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Video Game / Battle Chess

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Battle Chess is a series of Chess programs for various PC and console platforms, made back in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

In most respects, it is an ordinary chess program, not even as smart as most PC chess programs of the time. But it is different in one way: The chess pieces are all animated, and every time a piece was moved, you can see an animation. Every time there is a capture, the capturing piece fights a little battle with the captured piece on the board. Since the rules of chess are still in effect, the result of these battles is always a Foregone Conclusion, but the battles are fun to watch, especially on early plays (watching the same animation for the millionth time, however...)

In other words, it's basically a chess game that plays like Holochess or Wizard's Chess. American versions of the game did include gorier battles.

It had sequels: Battle Chess 4000, which is normal chess but with sci-fi characters used as chess pieces, and Battle Chess II: Chinese Chess, based on the Chinese Chess board game. A remake, Battle Chess: Game of Kings was released on Steam in 2015.


  • Adaptational Badass: The Rook, in the original board game, is a watchtower of some kind. In Battle Chess, it transforms into a rock monster when moving and fighting.
  • Agony of the Feet: In the original Pawn vs Pawn.
  • Amusing Injuries / Bloody Hilarious: Contributes to the Black Comedy in Battle Chess and goes into downright slapstick territory in Chinese Chess.
  • Armor Is Useless: Knights are often on the receiving end of this - sword thrusts effortlessly penetrating their breastplates is a common result of battles in Game of Kings.
  • Artificial Stupidity: The AI isn't the sharpest to ever appear in the chess game. It's arguably worse in the NES port, where it's so adamant on never losing any pieces that putting so much as an enemy pawn in position to be captured will cause the CPU to lock up while it tries to think of a way out of the predicament.
  • Aside Glance:
    • When a Queen attacks a Pawn, she uses her magic to make his spear vanish. The Pawn briefly looks at the player in response, as if to say: "What the hell?!"
    • When a King attackd a Knight, the Knight catches the Cartoon Bomb the King bats at him, blinks at the player, then looks down when he realizes the fuse is burning out. Kaboom.
  • Attack Reflector: The Knight defeats the Queen by bouncing her transformation magic back at her with his shield.
  • Ax-Crazy: In the tutorial, the Rook loves talking about smashing things. And while talking about castling, "I'm only going to go through it ONCE. If you don't understand, I'll smash YOU!"
  • Beam-O-War: Queen vs Bishop can result in a magic version of this in Game of Kings.
  • Berserk Button: Don't try to seduce the King if you don't mean it. And never taunt or insult the Pawn.
  • Bloodier and Gorier: The American version.
  • Bring It: Done by the Rook to the King in Game of Kings.
  • Catch and Return: Bishops can kill Pawns like this in Game of Kings with the Pawn throwing a dagger at the Bishop who catches it with magic, then throws it back at the offender.
  • Censor Decoy: A really funny and non-offensive variation by the artist who drew the Queen. He knew he was working with meddlesome executives, and he also knew exactly what he wanted the Queen to look like, how she should move, etc. So he drew her animations exactly like he wanted... And then added a pet duck that made no sense in the context. The executive told him it looked great except the duck had to go, and he ended up with exactly the original design.
  • Combat Pragmatist:
    • The King. While every other piece sticks to a general technique they'll use - the Pawn's spear and Bishop's crozier, the Rook's sheer brute force (he turns into a rock monster to move and attack), the Knight's sword and shield and the Queen's magic - the King has a unique weapon for each piece he attacks: A hidden flail in his sceptre to take down Pawns, magic shrinking powder to remove Rooks, seduction of the Queen before clubbing her out, bombs to dispatch Knights, and freakin' guns to take out Bishops.
    • To an extent, the Pawn is this too, as he uses dirty tactics against his opponents. Against other Pawns, he stamps the butt of his spear on the opponent's foot; against Knights, simply knees him between the legs; against Bishops, he positions him over a hidden trapdoor; against Rooks, he uses a Groin Attack and then grinds him to pieces with the butt of his spear; against the Queen, he chucks a dagger into her back when she tries to walk away; when checkmating the King, he simply hoists the King's crown and takes it for his own. Finally, when captured by a Queen, he tries to escape by... Jumping to the next square (or off the board if he's already at the edge)!
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: Queen attacks any piece other than the King.
  • Cut Scene: The point of this game over other chess games of the era.
