Game Info:

Warhammer 40,000 Regicide
Published by Hammerfall Publishing
Developed by Hammerfall Publishing
Release date: 26 August, 2015
ESRB Rating: M
Reviewed on PC
Available On: Mac, PC, Android
Genre: Strategy
Number of Players: 1 - 2
MSRP: $13.99

Thank you Hammerfall Publishing for sending us this game to review!

Hammerfall’s Regicide is named after a fictional game that exists inside the Warhammer 40,000 universe.  Presumably very similar to Chess, its name has been borrowed for this game.  There are two versions of the game; classic Chess and Regicide, which is basically chess but with special abilities and the pieces can shoot at each other.

Now, when I say “they can shoot at each other,”  I don’t mean to give the impression that a piece draws a little gun, goes ‘pew pew’ and makes another piece fall down.  I mean they open up with anything from a fully automatic Bolter to a Rocket Launcher and turn the target piece into nothing but a red stain on the board.  More on that later.

The classic Chess variant is basically the same idea as the old PC game Battle Chess, where the pieces work exactly like normal chess except that when one piece captures another, they fight it out.  (The capturing piece always wins.)  The difference now is that the pieces are drawn from the Warhammer 40,000 universe.  Instead of a “black” side and a “white” side, the pieces are Space Marines on one side and Orks on the other.  While the pieces do look authentic and capture the look and feel of the Warhammer 40,000 universe well, it can be difficult to tell which piece is which sometimes, and even that requires someone who is very well versed in the factions of Warhammer 40K.  Sure, when the board is first set up it’s easy to know which is which by its placement in the line, but once the game is in full swing it’s easy to forget which piece is the King and which is a pawn.  On the Space Marine side, pawns are regular Tactical Marines.  The King is a Space Marine Captain, the Queen is a Space Marine Librarian, Bishops are Devastators (Space Marines with heavy weapons), Knights are Assault Marines (with jump packs) and the Rooks are Space Marine Terminators.  On the Ork side, Pawns are Shoota Boyz, The King is a Warboss, the Queen is a Weirdboy, the Bishops are Lootaz, the Knights are Stormboyz and the Rooks are Meganobz.

Playing simple Chess in this mode is basically like playing any computer Chess game you’ve ever seen, with the moves being recorded using normal Algebraic Notation.  The novice A.I. setting isn’t too punishing and I was able to beat it in my first game.  I’m a guy who can hold my own in a Chess match but nobody’s ever called me awesome, so this should be a comfortable enough experience for new Chess players.  There’s also intermediate, expert, master and veteran master difficulty.  

Warhammer 40,000 Regicide

Strong Points: Feels like Warhammer 40K, Easy to jump in if you already know how to play Chess
Weak Points: Pieces can be hard to differentiate
Moral Warnings: Violent death; psychic powers

The Regicide variant is more complex, with special abilities, a health and armor bar, and pieces can kill each other without having to capture.  A player’s turn is carried out in phases, similar to the Warhammer 40,000 tabletop game.  First is the Move phase, in which a piece can move according to the normal chess rules.  Pieces can also capture, just like in Chess.  The second phase is the Initiative Phase, in which individual pieces can use special abilities, such as “There is Only War” which Increases the armor of a targeted friendly piece.  Using abilities costs Initiative points, which are replenished each turn.  When a player has spent all of their Initiative points, their turn ends.  Some abilities also have a cooldown, and can only be used every fourth turn, fifth turn, etc.  To win, a player must either achieve a checkmate just like in standard Chess, or kill the opposing King.

Gameplay is certainly different, as simply moving a piece to a “safe” square in no way means the piece is actually safe.  In one test game, I was able to capture an opposing Knight with my Queen.  I felt safe because it was behind the opponent's’ pawns and wasn’t vulnerable to being captured in the traditional Chess sense.  This is Regicide however, and in the opponent’s next Initiative phase that Queen was gunned down.  (It normally isn’t that easy to outright kill such a valuable piece, but it had been wounded in previous turns.)  Pieces do have a limited range and can only attack targets within their line of sight.

There is a campaign mode, which provides some interesting variants in each game.  In each mission, the pieces are set up in a non-standard arrangement similar to Chess puzzles.  Obstacles like barricades are also placed on the board, preventing movement through them.  There are also secondary objectives which add some extra challenges to the campaign matches, and a level system to give the player a feeling of working toward a goal and improving re-playability.

The artistic feel of the game is impressive, with Space Marine and Ork units faithfully rendered onscreen.  The game board looks like a large chessboard set in a devastated outdoor environment as if the game were, in fact, a battle.  While the quality of the graphics is good, the health and life bars can make it difficult to identify pieces.  For example, the easiest way to tell the Captain(King) from a regular Marine(Pawn) is by a standard mounted on the Captain’s backpack.  That’s obscured by the health/energy bars in Regicide mode.  Yes, a Captain’s armor is more ornate than that of a Tactical Marine, but that’s hard to see unless you zoom in for a closer look.

