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Game of Kings

The following is a classic article from our newsletter series, written by Don Morgan.

It has a history spanning millennia. To trace its roots you need to be an archeologist. And yet it remains one of the most popular games of the 21st Century. There are clubs, web sites, tournaments, magazines, and a musical devoted to it.

We’re talking, of course, about the one and only CHESS. This enigmatic gaChess 2me has, in turns, been described as “intellectual gymnastics” (Wilhelm Steinitz), “mental torture” (Garry Kasparov), “life” (Bobby Fischer), “ruthless” (Nigel Short), “the gymnasium of the mind” (Adolf Anderssen), and “a total [ahem] mystery” (Ellis Redding, The Shawshank Redemption).

Its legacy is so vast that much of the details have been lost. However, many scholars agree that the earliest form was the Indian battle-simulation game chaturanga, popular throughout India in 6th century AD. Chaturanga was the first game to feature game pieces with different powers, and the first to have its outcome depend on the fate of one piece-the “king.” The name chaturanga is related to the Sanskrit phrase “four divisions,” meaning the four divisions of ancient militaries: infantry, cavalry, elephantry and chariotry.

The original chaturanga spread to East Asia, although the version played in China is thought to have incorporated elements from chess’ rival traditional game, Go, which dates to the 6th Century BC! Similarly, a prominent variation of chess in Japan is called Shogi.

By the start of the 7th century, historians believe, chaturanga had spread to Persia, where it was dubbed chatrang. Players would shout “Shah!” (Persian for “King!”) and “Shah mat!” (“the king is finished”) similar to the way “Check” and “Checkmate!” are used today.

After the Muslim conquest of Persia, it is believed that chatrang became a popular diversion as a means of re-enacting real-life battles. The oldest recorded game in chess history is a match played in the 900s AD between a Baghdad historian and his pupil.

The Muslim shatranj featured pieces that were beautiful and ornate, but comprised of abstract objects because Islamic law prohibited the crafting of statues in the likeness of humans or animals. Shatranj was carried to North Africa, Sicily, and Spain by the 10th Century.

Chess began to gain a foothold in Europe once figure pieces were incorporated and ornate boards were produced. During the medieval era, chess became seen as a prestigious game of nobility. Numerous chess books were written between the 12th and 15th centuries. It was during the 12th Century that the characters with which we’re familiar today were established.

During the Middle Ages, a game could last for days. Chess was frowned upon by the Church due to its potential as a time-waster and as an incentive to gamble. The rules for chess continued to evolve in Europe during this period. It appears that the first incarnation of chess to feature modern chess moves for each character appeared around 1500.

Cam&Girls White Burn

Chess became more widely recognized as a competitive sport in the centuries that followed, and the first modern tournament was held in London in 1851. In modern times chess is perhaps surpassed only by soccer’s World Cup as an occasion to display national pride. During the Cold War, in particular, chess matches between “eastern” and “western” opponents became symbols of a larger political reality and gave way to movies like White Knights and the musical Chess. At the same time, chess theory became a legitimate sociological and academic pursuit. And the drama of man vs. machine was embodied in highly publicized match-ups between accomplished chess champions and computer counterparts.

With a history this diverse and interesting, what’s not to love about chess? It is a game like no other that has been enjoyed by peasants and kings the world over. It’s easy to learn but impossible to master.

Game Night Report – Sepember 16, 2010

We had a varied group tonight with four games going at one time. With City Wide Gaming Event happening this weekend, two of us wanted quick reviews of the games we had to run for that event. A quick review of Carcassonne didn’t turn into a full game but when the first head-count of the evening revealed we had 7 people, the need to “review” Shadows Over Camelot quickly turned into 7 gamers that wanted to actually play it.

Nathan showed up shortly after that with a friend who had a copy of Citadels. Meanwhile Jake Z. showed up and wanted to play A Game of Thrones LCG. With the three games going, Camelot wrapped up first with the good guys winning by filling in the table with the most white swords. We lost count of how many games of Citadels happened and the AGoT card players got two games in with Jake Z winning both games against Jake S with his amazing House Greyjoy deck.

After this, the new Castle Ravenloft came out so the larger group split into two 4- player games with the other group falling back on the classic Vegas Showdown. Jeremy Squire made an early lead in Vegas and we spent most of the game trying to keep up. I never heard if the Ravenloft guys won or not.

And the Citadels players were still playing…

Most of the group went home an hour early and those that stayed, who weren’t playing Citadels, broke out the winter Runebound.

Good night over all. Missed seeing a lot of our regulars but still got a good set of titles in and most are looking forward to coming to this weekend’s boardgame and role playing demos.

HeroScape Tournament

Photo slide show of the event.

On August 7th, Petrie’s had the first of many HeroScape Tournament. It was great to see various members of our customer community come together and meet each other for the first time. Several had been coming to our HeroScape club since we started it, but many had not been there at the same time and had only heard of each other.

