Parents' Choice Foundation: Reviewing Children's Media Since 1978



Fall 2005 Games
Ages: 8 & Up
Price: $44.95
This game from India is a forerunner of chess as it is known today. The familiar parts are the playing pieces and their moves (with a few variations). But there are several unique features. Four players each sit at a different side of the cloth playing surface and each plays from his own orientation. This means that players must look very carefully to appraise the vulnerability of their pieces. But each player has only half as many playing pieces as in chess to keep track of: four infantry (pawns), one Raja (king), one Elephant (rook), one Cavalry (knight), and one Ship (moves like a bishop, but only two squares per move).

Unlike chess, in which two players can each respond immediately to the other's move, this game puts several intermediary plays in motion before it is the original player's turn again; by that time the wonderful move that was planned can no longer be put into effect. Also, which piece(s) are allowed to be played on each turn is determined by rolling dice (ancient long wood bars with images of the playing pieces on four sides). The combination of strategy and chance adds excitement to the play. The winner is the one who has captured all the opponents' forces AND has the last remaining Raja.

Although best with four players, there is a rule for reassignment of armies to accommodate two or three people. Although the manufacturer suggests a starting age of eight years, our testers found that players needed to be at least 11 or 12 years old to master the strategic thinking that is required.

The game is packaged in a stylish velvet-lined wooden box with velvet pouches to hold the playing pieces for each army. It will look handsome stored on a bookshelf.

Ruth B. Roufberg   ©2005 Parents' Choice

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