game designed by Andrew Looney
One of the four games that come with Icehouse: The Martian Chess Set, Martian Chess itself is a deceptively simple chessboard game where piece position, rather than colour, determines piece ownership. Indeed, colour is of no importance in this game, and, if you have enough pieces, it is best played in monochrome.
The board is split into Quadrants, and players control only the pieces in their quadrant. This seemingly simple concept has an interesting ability to bend the heads of the unsuspecting.
The object of the game is to capture as many of your opponent's pieces as you can. Your opponent's pieces, of course, are those in another quadrant to your own: you can capture the piece by moving your piece onto its square, just as in traditional Chess. However -- as soon as your move into another player's quadrant is complete, control of that piece is transferred to its new owner.
Plenty of interesting strategies develop, as you move valuable pieces into vulnerable positions in an opponent's quadrant for your own benefit. Beware the double whammy, though: once you cross a quadrant boundary, make sure you don't leave yourself open to attack from the new owner. Especially important when taking with Queens...
Defence becomes interesting too: protecting yourself can be less about making your pieces safe from capture, but rather, making their capture disadvantageous to your opponent; ie, engineering double-whammys in your favour.
Martian Chess is easily played with four players; one in each quadrant. Folding the board in half allows for a surprisingly playable two player game, and somewhere on the Looney Labs website there may be downloaded a distorted chessboard segment which allows three, five and six player Martian Chess: this, it should be noted, is insane.
To sum up, an excellent, quirky game which I have sucessfully employed on numerous occasions to preach the joys of little plastic pyramids...