We set it up as 3 rounds on 3 different boards. One of our boards was shown to be a bit unfair toward specific races but since no one was playing those races, it was allowed for this time. We also utilized house rules of invisible barrier around the edges (no ranged attacks over empty areas), and races that brought back pieces beyond the initial starting point can still be considered points at the end of each round.

Everyone pre-made 250 point armies and at the end of each round, players counted up their surviving pieces and any pieces they claimed from other players. The total was their points for the round. There was also a limit of eight turns per player in a given round, but that quickly became a non-issue as most people were done by turn three or four.

Next time we’ll allow for a larger point limit (probably around 400) but bring down the turn limits to 6.

Our winner was Garrett and considering he helped to start the HeroScape club, somewhat fitting. The prize was a boxed heroes set. We’re planning on doing this in bi-monthly events, so hopefully we’ll see everyone then.

Game Night Report – July 22, 2010

Tonight started early when a small group came in to play L5R CCG and a couple got out Space Junkyard, both at around 5:00. The regulars started filtering slowly and a round of Opera was decided upon. Opera is a game that we have a running “joke” about merely because several of us were excited about it when it came out but then we did nothing but look at how pretty it was on the shelf. So we finally broke the barrier and got it out. The learning process was fast but we quickly found out that we had skipped a couple of key rules. Looking forward to the next play to get a full comprehension of it. Nathan took an early lead due to controlling the bank but Jeremy S. surprised us all by making up the difference and came in a very close second.

Mike D., Reed and Kyle showed up later and Jake had spent some time standing around watching us play. They decided to break out the Magic decks and several rounds of that took off. Meanwhile, the L5R players transformed their group into a D&D adventure and spent the rest of the night battling monsters.

Meanwhile two more of our regulars decided to take on Titan. Titan is well received by our group but the fact that they read through the rules and figured it out on their own in less than an hour… well that won them some brownie points.

Hurry Cup, a new filler favorite came out next. HC is a fun racing game that takes some very slight similarities with Formula De and merges it with Spoons. Yes, spoons. Lots of grabbing and clawing is the main mechanic to find out how far you can move your classic roadster. Jake and Nathan had early leads but after much frustration, Nathan was never able to use his special ability and Cam took the lead near the end of the game. Jake hit the empty gas can token that took him out and Cam used his wrench to gain automatic movement over the finish line.

The D&D group began to break up at this point but the Titan guys were still going, so the rest of the regulars decided to break out one more game. Since CCG was already ruling the night, Magic and World of Warcraft CCG came out.

BattleTech

I was worried. I admit it.

Every time we come up with an idea for an event, there is a part of me that is skeptical. Sure I personally would love to see this event happen or that event happen, and I know people who would be happy to see most any gaming event, but real life gets in the way, right? Schedule conflicts, kids, job… you know, that responsibility thing. So when Johannes Bowers of d20Radio said he would be happy to run his full scale BattleTech demo at Petrie’s—the one he normally runs at GenCon and the other large conventions—I of course screamed “Yes!” Giant robots beating up on other giant robots using a system widely known as one of the longest running and strongest systems created… and all of this on a board big enough to fill the entire back room? What else could any self-serving 80’s child want?

But as the advertising went up and word was spread, I began to think it might be a bad idea. Here we have Johannes coming to the store to set up a large game of which we had only one person sign up right away. No one seemed interested in RSVP and the general reaction was “That’s really cool!” followed quickly with “I might show up.”

This morning I was once again surprised and humbled by the power of ‘geek’. One by one, they started showing up. Since opening the store I have repetitively had those “build it and they will come” moments. “Do not underestimate the power of nostalgia,” I have to remind myself. And that is precisely what happened here.

I find that some people are a bit tentative when it comes to trying new things if they aren’t sure anybody else is doing it. Human nature. I have to admit I’m the same way. But as soon as there’s a trickle it quickly turns into a flow. As these grown men, most of which had played Classic Battletech in high school or college, began to gather and assign their ‘Mechs’, I’m pretty sure I heard a few of them giggling. Like I said… the power of nostalgia. Before long, these six men—of which only two had previously met each other—were standing together laughing, joking and virtually blowing things up. As I walked back to adjust the air conditioning, one of them turned to me and sarcastically commented “I think we’re having fun.”

What was I worried about?

UPDATE: 4:00pm – The game is still going. While a few of them look a little drained, the laughter is still erupting at random times. So far, one Mech has been obliterated from trying to do a jump. Yes, a jump. Using his jump-jets, he went over a mountain not aware that an enemy Mech was on the other side. He landed on the shoulder, fell over and damaged his internal systems. Oops. But no worries… almost all the rest are still being held together by string and wires. I’ll post the winning team here later tonight.

