“If our expectation of advantage be tempered in this way, we may succeed in accomplishing the essential part of our schemes. If, on the other hand, in the midst of difficulties we are always ready to seize an advantage, we may extricate ourselves from misfortune.” There has never been more opportune moment to borrow some quotes from famous book Art of War by Sun Tzu.
And we certainly want to act according to his suggestion, when we find ourselves on battlefield of board game called Trench. It come to us from Portugal, where it was created by Rui Alipio Monteiro. It was published in 2013 under auspices of Wise Games company and it is not yet well known. Now it’s time we looked at it closely and assess its true potential.
From the first moment, game attracts you with huge size of its square box. Board is the main reason for these dimensions, because it dominates almost entire inside of black box. Even that plan is black and white and is divided into lots of framed squares. Together, it resembles a classic chess board eight times eight fields, but there is also a cutting in half in the middle, drawn from corner to corner. This line creates a color gradient and represents the title trench.
Along with game board, space is occupied only by multilingual rules and plastic blocks, which can be divided by number of floors. Each of these pieces has a drawing with more arrows on its bottom. But these directions are really not so secret, because their movement corresponds to their rank: general, captain, sergeant or ordinary soldier. Each pair of colors (white and black) is associated with all these ranks and creates two opposing sides of the conflict.
Before delving into play, we have to emphasize one idea, which is really important in this game. Trench is a tribute to memory of all soldiers, who died in the trenches of the First World War. Thanking the men, who gave their lives for our freedom. Heroes, who waited months ago dug just few inches from no man’s land. This concept is reflected in the contrasting processing of the whole game.
At the beginning of the game, players take game board and put it in the middle of the table. But not rotated, as you would expect based on chess. Board takes diamond shape this time, extending as it goes away from players towards the trench in them middle. Each player takes his stones and sets them up to basic position in the diamond according to instructions. The most advanced soldier is already directly touching the trench.
Black player opens match with his move. Just like in the following rounds, he also this time has ability to move one piece in any direction. Rank of each stone determines not only direction of movement, but also number of fields, its allowed move (but it must not necessary use them all). Its not permitted to skip any troops and when they should cross the trench, it falls in there instead and its movement ends.
When you encounter enemy pieces in one space, suddenly soldier’s ranks do not play any role. General is as deadly as a common soldier, although its not so easy to catch him based on his movement. Such captivity actually works just like in the classic chess game.
But then dugout tactics of players enters the game, once they reach middle of the board. It protects stones against captivity and also allows them to perform surprise attacks into opponent’s side. Units are hidden in hollowed corridor and they can capture adversaries. These solidiers hiding in a trench cannot be caught with ordinary attack. You need to sneak so him from behind from his own territory. Only like this can you jump on his back and exclude it from further fighting.
Moreover, attacked soldier can not even defend himself, because its forbidden to capture opponent stones standing on his own side, when standing in the trench. So he should be protected only by his comrades, who are outside the trench. You can capture attacking soldier according to the classic rules.
Only the stronger pieces (colonel and general) may move sideways in the trench. However, all while moving in tunnels, they are not allowed to jump over other stones. When soldier attacks surprisingly from trench, he is able to capture more units of opponent at once. His movement is not stopped, when he encounters first opponent, but he can continue to move up to the maximum of his movement, thus possibly capturing more stones.
The game end condition is a classic and happens, when a player loses all of his soldiers. But capturing units has also other important role, because players should count their turns. If after the fiftieth turn (25 per player), winer is still not clear, battle ends nevertheless. The winner will be determined according to value of captured combatant stones.
Trench provides logical view on stunning battle for two players. When you break it down on the table, it looks like a piece of art. The contrast of the white and black to extent of consequence makes the game really stand out. However, all this contrast can lead to a little lapse of concentration, because some players may have problems with maintaining clear overview.
But looks are not everything, so how does Trench play? Rules are delightfully simple. Players are simply moving pawns and possibility to capture opponent’s pieces with movement points towards a classic feel. But trench changes everything, what you know about such logic games. It completely changes the dynamic, because the entire area of board is suddenly inconsistent. The hole in the middle is all, that lies between defeat and victory.
“If we do not wish to fight, we can prevent the enemy from engaging us even though the lines of our encampment be merely traced out on the ground. All we need do is to throw something odd and unaccountable in his way.“ To quote Sun Tzu again, because his words best describe everything, you need to know to successfully play game of Trench. Corridor winding through center of the board has power to change everything, if a player is able to make good use of it. It offers a very interesting tactics. Players are trying to dominate it at the beginning, yet in its shadow, enemy soldiers fighting side by side cannot capture each other and they are only limiting movement of each other.
Each game starts with the same disposition. But like many abstract games, even here, development of the game will not be repeated. Individual fights are therefore always a new challenge. This ensures a high replay value.
The game is built for the duel, and author recommends, that players do two games in a row, one for each color. Thanks to that, it balances advantage of starting player. A total of points gained by keeping prisoners could determine the winner. And neither tight defeat in first game does not necessarily mean loss of chance to win sum of two battles.
Length of the game depends a lot on the type of players, who are participating in a duel. Due to the enriched capabilities of the trench moves, game time per move often climbs to one minute. A battle can last for those fifty turns, so one round usually takes over thirty minutes. And whole recommended duel then usually takes a little more than an hour.
Units are differentiated from each other both by directions of their motion, but also length of their steps. It is essential for attacks out of the trench, but also for tactical maneuvers during whole game. Players do not have any pawns, that are indispensable. All are equally important and it really interestingly open the game up. But you have to remember their movement. Its not written anywhere and the constant lifting of pieces (motion symbols are printed on the bottom of them) are unnecessarily stretching turns.
If you thought that abstract game can never have a theme and atmosphere, then you are wrong as we were. Trench is at first sight a distinctive addition to the family board games, that are worth attention just because of their appearance. We have no doubt, that this game must sharply cut its due love to everyone.
Trench is a game rich in challenging moves and with deceiving body. Tactical game, that took on a military jacket and it fits well. It is full of hostility, just like the war, which it portrays. It pays tribute to the victims of war in the best way possible – with entertainment. But the players experience joy, that something new and unique can be invented on such an old familiar board. Trench is a pleasant surprise, which is not only a collector’s item, but also a great game.
“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.”- Sun Tzu
+ all units are equally important
+ trenches allow to surprise opponent
+ soldier in the trenches can jump only on enemy half
+ simple rules
+ excellent theme
+ stunning processing
+ corresponding length of the game
= processing contrast decreases concentration of some players
= slower start of each match