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Wouldn't You Prefer a Nice Game of Martian Chess?

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If you ever find yourself hanging out a coffee shop with J'onn J'onzz or John Carter, you should know how to play Martian Chess. It's just similar enough to Earth Chess to drive you mad as you move your Queens, Drones and Pawns in an effort to claim the most points. I met the creator of Martian chess here at Origins Game Fair (which I'll be covering all weekend), and he kindly let me sit in on a five-player game. Yes — a five-player game of chess. Apparently the idea for Martian chess was inspired by Bill and Ted's Bogus Journey. Find out how it all works below.

Martian Chess was created by Looney Labs (it's not just a clever name - the company's founder and chief designer is named Andrew Looney). The pieces come from their Treehouse game sets - translucent colored pyramids of varying sizes that can be used for a wide variety of games, including a space empire game called Homeworlds. Two to six players can participate, though for odd numbers or numbers greater than four, you'll need the special tiles pictured.


The key difference between Martian Chess and Earth Chess is the fact that you don't own or control the pieces you begin the game with. Whenever a piece moves into your quadrant (or quintrant or whatever), you gain control of it. Capturing a piece is worth points: 3 points for Queens, 2 for Drones and 1 for Pawns. Queens move like Earth Chess Queens, Drones move laterally one or two spaces, and Pawns move diagonally one space. The game ends when any player's quadrant is empty of pieces.

It sounds simple, but playing a few games reveals a great depth of strategy and the need for well-considered tactical sacrifice. The Looney Labs people let me in on their game, which we declared to be the Martian Chess World Championship (Earth Division). I lost. Andrew Looney developed the game after noticing that when Bill and Ted journeyed to heaven in Bill and Ted's Bogus Journey, the chess set in Heaven only had white pieces. That lead to the development of "monochromatic chess," which lead to Martian Chess.


Treehouse. [Looney Labs]