Updated: Oct 24, 2020
You're probably not a Grand Master, you may no longer even play the game regularly, but everyone reading this will be familiar with Chess. You'll at least know the various pieces and you'll know the peculiarities of how they move and 'take' other pieces. That's all you'll need to know to play this Chess piece based card and dice strategy game from MAD.
Division: Throne Room uses no Chess board. The nine 'Courtier' cards represent the King, Queen, Pawn, 2 Knights, 2 Bishops and 2 Rooks. They are shuffled and laid out in a 3x3 grid. Players have their own stack of six 'Palace cards', each of which shows the position of three of the Courtier cards. Each turn, you roll the two custom six-sided dice (each face shows one of the six different Chess pieces) and you get to move one corresponding Courtier card according to its Chess capturing movement rules (the Pawn moves diagonally rather than orthogonally) in order to swap its position with the card whose position it is moving to. The object is to get the Courtier cards in the position to satisfy the requirements of your topmost Palace card. Of course, your opponent is doing the same to try to match the requirements of their Palace card.
Designed by James Hitchings with art by Paskal Millet, the game requires you to keep a close eye on the layout that your opponent is aiming for, not just so you can scupper them but so you can avoid accidentally matching their required layout as that gives them the point and two extra turns. You'll find you are both jockeying cards for position; making this a strategy rather than a race game.
With dice affecting what you can move, there's inevitably a degree of luck involved in Division: Throne Room. That will doubtless put off Chess enthusiasts to whom the game might otherwise appeal. You are, however, less dependent on the luck of the dice than you might at first think. The fact that you are swapping the positions of the cards means that you don't, for example, need to wait for a King die face to come up before you can reposition the King; you can move the King by having another Courtier switch positions with them. When you complete a Palace card, you discard it to your score pile and reveal the next card. In practice, this introduces more luck than the dice: you're not allowed to end up with a card that exactly matches the current position of the Courtier cards but you could get a lucky draw that puts you so close that you are effectively just one move away from scoring it.
We've enjoyed playing Division: Throne Room. Our one concern was that, like tic-tac-toe (noughts & crosses) - which this game otherwise resembles solely in respect of the grid - players can play for a draw by focusing on preventing their opponent from ever getting one move away from completing their card. Where players both play this way, Division: Throne Room can play overly long, with Palace cards only being completed when an opponent miscalculates or as a result of an especially unfortunate couple of dice rolls. On the plus side, Division: Throne Room isn't just a two-player game; it also offers a solitaire option that challenges you to match your Palace card in no more than six die rolls.
Division: Throne Room is now live on Kickstarter. This link should take you to the campaign.