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Battle Chess

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Battle Chess
Cover art showing the red queen killing a blue knight
Developer(s)Interplay Productions
Silicon & Synapse (C64)[1]
Publisher(s)Interplay Productions Data East (NES)
Producer(s)Brian Fargo
Designer(s)Michael Quarles
Jayesh J. Patel
Troy P. Worrell
Artist(s)Todd J. Camasta
Bruce Schlickbernd
Platform(s)Amiga, 3DO, Archimedes, CD32, CDTV, Apple IIGS, Apple II, Atari ST, Commodore 64, MS-DOS, FM Towns, NES, Mac, PC-98, X68000, Windows
Mode(s)Single-player, Multiplayer

Battle Chess is a video game version of chess with 2.5D graphics and fighting animations showing the result of one piece moving onto the square of another. It was developed and released by Interplay Entertainment for the Amiga in 1988 and ported to many other systems, including the 3DO Interactive Multiplayer, Acorn Archimedes, Amiga CD32, Amiga CDTV, Apple IIGS, Apple II, Atari ST, Commodore 64, MS-DOS, FM Towns, Nintendo Entertainment System, MacOS, PC-98, X68000, and Microsoft Windows. In 1991, Battle Chess Enhanced was released by Interplay for IBM PC compatibles and Macintosh with improved VGA graphics and a symphonic musical score played from the CD-ROM.

Battle Chess was critically acclaimed and commercially successful, resulting in two official follow-ups as well as several inspired games. A remake, Battle Chess: Game of Kings, was released on Steam on December 11, 2015.


Atari ST screenshot

Battle Chess follows the same rules as traditional chess, with pieces moving in an animated fashion and battles playing out so that the capturing piece defeats its target. Furthermore, when checkmate is delivered, the checkmating piece fights and defeats the king. Since there are six types of pieces for each color, and a king cannot check (let alone capture) another king, there are a total of 35 different battle animations.[2] The rook, for example, turns into a rock monster and kills a pawn by smashing its head, and the rook kills the queen by eating her. There are some pop-culture homages; the knight versus knight animation references the black knight fight in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, and the king versus bishop fight pastiches the short battle between Indiana Jones and a swordsman in Raiders of the Lost Ark.

The game can be also played in a 2D version with no animations, and the Amiga CDTV version has a fully voiced introduction describing the movements of the pieces for the benefit of beginners. Digitized sound is used in the MS-DOS version for all battle sound effects and is played through the PC speaker, without the need for a sound card, using a technique akin to RealSound.

Battle Chess can be played against a human opponent (by hotseat, null modem or over a local area network in some ports) or against the computer's artificial intelligence (AI).[2] The game has an opening library of over 30,000 moves (which were not available for the Commodore 64 and Apple II versions).


Battle Chess was the first title developed and published by Interplay Entertainment themselves after ending their relationship with Electronic Arts, besides Neuromancer.

Battle Chess producer and Interplay's founder Brian Fargo expressed his fondness for the game in a 2006 interview, although he added that he did not think there would be much of an audience for it today.[3]

An apocryphal story of the development was the invention of "The Duck" (an example of Parkinson's law of triviality): The producers of the game were known to demand changes to the game, presumably to make their mark on the finished product. To this end, one animator added a small duck around the queen piece, but made sure that the sprite would be easily removable. Come review, the producers, predictably, okayed everything but asked for the duck to be removed.[4]


Battle Chess sold 250,000 copies by February 1993.[12]

Ken St. Andre reviewed the game for Computer Gaming World, and stated that "Quibbles aside, every chess player will want a copy of this program, and every Amiga owner owes it to him/herself to see Battlechess in action. Highly recommended."[2]

The Amiga version received favourable reviews from magazines due to its comical battle sequences which were advanced (for the time) in terms of graphics, animation and sound. German game magazine ASM, however, criticized the weak chess AI.[13] In a review of the 3DO version, Mike Weigand of Electronic Gaming Monthly stated, "If you are a chess fan, then you may want to check this title out."[8]

