In the grim darkness of the far future, there is only…Chess!
Okay, maybe not Chess, but certainly a Chess variant entitled Regicide - or so I am led to believe by this passage from James Swallow’s The Flight of the Eisenstein:
“Do you really think you can take him?” asked Rahl, tapping a quizzical finger on his chin.
Decius did not look up. “This is battle, like any other, and I intend to win it.”
Rahl glanced at Sendak, who waited, poised and ready. “He’s going to beat you to a standstill.” The Astartes leaned in closer, over the arena of combat. “Look here, your magister is under threat from his castellan. Your dragonar is pinned by his cannonades, and….”
“If you want a game, you can wait until after I have dispatched Sendak,” snapped Decius. “Until then, if you must watch, be silent. I need to think.”
“That’s why you’ll lose,” Rahl retorted.
“Let them play, Pyr,” said Hakur, the veteran pulling Rahl away from the regicide board as ill-temper flared in the younger Astartes’ eyes. “Stop distracting them.”
As Decius and Sendak fight over the board, Rahl and Hakur continue to spar as well over whom they think will ultimately with the game.
“Solun Decius isn’t the fool you think he is.”
“I never said he was a fool.” Rahl was defensive. “But Sendak is the thinker, and regicide is a game of the mind. I’ve seen the mess Solun makes of the practice cages. That’s where the lad’s strength lies, in his fists.”
Ultimately, the game reaches a climax:
The veteran cast a look over at the table, where Decius had just moved a soldat to take one of Sendak’s iterators….
There was a decisive clack of wood on wood, and Rahl glanced around to see Sendak pressing his empress to the board, surrendering the game to Decius with a grudging smile on his face. “Well played, brother. You are a singular opponent.”
“You see?” prodded Hakur.
“Ah, he must have let him win,” Rahl said lamely, “as a small mercy.”
“Mercy is for the irresolute,” broke in Voyen….
I love the last line! Classic Space Marine bravado. Nonetheless, good advice for chess players everywhere!
Let’s figure out the pieces of Regicide:
- Soldat = Pawn: Seems obvious.
- Castellan = Rook: Equally obvious (castellan – castle –rook).
- Empress = King: This is most likely as a game of regicide clearly ends when the Empress is defeated. But why the gender switch? Perhaps it would be blasphemous to have a king remain in the board game because that would imply that The King (Emperor) could lose a battle?
- Iterator = Bishop? I say Bishop because Imperial iterators resemble secular preachers during the ‘Age of Imperium’.
- Dragonar = Knight? Arbitrary on my part. I think Knight simply because a Dragonar sounds like someone who slays dragons.
- Magister = Queen? A magister is someone of authority, so most likely it’s the new Queen.
- Cannonade = ??? We’re out of traditional Chess pieces! Perhaps ‘Cannonade’ isn’t a piece but a tactic? After all, the quote is “Your dragonar is pinned by his cannonades….” Perhaps the dragonar isn’t pinned by a piece, but by the power of a tactic? Perhaps it is merely an expression similar to “your dragonar is pinned by his pawn storm?” That’s my best guess, but an entirely new piece is not out of the question as Chess tinkerers throughout the ages have been constantly trying to introduce new pieces. It might have taken thirty millennia, but it is possible they finally succeeded.
Regicide or Chess, the Royal Game is certainly a “battle, like any other” and definitely one where mercy is rarely shown…as I recently found out:
Only in death does duty end. Well, until the next game of Regicide, I suppose.
PS: I have created a Chess.com group entitled Regicide. If you are a 40K fan, you might want to consider joining! Check it out here.