three kinds of movement.
1. On the same terrace, you may move any distance, hopping over any number of your own pieces. You may not jump enemy pieces and cannot capture anything. (You can't cross diagonally in the center, either.)
2. Moving up a terrace, you may move to any adjacent square, straight or diagonal.
3. Moving down, you may move to an empty square straight down only. You may capture diagonally down only.

That's it! Simple rules, but deep play. Here are a few strategy notes from my first several games.
1. Though all the steps look similar, they aren't. There are four quadrants to the board, two "high" quadrants and two "low" ones (marked by the high and low corners respectively). It's easy to ascend but harder to descend in a low quadrant, and vice versa for a high quadrant. In general, descending is much harder... but that's just where you need to go!
2. This is noticable if you try to block a piece from descending: you only need 1 piece in a low quadrant, but from a high quadrant corner, there are two squares to descend without capture.
3. With two pieces against one, you can force the one to retreat (upwards). With three against one, you can trap a piece in several patterns (similar to "mating patterns" in chess).
4. Your largest pieces are crucial for agressive maneuvers. I call them "queens" as they are the source of tactical power. But you must support/block with smaller pieces.
5. If your opponent retreats to an invincible corner or some such unassailable position, make sure you are in position to switch battlefields and attack somewhere else. While his pieces are piled on a useless corner, you'll be attacking his position on the other side of the board.
6. Multiplayer (3-4) games are crazy... not all "checks" are for real. For example, if I threaten your king, but capturing your king would immediately unblock and allow a 3rd player to win (by advancing to the goal), then I'm not "really" threatening your king. So it's "psuedo-check." Of course, while I have your king in pseudo-check---protected by the threat of a 3rd player winning---you cannot do anything to mess up the 3rd player's position. If he loses the threat of winning or no longer needs to get you out of the way, then my check becomes real. Then it gets really weird when two players are defending a corner against one. The two players may be enemies on one side of the board, but in that corner, they are forced allies, literally unable to capture each other's pieces for fear of weakening the defense against the one player and allowing him to win. cool

Terrace provides two different but fun experiences: a twist on the old chess/checkers genre, and a very twisted 3-4 player experience. As a 2-player game, it definitely has strategic depth and feels futuristic, as the box promises. With 3-4 players, you get the mind games of an n-player game like Risk but without all those pesky dice and probabilities---party time for game theorists.
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Jeremy Cooper
United Kingdom
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Good review. I'll probably get a set but I'm undecided between the original and the neon colour sets. Both were used in Star Trek and, speaking of which, so was a game called Space Checkers in the original series.

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