Warhammer 40,000: Regicide is Chess but it is also a few other things – incomplete being the most important as it’s out in Early Access on Steam. Second most important is that it’s also got Chess-with-tactics gameplay as an alternate mode which will feature a Campaign – eventually. I’m a huge fan of Warhammer in both its fantasy and sci-fi settings, so it had its flesh hooks in my once it was announced. At its most basic level it is “Chess with a coat of violent 40K” painted all over it and, on that level, it’s done as far as gameplay is involved. So if you just want Chess on your computer that you can play against AI or people over the internet, then go for it, it has that – albeit without a huge variety of death animations etc. If you want more than that, then there is still much to come but it ain’t there yet.
Regicide mode is the Chess with stats mode. Your pieces work in the same way that they would in bog standard Chess but then they also have abilities on top of that and that is what I find really interesting, especially when they plan on having your pieces gain experience and level up. It sounds great as a concept and with what little there currently is, it plays really well if you don’t count the rather anticlimactic “melee” attacks which utilise the ranged animation (Assault Marines’ melee attack is a poxy bolt pistol rather than a chainsword attack).
Chipping away at enemies from afar doesn’t feel as satisfying as the insta-kill of the Chess moves, but it does offer more choice and some significantly big risk-reward moments. After playing a few rounds of Regicide I noticed that bringing in heavy guns towards the back of the enemy lines and just hunkering down and blasting them was quite effective. Another really interesting thing I found myself doing was putting the enemy in check while systematically murdering their pawns (and other pieces).
Regicide shows great promise, and the way it forces you into moving a Chess piece before using abilities each turn really adds to the decision making. There are special skills that each race has and they can be used as a trade-off for a certain amount of actions in that turn. They’re powerful, and offer huge strategic implications if used effectively or if luck is on your side. There’s still an element of chance in anything that isn’t a chess move, so you may have pawns hunkering down under persistent fire over a number of turns and still remain steadfast.
I absolutely love the idea of Regicide mode and that’s perhaps why I think that the game has been released with too little to really give a proper flavour of that mode. One-off games feel lacking because the variety in animations is so limited – even if they are very good and full of that almost comical level of gore that reminds me of Dawn of War. It seems like progression will sway things massively further down the line, and that’s what’s missing.
It does remind me of another Early Access game that mixes genres, Dungeon of the Endless. Both take a familiar genre and spin them on their heads, keeping a lot of core elements from what it draws from. I loved Dungeon of the Endless (and still do) when it released last year in Early Access and it grew to become one of my top four games from last year. It did however get its full release with some features needing a mighty big tune up, which have only just been sorted recently, like multiplayer saves and private matches. If Regicide gets this mix of tactics games and Chess right then it could end up very, very good indeed.
Maybe a few patches down the line it’ll be something worth diving into if Regicide mode sounds like your cup of tea; but unless you’re happy with either just Chess as the only solid mode or the 10% “pre-order” discount then I’d leave it for a bit. I’m still glad I picked it up when I did; the cost of entry was worth it just to see the animations of Space Marines smashing Orks to a pulp but then again, I am a huge fan of 40K and all its grim-darky-ness. The Chess side is everything you could want from it but Regicide lacks features that make me want to play again it in its current state.