I’m not a big Chess player, but I’m really interested in the terminology, the overall strategic concepts of the game, and how all of this relates to other games of strategy and tactics. In the midst of writing about how hit points can be considered Material (akin to pawns and other pieces), I started to compare them further.

The first question I asked myself was, “if pawns can be promoted, what is the comparable hit point effect,” and the next thing I asked myself was, “the creatures and characters in Dungeons & Dragons represent people outside of combat as well as in, but what does a pawn do when it isn’t locked in mortal combat?”

I don’t have an answer to the first question, since if you look at the hit points of a creature you can pretty well see that they represent the difference between being on the board, versus being “captured” in Chess. They might be really, really short-term material, but they probably won’t lead you to promotion. Not directly.

A king piece in chess, with three pawns.

All The King’s Men.

The other question got to me a bit more though, and I wondered about what a pawn might be doing outside of combat, especially when you consider that the game doesn’t end when you run out of pawns. The game only ends when one player resigns, generally when their king has been placed into checkmate.

Pieces on the board can be compared to individuals, like the knights and the bishops, but I don’t know if the combat metaphor still works when you’re talking about a pawn or bishop taking a queen or knight, and it’s hard to say what exactly a rook / castle is, though you could say it represents a literal fortification instead of a person.

But for all the pieces that fall, or are captured in a game of Chess, only the king appears to matter. When the king is cornered, the game is over. You can lose nearly every other piece and still win as long as you take the enemy king. (I think you need a minimum of two other pieces, like two pawns.) But do you still have a kingdom?

Chess doesn’t really describe much of the world outside the game, except through the elements provided within the game. You don’t really know how long each turn lasts, or how long it takes to set up all the pieces. How many other kings are there, that you’re facing only this one king in combat? Are you the last two living countries?

It would seem the king is the connection. And what the king and the side represents. A nation, a couple fortifications, a couple knights, some militiamen.

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