Shong is an absolutely free to keep abstract strategy that is based on Chess but distils the game down into very quickfire games. It’s so rare that that something so quick to understand is so playable and clever, yet comes free for everyone to enjoy. Put simply, if you like board games or strategy games, you can leave the review now and add it to your Steam library. If you want some more info, read on.
Shong is a merger of the words short and long. This is because in the game of Shong, almost every piece takes turns alternating between a short move and a long move. Borrowed from Chess, you’ll have access to four types of pieces. Triangles move diagonally. Squares move vertically and horizontally. The X is like a queen and can move in all directions. These three pieces will start off with a short move of one square. When moved, they have an eye placed on their piece which indicates their next move will be a long one of two squares. Each move has to have a clear line of sight and pieces can’t jump over each other. There are no horses here! The King works slightly differently. He will only move one space for each move by alternates between the triangle and square move set.
There are two ways to win at Shong – which only has a four column wide board and six rows of play. Firstly, similar to Chess, you can block the King into check by being able to land on and take him out of the game. If the King cannot avoid being taken, its game over. In reality the second option happens just as often though, and this is to get your King to the opposite end of the board. This requires so deft jiggery pokery to get the King to side slide and step around your opponents and is a late game run for it when most of the other pieces are eliminated. Games can take anywhere from 2-5 minutes.
Everything about Shong is perfectly balanced. The characters moves make sense and often the balance of play can reward selective aggression. As the playing area is small, its difficult to avoid conflict for more than a couple of moves so it flushes out anyone stalling for tactics too. Playing locally with friends is a breeze and seeing the balance of power in terms of pieces left shift the colours in the screen behind you is a nice touch. Equally worth mentioning is the decent AI which comes in three difficulty levels. Shong also has online lobbies but I haven’t tested this as I’ve used Discord streaming or Steam remote play instead.
I have zero negative things to say about this masterfully balanced game. It feels innovate, fresh, interesting and familiar and packs a tightly formed punch with every game. Shong thoroughly deserves to build a competitive and niche audience and hats off to the developer for making this available to all for free. Add Shong to your Steam library now.
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