'Warhammer 40,000: Regicide' Early Access Hands-On Preview: Chess With Chainsaw Swords

By Alex Riviello , Updated May 04, 2015 10:15 PM EDT

Chess is a near-perfect game, and has been for a very long time. It's generally thought that the earliest precursors of the game were created sometime around 280-550 AD during the time of the Gupta empire in India. That version featured military troops like infantry, chariots, and elephants, but it wasn't until around 1000 AD that it became popular in Western Europe and Russia. That version was much closer to the version you can find today, with all of the pieces that we all know like the pawn, knight, bishop, etc. It’s survived relatively unchanged for thousands of years but, if we can be honest, it's always felt like something's been missing.

That something? Chainsaw swords.

Fortunately Hammerfall Publishing is here with Warhammer 40,000: Regicide, a game that recreates chess as a brutal fight between Space Marines and Orks. Classic Chess mode is chess as you know it, just with considerably more bloodshed and gore. It’s one thing to knock your opponent’s pawn of the table, and quite another to see your soldier disembowel an enemy and leave splatters of blood on the chess board. The graphics are great, the animations plentiful and brutal,  always eliciting a groan from the amount of carnage on display. 

But while this is a full-featured version of chess, with both AI and online play, this is not just chess. Regicide mode is the new improved version of the game. Sure, plenty of games have tried to be the successor, but how many of them have featured Orks shooting off rockets?

In Regicide mode the basic layout of the game is the same with all the same troops from chess, but after you move a piece this time you are granted 3 initiative points which can be spent on various abilities and equipment. You might be able to do a long-range attack on an enemy, smash a nearby one with a melee attack, bunker down against enemy attacks, or even call in air strikes. (New abilities and equipment can eventually be unlocked in the game, although it's not available in this early version.)  It's tough to kill enemies using abilities, however, so you'll tend to lean on the classic chess maneuvers, which act as instant kills.

Being that I've been playing this game for a little while now and it only hit Early Access, it's amusing to note that not a lot of Warhammer fans seem familiar with the basic rules of chess. Two games in a row I was able to capture an enemy queen (the Space Marine Librarian, or Weirdboy Ork) with my Knight (Assault Marine or Stormboy, respectively) with no problem. Perhaps it's just the learning curve as players figure out which character is which chess piece, though.

Online matches can be played “live” or in “correspondence” mode where you take a turn and wait for your enemy, and there has been no issues either finding a match or playing one, even in this early version. Casual or ranked play is already available and it’s obvious that this will soon become a fiercely competitive game.

Being that this is an early access version, this is just the start. A full single-player campaign is on the way, 11 chapters that will tell the story from both points of view, kicking off with Guardsman Karthus and his fellow troopers garrisoned the Phaedrus Orbital Station above Hethgar Prime. (If that sentence made sence to you, I hope you're already playing the game.) There will also be new factions to play as, battlegrounds to fight on, and tons of unlockables in an Armory section of the main menu. 

Chess and Warhammer fans alike will no doubt be drawn to this game, and for good reason. We can’t wait to see what the updates add to the already-solid game.


Warhammer 40,000: Regicide was previewed from a Steam code provided by the publisher. It's currently available on Steam as an Early Access title for $14.99.

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