Shotgun King: The Final Checkmate is the Real Battle Chess

Remember Battle Chess? Remember how despite sounding cool as hell, it’s just an extremely slow version of Chess with canned animations for each kind of capture? Well, there’s a new Battle Chess in town, and it’s called Shotgun King: Final Checkmate. It’s a turn-based roguelike that addresses the obvious problem with the original game, which is that the king doesn’t have a gun.

That sounds silly, and it kind of is, but by piggybacking on a game many people are already familiar with, Shotgun King achieves a similar ease of introduction as last year’s SNKRX. The basic formula is simple: you’re a lone king against a steadily-increasing collection of chess pieces. All of the pieces move as they would in a normal game of Chess, albeit on turn-based timers, and if you end your turn in check then it’s game over.

As the king, you can’t capture other pieces. Instead, as the name implies, you have a royal shotgun with which you lay waste to the other side, with the goal of taking out the enemy king. The weapon begins with two shots loaded and a number in reserve, and on each turn you can either move, fire, or reload. When you’re out of reserve ammunition, moving restores one round at a time.

What’s interesting about the weapon is that there’s an element of luck introduced here, as the shotgun is somewhat unpredictable. The shotgun fires a set amount of pellets within its arc, meaning that a point-blank shot is certain to do its full damage, but potshots at range are riskier. Shotgun King helpfully provides you with a couple of “shields” per turn which will flash red when you attempt to take an action that has a chance of killing you, but you can push past these and roll the dice if necessary.

Shotgun King

Since this is a roguelike, after each round you’re presented with two pairs of powerups to select from. What’s interesting about these is that they’re paired buffs and debuffs. For instance, you might get a buff that increases the range of your weapon, but it’s tied to a debuff that adds more pawns to the other side. At first, you might try to do damage control on the debuffs, but as you get more familiar with the different combinations, you can twist them to your advantage. If you have a buff that gives you an extra turn whenever you take out a knight, for instance, then replacing pawns with knights might actually be a boon.

Some of the combinations can get pretty ridiculous. On one run, I had a moat spanning my side of the board that prevented any piece from crossing it in one turn. I combined that with a wand that let me repel pieces once a round, and I had a defensive position that carried me through the end boss. On a subsequent playthrough, I went for a completely different build — one based on enhanced mobility and chaining extra turns — and it let me speed over to the enemy king and take them out as fast as possible, which then wipes the rest of the board.

It took me about an hour to get through Shotgun King‘s Throne mode on Normal difficulty, but it’s the kind of game where I immediately wanted to go back and try different builds. There are a few higher difficulty levels on offer, plus an Endless mode, but like SNKRX from last year, Shotgun King isn’t trying to be a roguelike that you play forever. It’s a smart, simple piece of design and a lot of fun to play, and if you like the roguelike formula but are turned off by the massive titles popular in the genre, then you should definitely give it a shot. (Sorry.)