• Bretton Hamilton

Challenge - Designing a New Chess Piece

Origin: Chess is a game that has been played for many hundreds of years. The rules of chess are often always the same, manipulate pieces on the board to defeat the opposing player's "King" before they eliminate yours. 

Upon researching Chess for a Turn-Based Strategy Game, I was reminded that the rules of Chess have altered slightly over time. With about half of the original pieces changing in name and function. 

This lead me on a grand quest to research how other designers have attempted to modify Chess throughout the past century or so. This lead to many interesting discoveries and the eventual creation of the "Bulwark."

Implications: To avoid disturbing the 8x8 composition which many strategies rely on, the introduction of the Bulwark must be fundamentally different than the other pieces. Displacing or replacing core pieces to make way for the Bulwark during set up disrupts many of the known strategies and maneuvers. The flexibility in placement, the defensive/offensive tactics allows for many new strategies to develop. It also balances the piece values by increasing the utility of the Knight and Bishop piece, while countering the strength of the Rook.

Original Values:               Revised Values: Pawn: 1                           Pawn: 1 Bishop: 3                         Bishop: 4 Knight: 3                          Knight: 4 Rook: 5                            Rook: 4 Queen: 9                         Queen 9


Playtesting: Experimenting with the Bulwarks' mobility, role, and placement lead to multiple property revisions until it felt comfortable to use for both a novice and a skilled Chess player. Originally it took a full turn to place the Bulwark on the board immediately following a turn where a piece was initially moved from its starting position. After multiple skirmishes, it was assessed that using an entire turn to end the piece left the player vulnerable for too long. The risk far outweighed the reward.

It was fascinating to monitor the effects this piece had on current strategies as at times a player could use their opponent's Bulwark to cripple their own movement and utility. 

Furthermore, the Bulwark were also able to act as last second defensive pieces. By placing the piece mid to late game in a pinch, it could be used to block an aggressive Rook or Bishop that was threatening the back lines.