UPDATE: 7:00pm – Yup… they’re still there. We’re down to 4 players of which only 3 have Mechs left. This is epic. And the funny part is that they’re still only half way to their objective. Today has been a sort of social experiment. In their efforts to be the first one to the end goal, they spent too much time beating on each other, and now no one will be able to get there (or so I predict). Human nature won out and now they’re barely limping along.

Game Night Report – July 8, 2010

The night started off with Arkham Horror and Leaping Lemmings. Regulars Luke and Liz, made use of one of our large tables to play a semi-basic version of Arkham while the rest of us “leaped” on Lemmings (sorry, I couldn’t resist). Turns out that GMT’s first venue into the family game market is pretty fun. I’d recommend it to any family especially with kids around 8 or 9 and up. It’s very ‘cat and mouse’ with a lot of good random fun.

Then while waiting for another member to show up we ran into the awkward ‘what to do with six people’ conundrum and decided to break out Cartagena. The night’s not a proper game night without a little pirate theme thrown in.

While Arkham was still going (remember this is the base game version) we split into two more games of Vegas Showdown and Roborally. The Robo crowd only played two flags so it ended quick. While waiting for Vegas to end, they threw in a quick game of Can’t Stop. Jake ended up pulling out a masterful victory in Vegas due to building all the fancy lounges in existence (or so it seemed).

Part of this night was the fact that it was Andrew’s last night. We wanted to make sure he had a chance to play the titles he hadn’t had a chance yet and his final choice was Dungeon Lords. The groups re-sorted and we ended up with D.L. at one table and Arcana at another. Arcana is a simpler version of the deck-building games that have been all the rage lately. It went very quickly but obviously didn’t last nearly as long as the infamously longer D.L. which had two new players involved. In the end, the Dungeon Lord victory went to Larry.

Who or What is Petrie’s?

Do you remember the classic song from Sesame Street? Bob would sing about people in a urban community—a police officer, a postal worker, or maybe a teacher. Do you remember the time he sang about your local game store owner? Yeah, I missed that one too. But that’s exactly what our mission is all about—we want you to think of Petrie’s as a vital part of your neighborhood.

Petrie’s not just a store; it’s a community center. This is the place you go to play games and catch up with old and new friends alike. People do it in coffee shops all the time, and now they can do it here. Our staff believes strongly that merchants can play just as vital a role in your community as any church, school or neighbor.

Growing up, I became enamored with the Dick Van Dyke show. A common theme of the program was the house party. Rob and Laura Petrie’s fictional house in New Rochelle saw numerous people come in and play games, listen to music, and socialize with new and old friends regularly. When I think of hospitality, I think of that living room. It is the inspiration behind the store and we want it to be your symbol of comfort and hospitality.

In the coming years we hope to offer you not only the best in gaming products, but also a place that you will come to embrace as your alternate living room. Right now you may consider yourself a Petrie’s fan, or a Petrie’s customer, or a Petrie’s neighbor. But in time, we hope you’ll think of us first and foremost as your friend.

Cameron, for Petrie’s Family Games

Chess Day

Lee giving a joint lesson

One of my favorite catch-phrases left over from the 80’s is thanks to Field of Dreams: Build it and they will come. When we started our chess day, it was in the hopes to offer a safe place to play, test your skills and practice one of the most popular games of all time. At that time it was difficult to find such a venue for chess lovers in this city, especially for the younger age groups. Most of the games were downtown, late at night, and didn’t have a high population of youth.

Burton and Matthew's 5 round tournament

Since that time chess clubs have come out of the wood works in Colorado Springs. Discussing things with Paul Anderson, writer of the CS Chess News, I discovered that there are more than 10 different opportunities now, give or take a few, within any given week. Maybe part of that is the warm weather getting folks out of their homes, but the actual cause we can only guess.

So each month we offer the 2nd Sunday as our chess day. At first we had more leaders than players. Lee came to us pretty early on with the ability to coach younger players; I knew Zach as a personal friend and he had experience with the high school age; Paul was the most experienced player individually and he had been showing up at the public games which were mainly the older age set. So we covered all the possibilities for education right away. But what about the players? Several people have expressed joy and interest but for some reason or another couldn’t make the dates that we offered our games. Each month one or two people would show, play a few games with up to three coaches watching over them, have a great time, and leave.

But I’m here to testify that perseverance pays! This last Sunday, despite having another event planned at the same time, we not only had the average two people show up, but actually had enough people to justify three games at one time! A father son game broke out first and this was followed by one table going into a best out of five mini-tournament (congratulations Matthew). There were also a couple of classes and two other games peppered throughout. Lee was able to teach twice and walked a brother team through one game that brought on-lookers to watch with fascination.

Our intrepid host and coach, Lee

So it’s official, we finally have an operating chess day and I couldn’t be more proud. And starting soon, Lee will be offering a course in computer chess programming and Paul will be doing a series of classes on chess basics. All of these to be posted in detail in our event calendars and newsletters.

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