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Svarog's Den - Board Games

Rule the Runway in Versailles, Bind Your Opponent, and Play Less Chess

by W. Eric Martin

• The Battle of Versailles introduced me to an event of which I was previously unaware, and I loved the concept of gamifying this event so much that I wanted to highlight it as an inspiration for others.

Here’s an overview of this two-player game from Eloi Pujadas and Ferran Renalias that will be released by Spanish publisher Salt & Pepper Games following a Gamefound crowdfunding campaign in May 2023:

“The Battle of Versailles” was a fashion show held in 1973 in Versailles, France that pitted five American designers against five French designers. The American designers, including Anne Klein, Halston, Oscar de la Renta, Stephen Burrows, and Bill Blass, were considered to be more innovative and less traditional than the French designers: Yves Saint Laurent, Hubert de Givenchy, Emanuel Ungaro, Pierre Cardin, and Christian Dior. The American designers ended up winning the competition and solidifying their place in the fashion world. The event was widely covered in the media, and is considered a turning point in the history of fashion.

In the game The Battle of Versailles, players take the role of either the France and U.S. team, facing one another by playing action cards to show off their best dresses, to attract the most popular celebrities, or to annoy the opponent by spreading bad gossip. They also compete to contribute more than their opponent to the reconstruction of the palace of Versailles.

The French player has five actions per round, representing the classic but overly-long show (2h 30min) that it put on, while the American player has only three actions per round as their show was fresh, innovative, and short (only 37min). Correspondingly, the game has different victory conditions:

— The French team tries to keep its prestige in the fashion industry, while the American team tries to steal the French prestige.

— Both teams fight to control the most influential celebrities in the fashion world.

— The Americans try to show off the best innovative features on their dresses.

— The French try to contribute as much as possible to the reconstruction of Versailles in order to raise their national pride in this beautiful palace.

For a great overview of The Battle of Versailles, with lots of pics and quotes from contemporaneous news reports, head to this 2022 article in Vogue by Laird Borrelli-Persson.

• Ahead of this title, Salt & Pepper Games will crowdfund The Hunt on Gamefound in March 2023, with this design from Matthias Cramer and Engin Kunter being another asymmetric two-player game:

September 1939: The commander of the Admiral Graf Spee receives the order to sink as many British freight ships as possible in the South Atlantic. The objective is to intercept the ships crossing the Atlantic and prevent supplies from reaching the UK and other destinations.

The plan seems to work in the first months. Within a few weeks, the Admiral Graf Spee sinks nine freight ships and sends almost 50,000 gross register tons to the seabed. The gigantic loss puts the army command in London Whitehall under pressure. In order to protect their freighters in the best possible way, the Admiralty had no choice but to reinforce the English fleet in the South Atlantic by sending three cruisers in what is known as “The Battle of River Plate”.

In The Hunt, one player assumes the leadership of the British Royal Navy, while the other player represents the German Kriegsmarine. Each player has their own deck of cards. In order for the German side to win, it must stay hidden from the British while sinking five cargo ships. The British player must hunt down and fight the Admiral Graf Spee in a final naval battle, in which case the side that ends up with less damage wins.

Will the Royal Navy be able to take advantage of its numerical superiority, or will the Kriegsmarine be the ones who with their cunning and refined strategy manage to overthrow their rival?

Bound is a two-player game from Corin Elliott of Turncoat Games, which is running a Kickstarter campaign for a print-and-play version of the game.

Each player needs four tokens, with the starting player placing their pieces at intersections of the outer circle, then the next player placing their pieces at intersections in the center.

On a turn, you must slide one of your tokens along a path to an open intersection. If an opponent’s token is ever surrounded on all three sides, whether by your tokens, theirs, or a combination of both, you win.

• The latest entry in the quest to create a chess hybrid that won’t be instantly rejected by both chess fans and non-chess fans was released in late 2022 by U.S. publisher Spin Master. Less Chess uses all the elements of chess, but pieces enter play bit by bit to keep players from feeling overwhelmed. An overview:

To set up, lay out the 3×6 game board, then place each player’s king on the designated space on the game board. Shuffle each player’s deck of cards, then choose a start player.

On a turn, reveal the top card of your deck, then either take the depicted piece from your reserve and place it orthogonally adjacent to one of your pieces currently in play or move a piece on the game board of the depicted type following the normal movement rules of chess. You can capture any opponent’s piece other than the king. If you move a pawn to the opponent’s back line (or place a pawn there), you promote it to a piece not currently in play.

If you ever have the opponent’s king in check by three pieces at the same time, you win.


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