Can you imagine someone ever blurting out: “This game, which some people spend decades studying, is way too simple! We need a new one!” Well, apparently this happened and, today, several versions of multi-player chess exist.
This particular variant makes it onto our “cool” list because it’s probably the easiest to learn. Each player starts with the normal complement of 16 pieces on one side of a hexagonal board. Although some people get confused (perhaps right after losing, I wonder?), the rules remain essentially the same. Squares of the same color are diagonal to each other, those that share an edge are in the same row or file, etc. However, looking at the way the pieces move, it can sometimes seem like a game Salvador Dali would have enjoyed.
Everyone who plays at more than a very basic level will know that chess involves both a tactical and a strategic dimension. Much of both is usually expressed in terms of axioms: open files are good, a bishop is very useful in the late game but only on its own color squares, a formation of pawns is strong though a single one is mostly useless, et cetera. When you try 3-player chess for the first time, you’ll find that many of these commonsense assumptions are turned right on their heads.
Trying to control the center of the board is almost always one goal of a good opening against a single player, but against two, you can easily find yourself outflanked. Capturing a piece is a definite win . . . but forcing your opponents to exchange is twice as good! In 3-player chess, you have to think two moves ahead for what would be a single move in normal chess, and bargaining and allying with your opponents is actually a normal part of this game.
While you’ll probably not leave your old 64-square board to gather dust, these little quirks force you to put aside your old mental habits and start thinking from scratch. This is one of its best points, along with allowing two weaker players to team up against a stronger one instead of using a traditional handicap.
The reason we prefer this set over similar but cheaper options comes down entirely to its appearance and craftsmanship. Handmade from some lovely woods and about half a yard wide, this board will add a definite “Wow!” factor to any sitting room, which is all to the good even if you don’t actually play that well.