Nothing says ‘chess’ like a Space Marine liquefying the face of an Ork with a barrage of close range bolter fire. After all, is that not why it is called the game of kings (or is that emperors)? Chess is one of the oldest and most respected games of all time. Near-perfect, it’s complex, elegant, and rife with strategic possibility. Obviously that makes it the perfect canvas for an upstart Aussie developer to bloody it up with rampaging Ork Shoota Boys and Power Armoured Assault Marines! Oh Hammerfall, what have you done?

Regicide is a game of two parts. Classic mode is essentially Battle Chess with guns. Here, players can experience the game using traditional chess rules and a sprinkling of Ultra Marine ultra-violence. Under the hood of Regicide is a robust chess engine that will provide sufficient challenge to most chess players – budding Kasparovs and Fischers aside.

Warhammer 40,000: Regicide review

The game’s other mode – Regicide – goes one step further, adding in a secondary phase each turn. Here’s how it works: after the traditional movement phase, you can then use a limited number of additional skills or attacks in a new initiative phase. That means you can focus fire on a certain unit to prevent it taking a piece in the next round, or use a skill to alter the board in some way, potentially swinging things in your favour.

For example, Bishops are played by Warhammer 40K Devastators or Lootas, each of which has his own set of upgradeable skills. This is true of every piece, and the power, accuracy, and weapons available vary from piece to piece. Any piece is capable of shifting the balance of the game at any time, though: there are many options, and finding the right one for each situation is vital for success.

Warhammer 40,000: Regicide review
Warhammer 40,000: Regicide review
Warhammer 40,000: Regicide review
Warhammer 40,000: Regicide review

For the most part this additional phase works well, but there is an adjustment period, and not all of the additions feel worthy of the game it’s attempting to expand on. The extra phase also means that no piece is really safe, even if it cannot be taken directly by another piece (which is also an option here and still the most efficient way to remove an enemy piece from the board).

So, a Regicide game sacrifices much of the elegance of chess, but adds in a great deal of variation and alternative strategic options in its stead. The real issue is that it’s initially unclear of what the strengths are for each unit, and more importantly where the most pressing of threat is on the board at any given time. It takes a number of hours to come to grips with the additions, but they are undeniably fun if somewhat chaotic and unpredictable.

Where the game really shines is in its presentation. Crunchy sound effects and excellent voice acting punctuate the excessively violent onscreen action, and each piece is highly detailed and beautifully animated. There is, however, a lack of variety in animations when a piece takes another – something that Battle Chess managed to nail more than 25 years ago.

Sadly, there are also only two army types in the game in Orks and Space Marines, and although skins can be unlocked, it’s a shame there aren’t a few more options here to help flesh out the content. Factor in a disappointingly short campaign that ended just as I began to dig into the new tactical options, and Regicide doesn’t feel all there. That’s about the only real negative in the game, but it is a significant one.

Regicide is a visceral goregasm of strategic chaos. With a few more factions and some refining on the strategic level, it could be truly exceptional. So that’s pretty much the final take away here: Regicide is a great game that just needs a bit more.