Board game designed by Tom Kruszewski, published in 1986 by TSR
This review copyright 1997 by Steffan O'Sullivan
This page last updated August 8, 1997

There are two amazing things about this board game:

  1. That a game this good never caught on big; and
  2. That the game designer managed to get TSR to publish a game and still kept the trademark and copyright in his name.
Chase was published at a time when TSR had hopes of competing with Milton Bradley and Parker Bros. They wanted to hit the big time, and so came out with a series of games aimed, they thought, at the same market the big boys were selling to. They sadly overestimated the intelligence of the average game buyer, so they never muscled into that territory. The good news from this experiment, however, is that a game like Chase was published, and a fair few copies made, which might not have happened otherwise. You can still find them at old game stores, auctions, yard sales, etc. If you like high quality abstract games, pick one up if you see it.

Like all good abstract games, the basic rules and components are simple. The board has nine rows of hexes, nine hexes wide. The hex in the middle is red, and is called the Chamber. Each of the two players has ten dice as pieces. Nine of these start on the board, along the edge closest to you, with specific numbers on top: 1 2 3 4 5 4 3 2 1. The tenth die is kept off board for the time being.

Each turn you may make one move. The basic move is to move one of your dice: a die must move exactly the number of spaces as the number showing on top of the die. No more, no less. It cannot pass through another piece or the Chamber. If it lands on another piece, that piece is captured (if an opponent's piece) or bumped one space (if your own piece). A bumped piece can further bump or capture a piece.

Pieces that move off the sides of the board continue their movement from the opposite edge: the board is a wrap-around board, left-right. Pieces that hit one of the two starting edges ricochet back towards the center of the board.

There are two special moves in addition to those above: the Exchange and the Chamber move. An exchange involves no actual movement, but still takes your whole turn. You simply turn one die so a lower number is showing on its face, and turn an adjacent die (of your own color only) so a proportionately higher number is showing. Thus, a 3 starting its turn next to a 5 could drop to a 2 while the 5 became a 6, or both could become 4s, etc.

A Chamber move is when you move by exact count into the Chamber (or are bumped into it). In this case, you bounce out one space to the left, but at half strength. An extra die (the tenth, or another if some have been captured) appears in the Chamber and bounces out one space to the right, also at half strength. This is the only way to get back captured pieces.

The sum of all your dice must always equal 25. So if one of your dice is captured, you must adjust one or more dice higher to bring your total back to 25. This means that when you get down to four dice left, you lose the game, since the maximum total you could have at that point is 24.

This last point is often overlooked by beginners, but is crucial to good play. Your lowest die must be adjusted first when another die is captured. So if you are protecting a piece with your only "1" die, and any piece is captured, your "1" is suddenly no longer a "1" and is no longer protecting that space. Note that this is true even if the "protected" piece is captured: you have to increase the value of your "1" before you take your move, meaning the captured piece wasn't ever really protected! Moral: a "1" die doesn't protect anything ...

Bumps and exchanges are other key elements to watch out for in the game. You can carefully set up a fork, thinking you've got a good capture going next turn, when suddenly he makes a bump move which protects both pieces at once and threatens a move to the Chamber!

One thing chess players have a hard time adjusting to is the concept of exchanges in this game. It seems like a good exchange, trading a "1" die to capture a "6" die, but after the exchange, you both have the same number of dice totalling 25! Very puzzling - you have to learn to think differently than in chess.

As your dice pool dwindles, you become less flexible. Yes, you still have 25 movement points total, but if those are concentrated on five dice as opposed to spread out over 9 dice, you'll find it's harder to make all kinds of moves. Most dice will have high numbers, and you can't creep up on the enemy. Even worse, you can't afford another loss at that point, and the game gets very tense. Most of the strategy centers around the Chamber: he who has the most dice at any given moment is ahead, unless his position is really lousy.

Position is something that takes time to learn: there are key rows which radiate out from the Chamber that are very important. It's also important to keep at least some of your dice together. Not only does this allow for Exchange moves, it also makes for some good bumping. But this is something you'll learn best from playing the game, so I won't go into detail.

All in all, Chase is an excellent abstract game, one of the best I know. Very even, very tense, a lot can happen from many different angles, and there's lots of room to grow. If you see one for sale, snag it.

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