In 1994 Computer Gaming World said of the remake, Battle Chess Enhanced, that "Better artwork, smoother animations, and a much stronger chess algorithm than its disk predecessors make the CD version a good buy".[14]

Interplay won "Best Graphics Achievement In A Non-Graphics Product" from Software Publishers Association (later renamed to Software and Information Industry Association) for Battle Chess.[15] In 1994 Computer Gaming World added it to the magazine's Hall of Fame honoring those games rated highly over time by readers, describing Battle Chess as "a showcase product for the first level of multimedia standards".[16] In 1996 the magazine ranked it as the 106th-best game of all time for its "funny, elaborate animated sequences and spectacular special effects."[17]


International Master Anna Rudolf credits Battle Chess with helping introduce her to chess at a young age.[18][19][20]

The game was featured in the 1992 film Knight Moves about a chess grandmaster who is accused of several murders.[21]


A sequel titled Battle Chess II: Chinese Chess was released in 1991, based on xiangqi, commonly known as "Chinese chess". 1992's Battle Chess 4000 spoofed science fiction movies and television series (such as a battle sequence involving the monolith from 2001: A Space Odyssey) and used a clay-animation art style similar to ClayFighter.

On December 28, 2015, Brian Fargo revealed that he had started working on a second sequel of the game titled Battle Chess 3 in the late 1990s but the game was cancelled. He also released a footage of the prototype of the game.[22][23]

Inspired games[edit]

Battle Chess also inspired a number of video game clones,[16] such as Star Wars Chess, Terminator 2: Judgment Day – Chess Wars,[24] Combat Chess and National Lampoon's Chess Maniac 5 Billion and 1. Another clone, War Chess was released by XS Games for the PlayStation 2 in 2005,[25] and was later ported to the PC by Big Fish Games and released online.[26]

One similar game, titled Battle vs. Chess, was developed by TopWare Interactive for "just about every platform".[27] However, Interplay filed and won an injunction for trademark infringement in 2010 and TopWare was prevented from releasing Battle vs. Chess in the United States.[28] The District Court of California came into session and given that after two years of litigation, TopWare Interactive discharged their lawyer, resulting in Interplay winning the case by default.[29] Topware afterwards released the game in North America with the name Check vs. Mate.


In 2012 Subdued Software launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund an updated version of Battle Chess.[30] Although the campaign was unsuccessful, the game was ultimately published by Interplay under the name Battle Chess: Game of Kings and released on Steam in 2015.[31] On whatoplay.com it has a rating of 4.9/10.[32]


