All the King's Men

All the King’s Men, a Chess Variant

If you happen to be an avid chess player and you love discovering new chess variants, the chances are you will come to love one game that is loosely based on chess. All The King’s Men is an abstract strategy board game that will give players a feel that is similar to regular game of chess itself while also reminding chess fanatics of one popular variant called Smess. All The King’s Men was published by Parker Brothers in 1979 and is designed only for 2 players. The age range for players to start learning how to play this game are from ages 8 and up.

Game Setup

Both players command medieval themed armies that take on a feeling very similar to chess armies. Both players will be given 1 King, 4 Knights and 7 Archers. All The King’s Men will be played on a specially designed 8 x 7 56-square game board, and the positioning of this game’s pieces are different than that of a chess army. The one King will be surrounded by his 4 Knights in the back row while the 7 Archers will serve much like chess pawns, standing on the row in front of the king.


The object of the game is just like chess, to capture your opponent’s King.

How to Play All the King’s Men

One piece is moved per turn, but movement depends on the combination of the type of piece and the square the piece begins its move from. The King and Archers move only one square at a time. Knights can move any number of squares in just one direction. The arrows that are on the 56 squares will determine where all pieces can go.

No pieces can change direction once they begin a move from a particular square. For example, if a square allows a piece to move diagonally, then a player can move that piece diagonally but cannot suddenly move that piece horizontally or vertically on that turn. Knights in All The King’s Men are much different than the knights you play with in chess as these 4 Knights cannot move in an L shape pattern.

One indication that makes All The King’s Men a “distant cousin” to the game of chess is how you alert your opponent that his or her King is in grave danger. When you make a move that puts your opponent’s King within one move of being captured, you will say “Threat”, much like how you say “Check” in chess. When your King is threatened, you can either make a move to protect your King, such as moving a piece in front of the King, or you can simply move your King out of harm’s way.


All The King’s Men can be played in a multitude of ways, ranging from implementing actual chess rules to including actual chess pieces. All The King’s Men is a flexible game that can include more elements of chess once players get more familiar with the game.


If you are familiar with chess and often play strategy games, then learning how to play All The King’s Men will come naturally to you. It’s easy to learn, fun to play and is considered to be a legitimate alternative to chess. If you have no desire to learn how to play chess, then you will find All The King’s Men a better game to remember.

Parker Brothers gave this game nice touches with the medieval theme and with the randomized directions that are enforced by the arrows on the squares. Before making a move a player has to really think about how he or she is going to attack the opposing King, and that is what makes this game amazing as positioning of the pieces is key. It is highly recommended that you give All The King’s Men a try.

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