So to answer your immediate question: No, Warhammer 40, 000: Regicide is NOT just chess. It definitely takes a lot from the standard design of chess in that the various pieces certainly move in a manner similar to pieces in chess. Whereas chess can require players to learn multiple permutations of various set-ups, manoeuvres, and counters, Regicide throws in an extra element of randomness to keep things interesting. The question which you should be asking instead, is whether the new game is itself enjoyable to play. The answer I can give you at this point is a tentative ‘yes’ with the game certainly showing plenty of promise in this early stage.
The game is not without its virtues. The gameplay is an interesting mix of old-school chess mechanics and some more contemporary Turn-based strategy choices in the ‘Regicide’ game mode proper (as opposed to classic chess). In Regicide, the turn begins with player making a generic chess move, with pieces moving in regard to the rules chess with bishops moving diagonally and pawns moving forward. The game then adds in its own flavour by then including an extra phase in a turn wherein the player can activate extra abilities with each unit.
Most units have a generic defend and attack ability you can choose which will either make the unit less susceptible to enemy abilities or attack the health of an enemy unit. Some units have abilities which are unique to them such as the devastator/loota ability to ‘pin down’ an enemy and prevent them from activating. Abilities like these alter the game fundamentally and prove to be an addition which changes up the game significantly. The abilities which do damage are also useful but generally aren’t as efficient as simply taking an enemy unit in a chess move. That being said; I did successful kill a heavily protected enemy king through the liberal use of grenades (which felt mighty satisfying) and shows me that these new features can still lead to some interesting plays.
The game so far features the Space Marines and Orks but the developers have indicated there will be more and from the look of the campaign teaser, we might get Imperial Guard and possibly Tyranids or the forces of Chaos as the video heavily hints at horror aspects within the campaign. The unit models are generally spot-on and although the animations can be a little underwhelming at times, (as Space Marines and Orks appear to tentatively shuffle across the board) for the most part everything looks and moves like it should. The ‘kill animations’ when one unit takes out another, are especially well done and you can see where a lot of work has been done to make the animations interesting (in a very visceral kind of way). There is still a significant amount of work that still needs to be done as shooting animations do not always appear to sync up with whether or not the shot hits home. Overall, the game looks pretty but understandable still needs quite a bit of polish.
Ultimately, Regicide has some interesting aspects to it but at this point remains a scaffold upon which more content needs to be added. This game isn’t just chess, so it isn’t right to assume that it is simply a reskin with 40K models, but there are enough elements which are recognisable that it’s easy to pick up very quickly. I enjoyed what was on offer but I’m still unsure about whether or not the game is worth it’s asking price. There is plenty more content which is slated to be added such as a story campaign, new maps, and new game objectives which should make this question moot. I would wait a bit longer until more of the game has been fleshed out as currently nothing has quite captured my attention in my recent forays into the grim darkness of the far future. I am optimistic however, and I look forward to returning and seeing what lies in store for this particular title.