Abstract Strategy Games

Anything and everything about abstract strategy games

An Indianapolis radio station matched up two chessmasters on their website, but probably not the way you would think. They put a photo of each player and a button underneath labeled ‘Who’s Hotter?’.

Underneath the photos there is a description:

I chose Natalia and Alexandra because I love the combination of brains and beauty and these ladies have LOTS of both. Natalia Pogonina is a Russian chess Woman Grandmaster and member of the Russian chess Olympic team. And, Alexandra Kosteniuk is a Russian chess Grandmaster and the current Women’s World Chess Champion. Checkmate! - Matt from X103.

Watch Chess Queen Alexandra Kosteniuk beat reigning World Chess Champion Vishy Anand at the most recent World Blitz Chess Championship. I enjoy watching speed chess because of the greater opportunity for an upset.

I would like to thank Hans Scharler, inventor of Divide & Conquer for having the courage to ask a stranger to play and review his game publicly. As a game-inventor I know that is not an easy thing to do. Hans and I met up in Indianapolis during GenCon 2009 so he could give me a finished prototype of his abstract strategy game Divide & Conquer. Hans gives a quick description:

Divide and Conquer is an abstract strategy board game for 3-4 players. As the Commander of a battalion of troops, you plan out and execute troop movements to secure objective regions around the game board. Your opponent’s competing troops will cause you to tangle and engage in conflict taking on causalities and slowing your pace to victory. You must anticipate the other players’ strategies by moving with precision and seizing the initiative. Sometimes your position is defensive to block an opponent from an objective and other times you are invading occupied regions to weaken the offensive of another player.

The game mechanics are based in mathematics and game theory, which provides an additional opponent. If you plan optimally, you will not only defeat the other players, but you will also solve the game with a minimal number of movements.

source: Divide & Conquer

Divide and Conquer

That next week I took D&C to my local game club. I told the gamers not to judge the visual design of Hans’ game because it is not the final look, but to take notes on everything else. We played many games with both three and four players.

D&C is quick to learn and even quicker to set up. In fact, there were no illegal moves played during the entire learning process. This is unusual for most games. I’m a fan of simplicity - this was a great first impression. So far, so good.

Divide & Conquer

One of D&C’s major concept is for all players to write down their moves before anyone else takes a turn. When it’s your turn you must make the move you wrote down. After each round you switch the person who goes first. This disrupted the flow of the game. One set of players decided to play on the honor system where they thought about the move before anyone played and everyone trusted others were being honest. They explained to me that no one was reading the written moves anyway, so this was just easier. And, even though we were using a system to determine who’s turn it was to begin a round, there were many times where people were asking who’s turn it was.

Divide & Conquer

When we finished for the evening I asked for everyone’s opinion about the gameplay and there was a universal agreement in the lack of depth in strategy. They didn’t get the same satisfaction of making a move as our other popular club games.

Overall I enjoyed the game, and admit the gamers in my club probably need more games under their belts before coming to a conclusion about the depth of this game. With that said I look forward to playing more of Divide & Conquer and I hope Hans decides to put out more abstracts for us to review.

Click here to visit the Divide & Conquer website.


At Gen Con Indy 2009, I was lucky enough to get a press pass and I took full advantage. I was able to speak with more gamers this year than in previous years. One of my more interesting interactions was with an abstract strategy game inventor who gave me his newest prototype to review. In the next couple of weeks I’ll be testing it out with some local abstracters. It looks interesting…stay tuned.

A Bulgarian grandmaster has begun 360 chess matches in an attempt to break the world record for the number of games played simultaneously.

Kiril Georgiev is working his way up and down rows of tables at which his rivals are seated, in the Inter Expo Center in the Bulgarian capital, Sofia.

He needs to win 80% of the games to beat a record set by Hungarian-American chess champion Susan Polgar in 2005.

She played 326 games, winning 309, drawing 14 and losing three.

On her blog, she advised the Bulgarian grandmaster to wear comfortable shoes.

Mr Georgiev is a three-time Bulgarian national champion and a former under-18 world champion, according to the Bulgarian News Network.

It said his opponents, ranging in age from children to pensioners, were chosen from a pool of 600.

Are you looking to play chess on your mobile phone? Try Mobile Chess. It works with most cell phones including Nokia, Samsung, Motorola, LG, Blackberry, and more. There is free access, but it is limited. If you want unlimited use, it costs up to $12.99. Cost Breakdown

Alexandra Kosteniuk, the women’s world chess champion, has made it in the top 20 sexiest geeks of 2008. Feel free to check out the list and vote for her. She also has confirmed that she will be present at the 2009 Supernationals in Nashville, Tennessee, at the beginning of April.

Did you know The World Chess Federation tests players for drugs? Vassily Ivanchuk after losing his match ignored an official asking for a urine sample. He could have been suspended for two years, but FIDE made the decision not to suspend him. Below is the official release:

The Decision of the FIDE Doping Hearing Panel:

Drug testing is still relatively rare in chess. However, it does occur in various official events and was carried out during the course of the Dresden Olympiad. Unfortunately, a high proportion of the tests were scheduled during the last round and there was a lack of personnel, which lead to a procedural error: there was not a designated Doping Control Officer present at this match (USA v Ukraine).
After losing a crucial game for his country, Mr Ivanchuk was distraught. The Hearing Panel concludes that although the arbiter attempted to inform Mr Ivanchuk in English that he should accompany him for a doping test, Mr Ivanchuk apparently failed to understand the instructions, especially since English is not Mr Ivanchuk’s first language. If there had been a Doping Control Officer present, he would have immediately gone to Mr Ivanchuk’s board and there would have been communication between him and Mr Ivanchuk. In that case the outcome might have been different. Because there was no notification by the Doping Control officer, there was no refusal in the sense of the regulations.
The Conclusion:
The procedural error allied with Mr Ivanchuk’s state of mind led him unintentionally to miss the test. The Hearing Panel therefore concludes unanimously that there should be no penalty.


Abstract Strategy Games

The 1st Mind Sports Games, a multi-game competition, is being held in Beijing. The events include chess, draughts (checkers), bridge, xiangqi and go. The event has attracted more than 3,000 players from 143 countries. There are thirty-five gold medals up for grabs.

China claimed their first gold metal yesterday when Wang Yang won the men’s rapid Xiangqi competition. Russian “Chess Queen” Alexandra Kosteniuk earned a gold metal in the women’s chess individual blitz competition.

The competitions will last until October 18th.

Abstract Strategy Games

The third meeting of the Abstract Strategy Game Club was the best yet. We played a four player chess variant called Sceptre 1027 AD. It was produced in 1986 by a company located in Indiana called Horizon Games, Inc.

The players may use up to nine boards to create the playing environment. The openness creates a chaotic atmosphere which is a bit overwhelming at first. The board sections have both dark and light squares (checkered) like chess, but have terrain which influences the way the pieces may move. It was a lot of fun, but we invested a lot of time learning the game. There were a lot of mistakes, mostly over confusion with the terrain, and illegal moves had to be taken back. We talked about playing it again next meeting, so we’ll see if the mistakes decrease and the strategy increases. Overall, we had a blast playing it, and if you can get your hands on a set, I recommend playing it with some of your more open-minded and patient friends.

Abstract Strategy Games

 Astronaut Greg Chamitoff made his first move in the chess match against the world.  NASA and USCF have teamed up to create a Space vs. Earth chess match.  A chess team from Stevenson Elementary School in Bellevue, Washington is selecting four moves for the rest of us to vote on.  The move with the most votes will be played.  I voted for 1…Ng8-f6


Abstract Strategy Games