Codex Gamicus

Battle Chess is a computer game version of chess in which the chess pieces come to life and battle one another when capturing. It was released for the Commodore Amiga and subsequently on the 3DO, MS-DOS, Apple IIgs, Commodore 64, Amiga CDTV, CD32, Atari ST, Apple Macintosh, Acorn Archimedes, FM Towns,Windows 3.x and Nintendo Entertainment System.


There are 35 battle animations. The rook, for example, turns into a rock monster and kills a pawn by smashing his head. Some battle sequences like Knight versus Knight or King versus Bishop are direct references to the black knight fight in Monty Python and the Holy Grail and the short battle between Indiana Jones and a swordsman in Raiders of the Lost Ark.

The game can be played in a 2D version with no animations, and the Amiga CDTV version features a fully-voiced introduction describing the movements of the pieces for the benefit of beginners. Digitized sound is utilized in the DOS version for all battle sound effects and is played through the PC speaker, without the need for a sound card, using a technique akin to RealSound.

The game could be played against a human opponent (by hotseat, or by null modem or over a local area network in some ports) or against the computer's artificial intelligence (AI). The game has an opening library from over 30,000 moves (which were not available for the C64 and Apple versions).


Screenshot of Battle Chess (Atari ST)The Amiga version received favourable reviews from magazines due its comical battle sequences which were advanced (for the time) in terms of graphics, animation and sound. The German game magazine ASM, however, criticized the weak chess AI.

Magazine ratings:

  • AUI - 9 out of 10
  • Commodore User - 85%
  • ST/Amiga Format - 85%
  • Computer and Video Games - 84%

Over a period of time Battle Chess spawned imitators such as Star Wars Chess and Terminator 2: Chess Wars. Interplay won "Best Graphics Achievement In A Non-Graphics Product" from Software Publishers Association (later renamed to Software and Information Industry Association) for their efforts.

Battle Chess producer Brian Fargo expressed his fondness for the game in a 2006 interview, although he added that he did not think there would be much of an audience for it today.

The game was reviewed in 1989 in Dragon #144 by Hartley, Patricia, and Kirk Lesser in "The Role of Computers" column. The reviewers gave the game 3 1/2 out of 5 stars. The Lessers reviewed the Battle Chess Enhanced CD ROM in 1993 in Dragon #192, giving that version 5 stars.

Sequels and legacy[]

Battle Chess was the first title developed and published by Interplay themselves after ending their relationship with Electronic Arts, besides Neuromancer.

In 1991, Battle Chess Enhanced was released for the PC, which features improved VGA graphics and a symphonic musical score that plays off of the CD-ROM. The same year a sequel was released titled Battle Chess II: Chinese Chess, based on Xiangqi, commonly known as "Chinese chess." The next year Battle Chess 4000, was released, which spoofs science fiction movies and television series (such as a battle sequence that involves the monolith from 2001: A Space Odyssey).

The game was featured in the 1992 film Knight Moves starring Christopher Lambert and Diane Lane, about a chess grandmaster who is accused of several murders. The Chessmaster series of chess computer programs began to include animated chess piece battles when capturing with Chessmaster 10th Edition. In the Harry Potter book series Ron and Harry play a game called "Wizard's Chess" which seems to have aspects that are very similar to Battle Chess.


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