  1. ^ "A Decade of Blizzard". IGN. 2001-02-01. Archived from the original on 2018-09-08. Retrieved 2008-07-07. Commodore 64 Battle Chess, Windows Battle Chess, Amiga Battle Chess II, Amiga Lord of the Rings, and Windows Shanghai were some of our early projects.
  2. ^ a b c St. Andre, Ken (Feb 1989). "Low Blows and Other Winning Moves". Computer Gaming World. No. 56. p. 27.
  3. ^ "inXile Entertainment Update - News and Siteseeing". Archived from the original on 2007-02-10. Retrieved 2007-11-29.
  4. ^ "New Programming Jargon". codinghorror.com. 20 July 2012. Archived from the original on 2015-06-02. Retrieved 2014-08-26.
  5. ^ Battle Chess review from Computer + Video Games 87 (Jan 1989) - Amiga Magazine Rack
  6. ^ Lesser, Hartley; Lesser, Patricia; Lesser, Kirk (April 1989). "The Role of Computers". Dragon (144): 60–68.
  7. ^ Lesser, Hartley; Lesser, Patricia; Lesser, Kirk (April 1993). "The Role of Computers". Dragon (192): 57–63.
  8. ^ a b "Review Crew: Battle Chess". Electronic Gaming Monthly. No. 54. Sendai Publishing. January 1994. p. 48.
  9. ^ Battle Chess review from AUI Vol 2 No 12 (Dec 1988) - Amiga Magazine Rack
  10. ^ Battle Chess review from Commodore User (Nov 1988) - Amiga Magazine Rack
  11. ^ Battle Chess review from ST Amiga Format 6 (Dec 1988) - Amiga Magazine Rack
  12. ^ Staff (February 1993). "Letters from Paradise". Computer Gaming World. No. 103. pp. 154, 156.
  13. ^ "DIE Kult Seite über die alten Spiele-Magazine und Retro-Games!". Kultboy.com. Archived from the original on 2013-12-06. Retrieved 2012-07-06.
  14. ^ "Invasion Of The Data Stashers". Computer Gaming World. April 1994. pp. 20–42. Archived from the original on 2017-11-11. Retrieved 2017-11-10.
  15. ^ "Battle Chess - Cover Art". MobyGames. Archived from the original on 2013-12-02. Retrieved 2013-09-04.
  16. ^ a b "Induction Ceremony!". Computer Gaming World Hall of Fame. Computer Gaming World. April 1994. p. 181. Archived from the original on 2017-11-11. Retrieved 2017-11-10.
  17. ^ "150 Best Games of All Time". Computer Gaming World. November 1996. pp. 64–80. Archived from the original on 2016-04-08. Retrieved 25 March 2016.
  18. ^ "Anna Rudolf". chess24. Archived from the original on 17 September 2018. Retrieved 24 February 2021.
  19. ^ Sellier, Frederic (7 February 2008). "I want to be a member of the Hungarian Olympics Chess Team". Chessdom. Archived from the original on 20 February 2021. Retrieved 23 February 2021.
  20. ^ The Game that began my journey to Chess Pro. Anna Rudolf. 21 May 2020. Archived from the original on 2021-12-21. Retrieved 23 February 2021.
  21. ^ Knight Moves Archived 2011-07-18 at the Wayback Machine Chess in the Cinema
  22. ^ Andy Chalk (December 28, 2015). "Brian Fargo reveals Battle Chess 3 prototype "fight" video". PC Gamer. Archived from the original on 2016-01-01. Retrieved December 29, 2015.
  23. ^ Bengt Lemne (December 29, 2015). "Brian Fargo reveals Battle Chess 3 prototype". Gamereactor. Archived from the original on 2016-02-04. Retrieved December 29, 2015.
  24. ^ Kee, Jay (March 1994). "Darth Vader vs. The Terminator". Computer Gaming World. pp. 90–94. Archived from the original on 2017-11-10. Retrieved 2017-11-10.
  25. ^ "War Chess Release Information for PlayStation 2". GameFAQs. 2005-01-01. Archived from the original on 2013-12-03. Retrieved 2013-09-04.
  26. ^ "War Chess Game Download for PC". Big Fish Games. Archived from the original on 2013-09-20. Retrieved 2013-09-04.
  27. ^ McElroy, Griffin (2010-05-27). "Battle vs. Chess coming this Fall to just about every platform". Joystiq. Archived from the original on 2013-06-16. Retrieved 2013-09-04.
  28. ^ "Interplay wins injunction against Topware's Battle vs Chess game". News.bigdownload.com. 2010-12-25. Archived from the original on 2012-03-07. Retrieved 2013-09-04.
  29. ^ "Interplay Wins over TopWare in "Battle vs. Chess" Affair - Bright Side Of News*". Brightsideofnews.com. 2012-02-13. Retrieved 2013-09-04.
  30. ^ "'Battle Chess' looking to be reborn via Kickstarter". NBC News. Retrieved 8 May 2012.
  31. ^ "Game Franchises - Battle Chess - GameFAQs". gamefaqs.gamespot.com. Retrieved 2020-01-14.
  32. ^ "Battle Chess: Game of Kings for PC Game Reviews". Whatoplay.

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