Debut of the new MetaCheckers

Our trip to the World Boardgaming Championships in July was not only the first international MetaCheckers tournament.

It was also the debut of the complete version of MetaCheckers at a major event. In our previous convention appearances, MetaCheckers had been played on standard tournament chessboards. While players still got a taste of the game, it was unsatisfying to only be able to sell the checkers and dice.

Selling tournament chessboards would be too expensive, and they also didn’t fit well with the MetaCheckers motif. MetaCheckers is not chess or checkers. It is a unique fusion of the games. It deserved its own look. Its own utility. The players I talked to wanted something portable, easy-to-carry and affordable.

Having boards printed and packaged in game boxes would also drive up the cost. But I gave it a try anyway. The result looked good, but I winced at the sticker shock. The boxes and boards could double the price.

At the Hudson Valley Comic Con in May, someone mentioned he usually carried his game pieces in a bandana so he could play anywhere. This prompted me to start experimenting with various cloth versions. With my limited sewing abilities, I made prototypes with iron-on patterns to created a zippered pouch.

Another thought was just to use snaps or cords to tie it all together.

Finally, I just went with the simple bandana approach. I found a company that screenprints custom images on bandanas in bulk. So, I sent them an order.

I got this, and was very pleased:

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Yes! Simple, portable and affordable. A unique look that sets the game apart from chess and checkers. This is what MetaCheckers is all about.

Then it was a matter of the packaging. The cloth boards just barely fit inside the bag with the checkers and dice, but it was too tight a fit to make it user-friendly. After some advice and trial-and-error, we came up with a system of wrapping the cloth boards around the checkers bag and holding the whole thing together with a paper band.

So, it came out looking like this:

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Eureka!

The response at WBC was very positive. People liked the unique, fun game that was low-cost and came in a Xmas “stocking stuffer” size. Yes, some customers were already looking ahead for holiday presents.

The game is now available on Amazon and local stores in the Elmira area. Now that we have a good format and the game passed its first major audition, we will be expanding to more stores and vendors soon. Keep an eye out for MetaCheckers near you!

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First International MetaCheckers Tournament

 

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Dalton Versak (left) vs. Kevin McCaffery in Heat 2 of the MetaCheckers tournament.

Dalton Versak strongly disagreed with the MetaCheckers slogan on the kiosk.

“This is NOT easier than chess,” he said as he struggled with a decision in Heat 2 of the MetaCheckers tournament at the World Boardgaming Championships in Seven Springs, Pa. on July 28.

And yet, Dalton of Philadelphia survived to become the first international champion in MetaCheckers.

In MetaCheckers, checkers move like chess pieces based on a roll of special dice. One die has chess symbols. The other has standard pips to indicate numbers. Roll a king, pawn or knight, and the player can choose any checker to move as a king, pawn or knight. Roll a queen, rook or bishop, and the numbers die dictates how far a piece must move as a queen, rook or bishop. Players use these moves to try to capture the opponent’s king checker.

This sounds simple enough, but as the game develops, players are forced to make some tough choices. Sometimes the best available checker to eliminate an attacking piece is also guarding the king from another direction. So, they have to make a decision. Which attack is more likely to kill the king? Which defense will save it?

On the other hand, since any checker can move according to the roll of the dice, this means even the king checker can move as a knight … or a rook … or even a queen. So, the kings can participate in their own defense, attacks and escape. A player could be down to only the king checker against multiple pieces of the opponent and still win.

This is what happened during Heat 4 for Mark Love, who finished second in the tournament. About his game against Terry Masten of Delaware he says:

“My opponent eliminated ALL of my pieces except for my king. For a moment, I thought how silly it would be for me to prolong the game by trying to run and hide, since he had 5 Easy Pieces. After he took my last other piece, I got a bishop move and moved my king from my right center area of the board to the other side of the board, directly toward his king, with his other pieces all around me. Oddly, none of his pieces could take me out in that position. He got a king roll, and moved a non-king piece to try to get a better shot at me. I got a knight roll, which was exactly what I needed for the win. We were both shocked.”

Mark went on to win second place, losing when Dalton rolled a Rook 5 to capture Mark’s king in the final. At the end, Mark had 4 pieces left, and Dalton had 6.

MetaCheckers was invented in Horseheads, N.Y., by Ed and Jack Bond, who founded DreamGames. This is their first year bringing the game to conventions for sales, demos and tournaments. The players at the World Boardgaming Championships tested the game to its limits.

At other conventions and demos in the Northeast, games typically finished within 10 to 15 minutes. At the WBC, determined players pushed games to 20 minutes or more. And although it had been thought that draws were not possible in MetaCheckers, Dalton and Francois de Bellefeuille of Montreal proved that wrong. In a semi-final game, Dalton and Francois eliminated all pieces except their kings.

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Dalton Versak and Francois de Bellefeuille battle it out King Vs. King in a semi-final game which was eventually declared a draw.

While this would make a draw automatic in chess, in MetaCheckers a victory is still possible. However, after 20 moves without a result, the players and GM agreed to declare a draw. Francois then lost to Mark Love and Dalton eliminated Brian Mountford [With a Bishop 5 roll; Brian with only his king at the end] to set up the final. However, the next day other players reported a non-tournament game that came down to just kings but eventually had a winner. That game took 30 minutes to finish. So, even with only kings, victory is possible so long as both players are earnestly trying to capture the opponent’s king. This may require a minor adjustment in the rules or the use of a time limit in future tournaments.

We had a great time and were very happy to see so many turn out to play a new game in its debut season. DreamGames plans to bring MetaCheckers back for future tournaments and hopes WBC members will vote to support it. MetaCheckers can be played with 4 opening layouts and 5 game variations. By next year, we should have 2 or 3 additional games to unveil.

Here’s some of our favorite pics from the tournament:

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