Shotgun King: The Final Checkmate

PC

It’s been done! After thousands of years and countless deaths trying, someone has finally made Chess 2! Shotgun King: The Final Chronicles, winner of Ludum Dare 50, is the vastly improved version of the dated, low-violence game of Chess. It removes most of the pieces from the board, and gives one side a shotgun.

What’s so impressive about this, and no doubt it won its awards in May, is that it’s not just a throwaway joke. Stripping your team down to a single black King, then pitting him against varying teams of white pieces, it forces the enemy whites to follow the moves and capturing methods of chess, but gives you a bang-stick. Yet, beyond this, chess rules still apply!

Your King can only move one square at a time, while enemy pieces obey their restrictions too. The first level starts with a Knight, Rook, Bishop and King, accompanied by four Pawns, on the white side. Those about to move on their next turn indicate this by wobbling, and it could be one or a whole bunch moving at the same time. Bearing in mind which pieces and where they can go, then you make a tactical choice of where to step, or indeed to blast toward them with your shotgun.

However, you aren’t allowed to move yourself into check, nor indeed can you fire if doing so won’t kill a piece that has just put you in check. The shotgun has a wide spread, but the closer you fire it, the more effective its attack. Blast a piece to death and it’s off the board, and if it’s a non-Pawn, you can gain a card that represents its soul! Play that, and you can then move in that piece’s manner for one turn.

You don’t have infinite ammo, and every two shots of your shotgun you have to reload, either by moving, or using your turn to stay still and reload. Your ammo replenishes each turn, but only one shell at a time, meaning if you blast off all seven in quick succession, you’re going to have to make some neutral moves to stock up.

What blew me away was the realisation that I genuinely had to put my scant and dreadful knowledge of chess into practice, somewhat, in terms of not allowing a situation to arise where I was checkmated. Enemy pieces don’t have weapons, only the rules of chess to take you down, and they will move themselves into position to do so. Which is the genius of this game.

Of course, kill the white’s King and their whole team immediately fails. But plough too quickly toward him and you’ll likely get yourself in a pickle. Which all leads to a far more tactical and chess-like game than I was expecting.

On top of all this, it grabs an armful of roguelite equipment. Every successfully completed level is followed by a choice of two different sets of conditions. You could gain 2+ to your firing range, but at the cost of the enemy swapping a pawn for a bishop and losing one from your max ammo. Or you could add a boat to the board that non-Knight pieces can’t cross, but the enemy gains two Knights at the start of turn 20. And you have to pick one of them. Which means, each level you introduce new advantages and disadvantages that dramatically change your experience.

It really is so very good, and it’s obvious why the game received positive fuss back in May. Even the opening text explaining the scenario is fantastically written. It’s also somehow not received a single review, which is just bizarre. So now it thank goodness has at least one.

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2 Comments

  1. Glad this is getting more coverage! This did the rounds with a handful of lets-players a couple of months ago, and is definitely worth a go – even if it does seem a little light on content after a while (though that may be due to my experience of such roguelites being broader in scope and getting frequent updates).

    Also, “Or you could add a *boat* to the board that non-Knight pieces can’t cross”. Should be moat, though adding boats does sound interesting.

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