At a Glance: Chess. What can I say? It is a centuries-old masterpiece for a reason.
Chess is an abstract strategy game for 2 players where the object is to essentially capture the opponent’s King. Each player sets up their pieces in the first two rows with 8 pawns along the front row. Pawns may move one space forward (or 2 on first move). The 2 rooks may move any number of empty spaces in a straight line. The 2 knights may move in an “L” shape and they are the only pieces that may jump over other pieces. The 2 bishops may move any number of empty spaces in a diagonal line. The Queen is the most powerful piece and can move any number of spaces in any direction. The King may only move 1 space in any direction. Players choose one piece to move on their turn and attempt to capture their opponent’s pieces, thereby eliminating them from the board. If the King is ever threatened with capture by an opponent’s piece, that is called “Check”, and the King must then escape by moving. If at any point your King is in check and CANNOT move without moving into another Check, then that is Checkmate and the opponent wins.
It’s hard not to be at least somewhat familiar with Chess and how it works. Chess, which likely originated in India, is now the highest-selling board game of all time, is played by millions all around the world, but is only mastered by few. There are tournaments held around the world as well, from the prestigious World Championship to your local elementary school. I was on a Chess club when I was a kid. I was such a Chess nerd in fact, I am proud to say I finished as high as 3rd in my state one year! I am a bit rustier nowadays, but the game has such a personal significance to me. There is no hidden information in the game at all, no random element of chance. It all comes down to the skill level and strategy of the players. There is a transcendent charm and elegance to it, as you know you are playing a game that has challenged brains for hundreds of years. It is a centuries-old masterpiece for a reason.
There are so many different editions of Chess available, made from different materials, inspired by many intellectual properties, so there is certainly going to be a set out there that fits your style. And the price range is huge as well. You can get incredibly cheap Chess sets or deluxe sets in the thousands of dollars. Doesn’t matter if it’s fancy or well-worn, the game begs to be played, to be mastered. I own a pretty affordable wooden set that does the job and I like it, but I must confess I would love to own a really nice set as a table piece someday. If you don’t already own some form of Chess (chances are high you do) then join the enriching pastime that has been enjoyed by millions.
TONS of options: https://amzn.to/2Ql2v38
Abstract Strategy games generally have little to no theme, are usually for two players, and many times have plain nondescript pieces. Here are some good games in the same family as Chess that did not make my Top 100.
Reversi/Othello – Reversi (also sold as “Othello”) is a game for two players where the aim is to have the most disks flipped to your color at the end of the game. Every time you are able to “bookend” a line of the other player’s, you flip the whole line to your side. It’s a bit more formulaic and predictable after awhile, but still good.
Go – Go is another abstract game about controlling area on the board, and is believed to be the oldest board game still widely played today. Invented in China in ancient times, Go actually has more alternative outcomes than Chess and a larger board also. It looks really simple, but has a lot of strategic depth.