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All the King's Men: They Ruined Smess !

  • qixel
  • | Sep 27, 2009 at 9:19 AM
  • | Posted in: Amy's Blog
  • | 6286 reads
  • | 7 comments

In 1970, Parker Brothers published Smess: The Ninny's Chess.  The colorful board, goofy pieces, and crazy names marketed the game toward kids (under the assumption, maybe, that no kid in his/her right mind would want to play a serious chess variant?)  Unfortunately, Smess was (or could be) a serious game.

Then in 1979 (maybe recognizing it had a serious game on its hands?), the game company rethemed Smess and retitled it All the King's Men, now with a nicer adultish board and Medieval-style pieces.  Unfortunately, during the repackaging process they left out a key rule: promotion !

They probably left out promotion by accident (I hope anyway), but in any case this essentially wrecked the game, turning it into a drawfest.  So if you do manage to find a copy of All the King's Men (now out of print), make sure you reinstate promotion.

Direction of movement in the game is not determined by the type of piece, but by the square a piece rests on at the beginning of a turn...just follow the arrows.  This is the key defining feature of All the King's Men, and for hardened chess players it can really (s)mess with their minds.  Other than that, kings and archers move a single square and knights move any number of squares without jumping.  The object is to capture the opposing king.

You can play Smess either real-time or turn-based at play.chessvariants.org.

For complete rules (warning: this is a link to a .pdf file), click here: Smess

Comments


  • 4 years ago

    electricpawn

    I forgot about Smess! We had that when I was a kid!

  • 5 years ago

    qixel

    ramalam wrote:

    I don't think this game was ever released in Australia , (under either name).

    As a kid I might've liked it, did you ever play it?

    I couldn't find any information about an Australian release.  Smess appeared in the UK as Take the Brain, and it was licensed in France as Les Fous du Roi and in Germany as Schach dem Schlaukopf.  As far as I can tell, the All the King's Men retheme appeared only in the States, but I could be wrong about that.

    Yes, I've played it and it is a very good game (if you use the promotion rule, of course).  And it is a "recognized variant" over at chessvariants.com.  It's also available for Zillions of Games.

    It's interesting to note that Smess was co-invented by Perry Grant, who is better known as a LA-based sitcom writer.

  • 5 years ago

    ramalam

    Hi Amy,

    I don't think this game was ever released in Australia , (under either name).

    As a kid I might've liked it, did you ever play it?

    Darren

  • 5 years ago

    defrancis7

    Amy,

     

    I can not remember if he mentioned the promotion rule or not.  I "checkmated" his King by posting two of my knights on squares that had unlimited direction toward his exposed King.  The squares around his King had men on them and blocked the King's escape routes and their were no pieces that could capture or block my Knights.

    As I said, he never played me again---either game!

    Dee

  • 5 years ago

    HappyBuddaH

    [COMMENT DELETED]
  • 5 years ago

    qixel

    defrancis7 wrote:

    He explained the rules and how the pieces moved.

    Do you remember if the quality inspector included the promotion rule?

  • 5 years ago

    defrancis7

    I used to work in a car parts factory.  About 20 years ago, one of the quality inspectors thought he was the next Bobby Fischer.  (The guy had quite an ego.)  He had heard that I played a strong game of chess and thus proceeded to invite me over one evening for a couple of games.  After losing all five games of chess to me, (I was there for most of the evening), he brought out his "All The King's Men" set for a game.  He explained the rules and how the pieces moved.  Then, we played the game.  I won.  He never played another game of either with me.

    I thought "All The King's Men" was fun with just its King, Knights, and Pawns.

     

    Dee

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