Filipino Board Game Designer Takes Aim at Chess With Think!Game

Chess, a brutal wargame in which foot soldiers, members of the clergy, and ambulatory towers murder their way toward slow-moving royalty, dates back some 1500 years. Over the ages several variants have bubbled up, some cleverer, others drinking-based. But Reynato Sian, who has been developing his version of chess in a remote part of the Philippines since he fell in love with the game in its seventies heyday, believes his board game is both more peaceful, well, better.

He might be right.

By “better,” Sian means “more complex.” His game, which boasts the SEO-unfriendly name Think! Game, consists of 61 hexagonal tiles rather than 64 squares, and 19 pieces for each player — three more than chess offers. According to Filipino news website the Rappler, chess grandmaster Joey Antonio called Think! Game “more complicated than chess.” There are many variations and it requires more familiarization.”

It is also, to hear its creator describe it, a kinder game. The pieces represent not knights but wisdom, instinct, and other so-called mental faculties. ”Think! is the battle of minds,” Christine Rose Mariano, a chess master, told Rappler. ”It pictures out the flashbacks, rudiments, and challenges of our lives.” 

Sian and his acolytes, who have deemed themselves "thinknologists," want to see the game play a role in the Philippines education system, to boost mental skills like logic and analytics. But even chess — long touted as the sport of the obsessive and brilliant thinkers — may not be able to provide such mental stimulation. As Slate's Ann Hubert argues, being good at chess is just a sign that your good at chess.  

The Think! Game will have several hurdles to clear if it wants to gain global traction. Early murmurs seem less than impressed, and it also faces stiff competition not just with chess or other board games but those that take place on the screen. Cognitive scientists like Simon Fraser University’s Mark Blair have lauded the video game Star Craft II, in particular, as a sort of hyper-chess on digital speed. “From the perspective of the cognitive motor system, StarCraft is the most interesting thing you could do online,” Blair told Scientific American in 2011. Even chess legend Garry Kasparov had nice things to say about “League of Legends” and other e-sports on Twitter. No word yet what Kasparov — who is one of Sian’s chess heroes - would think of the game looking to checkmate the old eight-by-eight.