DAILY COMBO: Chess + Global Thermonuclear War

Today is a classic combo I’ve wanted to do for some time. The Game of Kings + The Game of Kilotons. I often imagined one or the other in a combo but never the two together. Let’s see how this plays out…

Today’s two (not) randomly generated games: Chess + Global Thermonuclear War

Initial thoughts: When practicing my “elevator pitch” for game combining, always go to chess for a random game to start with. And then I think of some other random game off the top of my head. Today, for some reason, that other random thought I went to was: Global Thermonuclear War (GTW). I could totally imagine someone suggesting that as a way to break my game combo streak. But I refuse to be broken! And the more I think about it, the more it makes sense as a good combo! Chess has a definite form and spirit. It’s form is a board of black and white squares with a specific set of six pieces; and it’s spirit is to force your opponent into conceding by surrounding and pinning them down. GTW also has a definite form: stockpiling and perhaps sending flying munitions at opponents across the world. Its spirit would be deterrence, followed by overwhelming one’s opponents with great force before they can retaliate.

Game Combo: First up, let’s imagine the form of chess: pieces with varying powers on a board, and one special piece to be targeted, with the spirit of GTW (deterrence and overpowering). On the other hand, we have the spirit of chess (capturing the king) with the form of GTW (blowing each other up with missiles). I can’t even imagine creating the latter, so let’s focus on the former…

Let’s start with an empty board except for a king, and then add a simple rule for “stockpiling” pieces. Perhaps a pawn (a Scud missile?) is cheap, but a Queen (multi-payload inter-continental missile?) is much more expensive to place on the board. You could add nuclear tests: most pieces are not necessarily effective unless you test them, with tests being publicly viewable and results being both partially public and partially secret. Maybe roll 2d6 your opponent sees one die roll and you see the other and if the total, which only you know, is high then the missile is good?). In this manner, some missiles on the board are known to be at least half-effective (if not completely!).

At some point, one side will start the war, via either choice or a mechanism. With a completely random setup of chess pieces and more queens than normal, the game will doubtlessly become a chaotic barrage of nothing but piece-capturing for the first dozen moves. A timer would definitely be in order so that the spirit of “quick launches and counter-launches” is maintained.

The middle game would be more subdued, with targeting of the opponent’s king and tactical maneuvers. Perhaps there are further rules to bring an element of damaged infrastructure or diminished launch capabilities into the game. I would also love to add a way for moves to be set in place a turn ahead with only the vague direction of the piece is known ahead of time. That way the other player can choose to retaliate or to stand down. Obviously, with stacked turns, there would need to be a way to judge piece movement into squares that are now occupied, but that might actually be fun!

Finally, since there are no winners in GTW (like there are in chess), I would add a set of “un-victory” conditions that simulate how horrible the aftermath is in terms of population loss. Perhaps the pawns could all represent population centers instead of SCUD missiles. A moving pawn could be imagined as a “growing metropolis” with the pawn’s current location as a metropolis’ moving center of culture or power. Also, since pawns block movements by the enemy, you could consider them, using the GTW analogy, as “must-hit” or “soft” targets before striking the king. That way it makes more sense that populations would be hit first.

Final thoughts: I feel ill now, because global war makes me ill to imagine. However I also feel pretty confident that you could throw together the rudimentary rules of stockpiling and test this game out yourselves. Maybe even add a random die roll each turn… another 2d6. If it comes up snake eyes, the next player must start war. This would simulate an itchy trigger finger. Honestly, I have enough sets of chess that it would be simple enough to get four queens and a cadre of bishops to square off against six queens and a dozen rooks, with a few handfuls of knights on each side and a mess of pawns (or not). Now, go out there and play some global thermonuclear war, but play nicely kids!