Friday, 10 June 2011

How do you improve on chess? Ask an Italian! A review of Shuuro

Shuuro approved by cats

Right lets get this out of the way, Chess is a very old game, in fact I'm pretty certain that if you're a creationist Chess as evidence for the opposition must be almost as hated as say, oooh the theory of evolution, because both show how utterly bonkers the idea that the earth is only 6000 years old is. Because I'm sure there was a version of chess being played more than 6000 years ago and archeologists have found evidence of similar games being played thousands upon thousands of years ago. However the first actual recorded use of a Chess type game is in northwest India during the Gupta empire some 1600 years ago. Cathuranga as it was known was then believed to have moved over to Sassanid Persia some 100 years later, where it became known as Chatrang. After the Islamic conquest of Persia what would ultimately become chess had yet another name change to Shatranj!!! You still keeping up with all this at the back...

...Good, so I'll continue. It is felt that chess might have been brought into Europe by 3 rough sorts of route by the 9th century, into southern Iberia by the Moors, Persian traders (probably selling rugs) in Italy and Greece and via Russia. Around 1200AD it is believed that us Europeans decided we'd start tinkering with the game, you see we're pretty awesome in Europe and can pretty much improve on anything the rest of the world invents, like spaghetti!!! Funnily enough it was the Italians who are also  credited with changing the rules to what is now considered modern day chess, where the pawns have the option of moving two places at the start, the Queens became super powerful and the bishops got there powers. Not surprising given the power of the church in Italy and powerful female matriarchs in Italian history like Catherine De Medici. The name chess is also believed to be derived from the persian word for king, shah linguistics fans. So with the Italians being credited (along with the Spanish) for creating modern day chess perhaps it is fitting then that another Italian has decided that Chess could do with yet another makeover, Alessio Cavatore. Obviously another theory proposes that Chess has actually evolved from the Chinese game Xiangqi, but that theory really doesn't fit well with my article so I'm going to ignore it! What? Look its a review of Shuuro not an academic piece on the origin of Chess!!!

Product description

The main box, or the Shuuro box contains a pretty well made fold away chess board, 2 dice, 8 grey plastic square terrain pieces and two bags of chess pieces, one blue one red. There are more than enough chess pieces to play a normal game of chess and there are also multiple pieces, or perhaps more pieces than you'd normally expect from a chess game like 3 queens or whatever. There is also the rulebook to Shuuro which isn't at all complex and comes in more languages than I have time to mention, luckily one of which is English. The accompanying box Turango, which is an add on I purchased at the same time, contains two more bags of those plastic chess pieces one yellow and one green, it also has 4 card 'corner pieces' to place on the big fold out chess board in the corners for what I'm going to call 4 player über chess!!!

My dad always told me chess was the first wargame, and because you each started with the same army it was never going to suffer from power creep!!! This is probably why its rubbish, you can't break it. Only joking of course I don't think Chess is rubbish its pure genius so the idea of fiddling with that balance didn't seem wise to me. However a surprising amount of Sci-fi programs have had stabs at depicting different 'future' types of chess, 3D chess on different levels or multiplayer chess, etc. etc. but they all looked a bit lame. The fact is though we all know the basic rules of chess, the universality of it all, even if you play badly like me, we can all give it a bash, so building on that general knowledge actually seems quite logical when you think about it. So Alessio might be onto something by mixing things up just enough to make it feel fresh but retain most of the original to keep it accessible. His genius little twist on this most venerable of gaming systems is pretty much spot on, as its first change is to add army building to the mix, want 3 knights (or horseys as the other half calls them *mummbles under breath* ) buy them out of your points cost, yep army lists. I'm not sure if anyone has tried anything similar before, but if nobody has then I'd be amazed, because its such a simple idea but so unbelievably effective. However best of all he's found a way to sell us all chess again!

Gameplay 10 out of 10

It has been one of the most entertaining board games, no scratch that, one of the most entertaining games I've played full stop in the last few years. We all know the rules to chess and tinkering with those well known rules has created an accessible and interesting twist on probably the worlds most popular game. Is it better than chess? No I can't say hand on heart that it is but it is strangely familiar while being totally different at the same time. Because its based off of the worlds most popular game its really simple to grasp the basics and that's the genius of it as a product. The changes Alessio has made do provide you with a thoroughly engaging and entertaining experience.

