Note: This preview uses pre-release components and rules. What you see here may be different from the final, published game. This post was a paid preview, you can find out more information here.
Playing traditional games like Chess, Checkers, or Backgammon was fairly common for me growing up, especially when Sierra released several games that could be played against the computer. As an only child, I spent much of my time after class passing the time with these classics.
When we received word about this Kickstarter, I immediately jumped on it because the idea of playing one of my favorite classic games with two additional players and participating on a team sounded intriguing. Luckily, it did not disappoint! Queens and Kings is a twist on the traditional game of checkers which can be played with up to 4 players.
The setup for the game is reminiscent of the traditional checkers setup, and the rulebook is kind enough to explain exactly how to set up the gameboard if you’re a little rusty. Thankfully there is no requirement to understand or remember how the original game plays because the pieces, as well as movement, operate differently. So, no advantage to knowing checkers.
When playing with teams, you can jump over your ally’s pieces to traverse the large board. At some point, when your pawn reaches the opposite end of the board, it becomes a Queen. This part is crucial, as the game emphasizes the power of the Queen as a piece more than the advantage of having a King. Normal pawns can be transformed into a King by reaching the center of the gameboard.
While the Queen seems very overpowered in this game, it’s important to keep in mind that it cannot double back. Movement should always be forward, and that is the one balancing caveat of the seemingly impossible-to-beat mechanic this game introduces. You are also required to execute a jump whenever possible, so it is likely that you can be set up to jump even when you don’t want to.
After this, gameplay continues until all opposing player(s) pieces have been removed or there are no available, legal moves remaining. In some cases, there may be a stalemate to end the game.
There are few games, at least of the ones I’m aware of, that provide a good outlet for having team versus team experiences. There are plenty of co-op games out there but it does not stay very streamlined over time because of how many hands you can have in the pot. Thankfully since there are just two teams, you effectively have only two entities negotiating or interacting; micromanagement therefore only happens between two individuals.
Often in checkers, you can tell within the first few moves that the game is over and it is not the case here. This is a lot more accessible and enjoyable even for those unfamiliar with the traditional checkers gameplay.
However, it doesn’t change the fact that at its core it is definitely checkers. You make one move at a time, and it will take quite a bit of time afterward to make any progress. Things will become more interesting as the pieces start to converge towards the middle and spark the conflict you’re looking for but the gameplay is just so aggravatingly slow until that happens. Then, when pawns are converted to Kings or Queens, there is a whirlwind of carnage that you wished happened so much earlier.
Converting these pawns, however, requires flipping most of your components if you weren’t lucky on the original placement of pawns, which is annoying and can lengthen gameplay. Setup tries to solve for this housekeeping problem but it doesn’t last very long once more pawns upgrade.
The designer is local to me so I arranged a meeting after a few plays on my own to see what the game was all about and to get a bigger picture of the intent. He noted that he designed other games for his family to play and that’s how all of this started. His enthusiasm was so infectious, I adopted his excitement of the game immediately. There is a cute video on the publisher’s website that has a little background of the story behind the design of the game as well. I find it adorable that the main driver of building out the Queen mechanic is to have the women finally shine and beat out the value of the Kings. This, as a woman, I can definitely get behind.
He was also kind enough to demonstrate a few of the more exciting moves and deep strategies that I didn’t quite get to during my plays of the game, which refreshed my interest in the remake. I appreciated that he was open to feedback, and it was certainly a good opportunity to gain some crucial clarity on the rules. There are even talks of a potential AI stretch goal so keep that in mind when stalking this Kickstarter.
The absolute carnage when playing with four players is a key enjoyable aspect of this remake. New movement and new, deep strategies will have you coming back to play this after your first go. But fair warning, this game can be long depending on who you play with. If you do not have the patience for the aspects of checkers that this game does have, this game might not be for you.
As always, we don’t post ratings for preview copies as the components and rules may change from the final game. Check back with us after the game is produced for a full review. This post was a paid preview, you can find out more information here.