Thursday, October 20, 2011
Board Game Review - Commander-in-Chief
Publishing a game in a market glutted with games takes a certain amount of hubris. I mean, you have to hang on to the belief that what you're developing really is as good as your mom told you it was, and ignore the guy who asked you why in the world you thought this was a good idea. But there's a point at which you really ought to question the visions you had where Jesus came down and told you to self-publish.
Commander-in-Chief is a self-published game that takes itself far, far too seriously. The creator of this game must really think he's a gaming messiah, because you when you make a simple chess variant and decree that it is not only the third classic game ever made, but the final chess variant that will ever be created, you've gone from 'cocky' to 'cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs.'
Commander-in-Chief isn't a bad game, really. It's a military-themed twist on chess using amphibious landers instead of pawns and helicopters in place of knights. For a real twist, you play it diagonally. And it comes with a box full of seriously chunky plastic vehicles that must have cost a mint to make, especially since I would wager the game's creator now has a garage full of games he can't sell. I'm sure if he holds onto them, they'll be worth a mint when everyone realizes that they've missed out on the last chess variant that anyone will ever create (that is, until a bored tenth-grader makes a chess twist using seeds he extracts from his marijuana).
There are some mildly interesting alterations to chess in Commander-in-Chief, like the fact that the middle of the chess board is water, and so your tanks can't go in there. Airplanes can go anywhere, but boats can't leave the sea. You'll play a dumbed-up version of chess where the board is turned on its corner and you have to make sure you don't lose all your submarines before you take out that last fighter plane. How plastic airplanes make a game the culminating pinnacle of chess variants is beyond my grasp, but I'm sure the creator has a handle on it.
The problem is not that Commander-in-Chief is a bad game. The problem is that if I want to play a game that's a lot like chess, I'll play chess. What I will not do is spin the board a little and turn all my guys into plastic tanks. Chess is a classic that I've played thousands of times. Commander-in-Chief is not a game I want to play twice, especially when I could, instead, play chess. I guess I'm old-school. The now-and-future king of chess games is too modern for my old-fashioned self.
But all is not lost! If you want to play regular chess, you can use the pieces in the box to play chess. You just have to remember whether the amphibian is a rook or a knight, and what the hell do you do with the submarine? I have an even better idea - I'll use chess pieces. And I won't pay forty bucks for them, unless they're the kinds of chess pieces that rich people leave out on glass coffee tables to let other people see that they know how to play chess.
I can't imagine what it must be like to invent a chess variant and decide that it's so good that nobody will ever make another game better than yours. I am at once awed at the brazen ballsack it takes to make such a claim, and dismayed at the complete departure from reality required to actually write that on the box. Commander-in-Chief is not a classic in any way that matters, and will be promptly forgotten by nearly everyone, except the creator's wife, who will be questioning his judgment in taking out a second mortgage just to fill the garage with boxes full of plastic war toys.
2 players (or 4, because there are team rules. Yes, really)
Cool plastic army vehicles
Fun, if you don't know how to play chess
I'll pass, thanks, and just play chess
You're probably wondering, 'hey, where can I get a copy of a game that's almost just like playing chess?' Well, you're in luck. I know just the place.
Posted by Matt Drake at 8:35 PM