Details 7 out of 10

You see here's where my normal reviewing process for mini's and stuff kinda falls flat on its chuffing face!!! You see how do I rate a fold out card chess board and plastic coloured chess pieces? Its difficult, because while its not a Studio McVey sculpt its not pretending to be. More than anything else I'm reviewing an idea Alessio had. The board can be displayed in 3 ways, HUGE board way bigger than Chess, small board, the game I've been playing and of course the standard chess board. The squares are black and white and the plastic pieces are as good as any travel set you'll buy... it doesn't work does it. Trust me when I say putting obstacles or terrain on the chess board and choosing your army is a brilliant idea and that's really the only component / detail that needs reviewing.

Quality 7 out of 10

Oh boy, I really shouldn't have attempted to shoe horn this review into my standard format should I? The horseys look like horseys, damn she's got me at it now, and the board is more than sturdy enough to take around with you. My better half's parents own some holiday homes out in the Moroccan town of Essouira (no this isn't a plug) but it can get pretty damn warm in the summer and sometimes you need to just sit inside and twiddle your thumbs and cool off, before popping back out to top your tan up, or if your as pasty as I am burn and go cooked lobster red. Board games though help and I'm going to suggest that Shuuro should be added to the list available, because unlike other nerdy things I like anyone can grasp this game within seconds and its good fun to play. The pieces are hardy and will stand up to repeated use.

Service 10 out of 10

I brought the game off of the man himself at the Games Expo 2011 he was polite, friendly and gave me a co-op carrier bag... oh yeah and he beat 'hobby killer' at a game of Shuuro and its always funny to see somebody beat hobby killer, because make no mistake he's a bit of a gaming savant!

Price 9 out of 10

I've brought decent travel chess sets before for a similar price and while some of you might think I have been ripped off, flicking through Amazon shows that Shuuro would actually be quite reasonably priced as a straight up Chess set. The fact it contains a brilliant little rule set to play 'bonkers Chess' just means that it is great value for money, chuck in the expansion (Turanga) and you can have 4 player 'über bonkers chess', and who wouldn't fancy having a go at that? I have yet to give 4 player chess a proper go because I think people fear me!!! Mwahahahaha, either that or I need to change my cologne, but either way I can't really advise you to pick up the expansion pack because I just haven't played it, but it does look ace and if you're getting it in a bundle like I did why not? It is after all another way of playing chess!

Overall 9 out of 10

Right initially I was going to put this review up on Wednesday night, but for some reason my scheduling messed up, and I'm glad it did. Because although the initial review itself was going to be good I hadn't really played it much as Dwarf Kings Hold had been getting some love, those two extra nights though have given me a little bit more time with it and affirmed my original view that its good. Hopefully though this is the weirdest review I'll ever have to do because I'm not normally going to be reviewing games like this, unless Alessio tries selling us Snakes and Ladders with guns, too late Alessio I've patented that particular cash cow buddy!!! I've also patented 3D Dominos and Ultimate Tiddly Winks... but none of them will be cool as Shuuro, I know it. Its not difficult to learn, its the simplest of ideas and it works. I'm glad its sitting on my board game shelf next to Monopoly and Cluedo... so yep, an Italian has improved Chess, yet again! Peace out!


  1. I saw him at the Games Expo too. Difference was I bought Shuuro when it first came out :P

    It's great for mixing up chess once in a while.

  2. Hi, it's me, Alessio. Wow, that's a most awesome review... almost too good... thanks a lot!

    I just wanted to add that the word 'Shuuro' is Sanskrit for 'Warrior'. I've chosen Sanskrit because chess was born in ancient India with Chaturanga... which was a 4-player game, much like the expansion 'Turanga'.

  3. Oh, and I forgot – check this out!

  4. @Tarragon OK so I'm a little slow to catch on sometimes. I agree though its a good little way of mixing things up every now and then. Its such a simple idea though and great to have on your board game shelf.

    @Alessio, no problem, I've really enjoyed it so far and its a really clever idea and really well executed so you deserve the praise. Also that legendary games project looks cool.