  • Dance-Off: The Knight and the Queen can get into one in Game of Kings. if the Knight is the one that captures her.
  • Defeat by Modesty: When a Knight checkmates a King, a sword slash causes his robe to fall off, leaving him completely naked and sheepishly covering himself. The Knight just laughs.
  • Denser and Wackier: Battle Chess II: Chinese Chess versus Battle Chess. The animations are much more comedic than serious: For instance, Pawn vs. Pawn results in the attacking Pawn getting frustrated at the defending Pawn dodging all his attacks, simply throwing down his ge in a rage, and sucker-punching the defending Pawn with a mean right hook.
  • Dual Wielding: Knights in Game of Kings wield a long sword in each hand.
  • Eating the Eye Candy: Pawn attacks Queen.
    Pawn: Whoo! I'll show YOU a royal good time.
  • Enhanced Remake: Battle Chess Enhanced (which used the CD-ROM technology for better graphics and sound.) Interplay has released a remake on Steam.
  • Eye Scream: One possible outcome of a pawn vs pawn battle in Game of Kings is one pawn throwing a dagger into the other pawn’s eye.
  • The Fatalist: The Pawn in the tutorial. The way he sees it, we all come to the same fate in the end... We're all doomed.
  • Fat Bastard: Rooks in Game of Kings are these.
  • Femme Fatale: The Queen.
  • Flynning: The Bishop does this quite a bit. Its practicality is averted when he's jumped by a King.
  • Forced Transformation: The Queen has powers to do this. For instance, her checkmate involves turning the King into both a donkey and a frog. The queen attempts this when defending against the knight, only for it to be reflected.
  • Foregone Conclusion: Every cutscene.
  • Gender Bender: As per the rules of chess, a Pawn who reaches the end of the board can turn into a queen. Which means that that ordinary, bearded infantryman will turn into a jawdroppingly gorgeous woman.
  • Genius Bruiser: The Rook in its tutorial, not too dissimilar to the Hulk, right down to a penchant for smashing.
  • Good Old Fisticuffs: Two knights in Game of Kings might agree to this method of resolving a battle.
  • Groin Attack: When a Pawn attacks a Knight.
  • Half the Man He Used to Be: The King's fate if checkmated by a Bishop, who uses his bladed crosier to slice him into three pieces.
  • Henpecked Husband: In the 3DO tutorial, the King makes a joke about the Queen nagging him and never letting him get any peace. The joke is he says that during his explanation of a chess strategy: While the King can capture a Queen, in practical terms he can never get close enough to threaten her. But the Queen can constantly harass him around the board.
  • High-Pressure Emotion: When one Pawn attacks another.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard:
    • When attacked, the Queen's magical attack gets reflected by a knight's shield.
    • Bishop vs. bishop has an electrical attack made by the defender which is then reflected.
    • In Game of Kings, pieces often end up getting killed by their own weapons, either by accident or when another piece takes and uses them on them.
  • Homage: When a Knight takes another Knight, they re-enact the famous scene with the Black Knight from Monty Python and the Holy Grail.
  • Hurt Foot Hop: When a pawn captures an enemy pawn, the former stomps the butt of his spear on the latter's foot, and after he hops around for a few seconds, gets stabbed through the visor.
  • I'm a Humanitarian / Swallowed Whole: When a Rook attacks a Queen, he simply picks her up and eats her, then belches.
  • Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: In Game of Kings, the Bishop’s weapon is a magic crosier with a butt spike, leading to this commonly being used both by then and against them (if their opponent takes their weapon). Similarly, both the Knight's and the Pawn's swords can be used for this.
  • Klingon Promotion: When a Pawn checkmates a King.
  • Knightly Sword and Shield: In the original game, Knights have this combination of equipment.
  • Lady of Black Magic: When a Queen attacks another piece, she lifts her arms and casts lightning magic on her victim.
  • Literally Shattered Lives: Given Rook is made of stone, a few of his deaths involve this.
  • Luckily, My Shield Will Protect Me: The Knight's shield is used to use the Queen's own powers against her.
  • Ms. Fanservice: The Queen, especially in the later CD-ROM version of the game, has a rather voluptuous figure and does a Supermodel Strut when she moves.
  • No One Could Survive That!: When a Pawn attacks a Bishop.
  • Neck Snap: The Knight can do this to the Queen in Game of Kings. Bishops can kill the Queen this way by levitating Force Snap.
  • Offhand Backhand: Bishop checkmating King in Game of Kings after they levitate the crown off his head, the King charges at the Bishop only to run into the crosier and get impaled.
  • Off with His Head!: The fate of a Bishop when captured by a Knight.
  • Oh, Crap!: Any piece that, when attacked, has time to realize things are going pear-shaped.
  • Pimped-Out Dress: Either on the package, or in the game, the Queen's dress is pimped out.
