Game Report: Chebache
Chebache was sent to us when finding games for Contagious Dreams. The gimmick is that this game combines Chess, Backgammon, and Checkers. We enjoyed it and added it to our on-line store, and we even assisted in rewriting the rules. But at that time, we did not offer suggestions for changes, as we were too inexperienced at the process. We think it has many interesting elements, but we suggest a number of changes.
Play occurs on a 4×4 chess board, with two players trying to get their pieces off the board first, much like backgammon. The path they take alternates between squares and vertices, so they overlap every other spot on the path. Players roll dice and move pieces like in backgammon, except that four spaces allow backwards movement and each player has a king which can always move backwards. Kings act like two pieces that move in concert, and no space may have more than four pieces in a space. If, after movement with the dice, the player controls an intersection, the player may jump pieces from square to square over those intersections, like chinese checkers. Opponent pieces sitting on an intersection may be bumped back to the beginning just like backgammon. If a player controls a square and the two neighboring intersections, it is called a “Chebache”, and any pieces on the opponent’s square that also neighbors those two intersections is threatened. The threatened pieces must move out of that space, must take control of one of the intersections, or be bumped back. If the player’s king is threatened and cannot escape, the other player wins. Winning is usually done by moving all your pieces off the board, just like backgammon.
Backgammon is a solid game, and this game adds a new path and a bunch of other rules to that game. The additional rules nearly all attempt to encourage play onto the intersections, which are also the dangerous spaces because they can be bumped. The chebache’s are an interesting way to assault otherwise safe pieces.
Although the board is attractive, the path is too hard for beginners to see. While it might look less attractive, a clear path on the board would make it much more playable. Monopoly would not have been successful without all that ugly text on the board, so we would redesign the board completely. We would make the path absolutely clear and the chebaches more obvious.
There are lots of options for movement, and they are not cohesive. We appreciate the desire to bring chess and checkers into the game, but we’ve not become convinced that they are necessary elements. Therefore:
- We recommend dropping the checkers jumping move because it is complicated to explain and easy to forget. There are lots of bandaid rules about them: you may not jumping out of start or into finish. You can jump backwards from a tivit, but not more than one hop, unless you hop back two tivits. There are many other reasons to control the intersections, so it seems an unnecessary encouragement.
- Jumping backwards from tivits seems unnecessary. Eliminate this, and eliminate the rule saying that a player cannot leave the board the same as it was at the beginning of his turn. The dice will force the game to move forward without requiring this rule that is easy to forget and is unnecessary.
- Although the “simpler game” variant that the rules has suggests both of the above changes, they also suggest getting rid of the king. We like the king, so we’d keep it. But, we don’t like how the king switches sides. We want him to just be an double piece that can move backwards and forwards. When he’s landed on, he goes back to start, thus removing several bandaid rules. Trapping a king in a chebache seems a strange way to win, but it is interesting and we’d keep it.
- Do not require players to move pieces out of start once something has gotten to finish. This rule exists in backgammon for a different reason, and seems unnecessary here.
- Do not require that moving into finish requires an exact roll. The game would then not have the strange quality of being allowed to overshoot the finish only when no other move is possible. Again, backgammon has this rule for a different reason, and we would not adopt it. Eliminating this eliminates a number of bandaid rules.
We still feel that this game has interesting decisions that are different than those in backgammon, so we believe it is a worthwhile game. But we would have to play with all the above suggestions many times to decide if the game is worth keeping.