Warhammer 40,000 Regicide
Score Breakdown:
Higher is better
(10/10 is perfect)

Game Score - 88%
Gameplay - 17/20
Graphics - 9/10
Sound - 9/10
Stability - 5/5
Controls - 4/5

Morality Score - 76%
Violence - 2/10
Language - 10/10
Sexual Content - 10/10
Occult/Supernatural - 8/10
Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 8/10

An Armory screen is available from the main game menu to assist players in learning the pieces and their abilities.  Additionally, ability/equipment loadouts can be chosen for Regicide mode.  These loadouts can be changed between games for trying various strategies.  

The player can choose to skin their pieces from different factions within their side.  Space Marine players can be Blood Angels, Raven Guard or White Scars.  (These are various chapters of Space Marines in Warhammer 40K... and no Black Templars ?!  Travesty!)  Ork players can be either Goffs or Snakebites.  

The UI is serviceable but takes some getting used to.  It uses a lot of design cues from handheld device interfaces in the menus and game controls.  In game, the various buttons and controls have different looks depending on the type of action they perform.  This isn’t a huge problem, but the colors of some of the controls, like the end turn button, can be hard to see against the background environment.  

As is common for games these days, there is an Achievements system with achievements being awarded for things like promoting a Pawn,  winning a game by checkmate in under 10 turns, or completing secondary objectives.  There are achievements associated with the campaign mode as well as online multiplayer.

The sound effects are decent, with the Orks’ and Space Marines’ speech reasonably clear (if you can keep up with the standard Cockney accent used with Orks).  No issues were noticed on the PC version.  The background music is suitably grim and heavy, as is the norm for games taking place in the Warhammer 40,000 universe.  The weapon sound effects go well with the visuals though not especially memorable.  

The graphics quality is good, but slower machines will have a very low frame rate during the action when pieces fight, as the camera moves in for a close-up view of the carnage.   The game was tested on an aging HP laptop and was still playable, so users with better hardware should have a much smoother experience.  No glitches or issues were noticed during testing.

Warhammer 40,000 Regicide

Is the game appropriate?  Not if you’re sensitive at all to violence.  If you’re looking for a nice computer Chess game to teach the kiddies, you’d better move on.  When the pieces capture one another, the fight is brutal and bloody.  If you’ve played the Space Marine first-person shooter game from 2011, then you know the level of blood and gore to expect.  Explosive bloody impacts, dismemberment, and violent combat are the characteristics of a fight here.  When a Devastator Marine “captures” an Ork piece, he sprays it with his Heavy Bolter until there’s nothing left but a chunky red mist.  (That sentence is either awesome or horrifying, depending on your point of view…)  When pieces of higher value are killed the red stain remains on the board where they were for the rest of the game.  (I know, they’re technically being ‘captured’ if we’re using Chess terms, but an Ork being burst open by a psychic blast from a Librarian has most decidedly NOT been “captured.”) 

While there's no heavy occultism as such, the Queens are represented by Space Marine Librarians or Ork Weirdboyz, which are psychic characters (psykers) in the Warhammer 40K universe.  Accordingly, their special abilities represent the use of their psychic powers.  These powers aren’t very different from other special buffs and attacks used by other pieces, they just look a lot flashier.

Ethics is a tough thing to evaluate here, because ultimately this is just Chess with a twist. There aren’t really any questions of morality or ethics involved other than the choice being instead of black and white, it’s a hyperviolent alien race or an utterly xenophobic post-human race.  That’s purely fluff though, and has no actual bearing on the game itself.  Your mileage there may vary.

If you’re looking for a chess game and you like Warhammer 40K this one’s worth getting.  The Regicide variant is fun and provides some interesting new challenges and problems.  If you’re a fan of Warhammer 40K and aren’t really a Chess fan, you MIGHT enjoy the Regicide mode for its look and feel if not necessarily the gameplay.  It is a little jarring to see an Assault Marine standing directly in front of an Ork and NOT trying to tear it to pieces, so you will be continually reminded that you’re still basically playing Chess, not Warhammer 40K. 

*Thanks to Andrew Carrington for helping me identify the Ork pieces.  I have a very Space Marine centered view!


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Christ Centered Gamer looks at video games from two view points. We analyze games on a secular level which will break down a game based on its graphics, sound, stability and overall gaming experience. If you’re concerned about the family friendliness of a game, we have a separate moral score which looks at violence, language, sexual content, occult references and other ethical issues.

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