  • Plotline Death: Well, insofar as chess has plotlines.
  • Pretty in Mink: In most versions, the Queen's dress has a hem trimmed with ermine. On the packaging, her skimpy dress is edged with ermine on the cuffs, slit skirt, and cleavage.
  • Rank Scales with Asskicking: The King, who has no problems going toe to toe with much younger and stronger characters. Game of Kings also gives him a much more muscular build than the original game.
  • Religion is Magic: The Bishop is the only one besides the Queen to display magical prowess.
  • Requisite Royal Regalia: The queen and king have crowns and royal robes.
  • Retractable Weapon: The Bishop's main weapon is a retractable blade built into his crosier.
  • Rock Monster: The Rooks. At rest they're just a stone tower, but they transform into a rock monster to move and attack.
  • Royals Who Actually Do Something: The Queen, certainly. The King, not so much (until the end game.)
  • Screaming Woman: The Queen lets out a big scream that gets gradually muffled as she gets swallowed head-first by the Rook.
  • Sexy Packaging: The Queen's dress is a lot skimpier in the packaging than in the game.
  • Shockingly Expensive Bill: In the event that a Pawn takes the King, the Pawn withdraws a tax statement and shows it to the King; the King's eyes go wide, he clutches at his chest, and promptly dies from a heart-attack.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Sinister Minister: The Bishop in Game of Kings is this, using such underhanded methods like poisoned chalices, sucking out souls and what amounts to a Force Choke.
  • Spit Out a Shoe: The rook spits out the queen's tiara after swallowing her.
  • Squashed Flat: The fate of the King when checkmated by a Rook. It even picks him up to show the player before dropping him, where he floats to the ground like a piece of paper.
  • Stripped to the Bone: Queen vs Bishop ends with the Bishop reduced to a skeleton that collapses.
  • Supermodel Strut: The Queen moves in a slow strut while swaying her hips in a deliberately sensual manner.
  • Surrender Backfire: When a Rook captures a Pawn, the Pawn drops his spear and surrenders, only for the Rook to smash him into the ground.
  • Swallowed Whole: How Rook takes Queen. The Bishop in Game of Kings also turns the Queen's magic against her to shrink her down, picks her up and then eats her.
  • Sword Cane: Carried by the King in Game of Kings.
  • Throwing Your Sword Always Works: In Game of Kings, the Knight can overcome the Bishop’s reach advantage by throwing both swords through his chest. Bishops can also do this to Rooks by throwing the pointy end of their crosier.
  • Too Dumb to Live: The Pawn, when attacked by a Rook, drops his spear and tries to surrender. The Rook promptly pummels him into the ground. In Game of Kings he can accept wine from an enemy bishop which unsurprisingly turns out to be poisoned or allow himself to be distracted by tossed gold coins thrown by an enemy king and clubbed from behind.
    • In Game of Kings, if the Pawn is the one that checks the King, the King sees the enemy Pawn kneeling before him and shakes his hand. However, he doesn't suspect that it's a trap before the Pawn stabs him in the stomach with a knife, killing him.
  • Visual Pun/Voluntary Shapeshifting: In one version, Queen takes Queen has them turning into cats and fighting to the death.
  • Walking Head: The Rook vs Knight has the Rook smash the Knight into becoming one.
  • Wrecked Weapon: A couple of the death animations involved the character being jumped having their weapon destroyed. The Pawn is particularly prone to this, with his spear being destroyed by both the Queen and the Knight.
  • Why Don't You Just Shoot Him?: If the King attacks a Bishop, the King eventually does just that after growing bored with the Bishop's unsuccessful staff-twirling attacks.
  • Would Hit a Girl: None of the pieces hesitate to take out the Queen given the opportunity.
  • Your Soul Is Mine!: Bishops in Game of Kings can kill Pawns this way.

Battle Chess: Chinese Chess contains examples of:

  • Forced Transformation/Visual Pun: When a Cannon blasts a Minister, the latter turns into an elephant before crumbling. This is a reference to the fact that the latter piece originated as a gajah, or elephant, and that on one side the pieces are labeled as elephants.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: When a Chariot jumps a Cannon, the dragonized charioteer simply redirects the cannonball at the cannon operator.
  • Loud Gulp: The Minister when disarmed by the Knight. The knight gets his turn when jumped by the Emperor/General, who produces a sword FAN!
  • No-Sell: Pretty much any piece takes Cannon or Chariot.
  • Stout Strength: Ministers are rather rotund, and are strong enough to defeat charioteers in dragon form.
  • Talk to the Fist: When one Pawn jumps another, the latter manages to No-Sell attacks even after being disarmed. The attacking Pawn casts his weapon aside and punches the other Pawn out.
  • Voluntary Shapeshifting/Our Dragons Are Different: How Chariots fight.