Sunday, April 29, 2012

Bosworth piece values

Bosworth is touted as "The Game You Already Know How to Play" because the pieces sin the game use the well-known moves of chess -- sort of.

I say sort of, because the pawns actually move a little different than their chess counterparts and Bosworth also doesn't have any of the special moves -- en passant and castling -- of chess.

I think Bosworth could have just as easily been called "knife fight chess" because that's how it really strikes me. The main battlefield is just a  four-by-four square -- a quarter of a chess board -- with an additional four-square "field camp" for each player for most of the game. Into this tiny battle field will foray up to 32 (in a 2-player games), 48 (3-player) or 64 (4-player) chess pieces!

It's a cvery close-range and chaotic fight that will leave players weighing captures and their relative values nearly every turn. But evaluating those captures by the tried-and-true valuations of regular chess is a mistake. The real values of the pieces in Bosworth are different.

In standard chess a pawn is usually valued as a "1." Knights and bishops are "3," with some authors giving the Bishop a slight edge. Rooks are usually valued at "5" while the queen is considered to be worth 9 pawns. The king, naturally, has an infinite value in regular chess because checkmate ends the game.

A pawn in Bosworth is actually more powerful than a pawn in regular chess.  While like a normal chess pawn a Bosworth pawn can only move forward, in Bosworth forward is defined as towards an enemy field camp, which means the pawn can move sideways in the three and four-player games. And with a three or four players a Bosworth pawn can capture in any of the four diagonal directions so long as it doesn't end in its own field camp. The Bosworth pawn can even capture on its very first move in 4-player game. The relative mobility of the pawn is also greater in Bosworth because the board is so small. In regular chess a pawn 's normal move can only cover one-eighth of the board. In Bosworth it covers a fourth of the board. Bosworth pawns do give up the ability to be promoted, however.  So we can still rate a Bosworth pawn as being worth "1" for comparative purposes, keeping in mind that it's a a little better than a standard chess pawn if there are three or more players.

The Bosworth knight retains its value of a "3," largely because of its ability to jump, which has a heightened value on such a congested board. The knight's mobility is constricted compared to regular chess because it's almost always close to an edge. Only from the center four squares can the knight enjoy the full 8 potential landing squares that it enjoys from 16 squares in regular chess. Still, the jump makes up for that and a Bosworth knight is still worth three pawns so long as the board is crowded. In a 2-player game, however, I'd rate a knight as worth just 2 pawns. The jump move is more constricted by the board edges, the board is less crowded and the knight's moves more predictable.

The Bosworth bishop is worth just 2 pawns. The small board reduces the value of sweeping mobility  that bishops,rooks and queens have in regular chess. In many squares the bishop has no advantage over a pawn as far as captures. The longest-range strike by a  bishop is just four squares -- and that's only possible to and from the end squares in the field camps.The maximum strike distance from a center square is just two squares.

A Bosworth rook is likewise not quite a s valuable as a regular rook and should be considered being wortj four pawns. The configuration of the board makes files more useful than diagonal moves. A rook can move up to five squares to make an attack and threatens an opposing field camp from its own field camp.

The Bosworth queen, on the other hand, is probably still worth 9 pawns and should always be saved for deployment near the end of the game when the battlefield has been cleared and she can use her mobility to the fullest. While the smaller board does constrict her mobility, the flexibility inherent in the queen move makes up for that in the end game.

A Bosworth king's value depends on how many kings are left. If he's the last king, then like a chess king his value is that of "game," but in a 3- or 4-player game a king's value has to be assessed against the board situation. Taking an opposing king doesn't just move a player closer to victory. It also instantly changes the geography of the board  as pieces are removed and field camp squares filled and adds a queen to the captor's hand as well.

The overall effect is that pawns in Bosworth play a much more aggressive role than they do in standard chess. They  essentially start at "mid-board" in standard chess terms. Pieces, other than the queen, are relatively less valuable than they are in standard chess, especially in the 3-player and 4-player set-ups. More important than the mere value of the chessmen is the timing and placement of them.

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