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Every time you think the world of games influenced by chess has been exhausted, something new comes along to intrigue.
While Castle Danger is not specifically a chess variant, the influence of the popular and ancient game is rather obvious with the Matt Worden created game.
Released in 2002, Castle Danger has the same basic premise as chess, eliminate the opponent's king.
It also borrows from XiangQi (China's chess), with the incorporation of a river which runs down the middle of the board, splitting the two sides.
Unlike Xiangqi, where only some pieces are unable to cross the river, Castle Danger keeps each player isolated to their own side of the board, a 4X7 area.
To eliminate the opposition king, and other pieces, you fire your cannons.
In addition to the key king, and the important offensive cannons, pieces include wizards, which give players additional moves per turn, builders which add and remove protective walls, and of course the walls.
For the most part pieces start off the board, and are added on a player's turn.
Once on the board pieces move based on action points.
The overall combination leaves players need to balance creating defensive positions by building walls, adding wizards to increase movement, and dealing with the resulting constriction of an ever smaller board area in which to maneuver.
There is likely a first player advantage, which is general to many games, but the new elements of the game at least initially limit the advantage.
The game plays very nicely, and for a small, self-published effort, the components work. The board is colourful, and the pieces functional, although the small missile minis used for cannons are a bit 'modern' for a game which generally has a medieval feel, but that's a small beef for a self-published effort.
Hats off to to Worden for a fine game that is well worth a long look.
This review originally appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper in Saskatchewan Canada March 30/2011