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V > VIDEOMASTER > Star Chess   

Star Chess

What a weird system we have here! This must be one of the rarest and most original consoles ever produced. It only plays one game: Star Chess, a version of chess which takes place in space, for two players.

The system itself looks like a box with a transparent plastic cover, revealing four silver controllers stored into the plastic case. Actually, only two of the silver oblongs are real controllers, attached by extendable wires to the console for 2 players. Another silver oblong opens out into the instruction manual, and the last one cannot be moved and contains sound on/off + power on/off switches and reset button.

Star Chess is based on the well known game of chess but your chessmen are space ships engaged in Galactic Warfare. The game board is laid out as a normal chessboard with space ships instead of chess pieces. Two players take turns moving their ships (no solo play). The rules and moves are based on chess but with some additions. You can fire missiles at your opponents, you have shields, you can get a damage report, you can return to base to stock up on missiles used up, and if you are in trouble you can warp into hyperspace. But beware, you can re-appear at anytime in a random position on the board and be in a worse situation! To win the game you have to destroy or capture your opponent's "commander" (king).

An interesting fact is that this game can also be found on Emerson Arcadia 2001 and compatible systems! So, some questions come to mind: is it the exact same game put in a standalone console (see the software page, we can see here that the two versions are not exactly the same)? Which version came first? What are the origins of this game? If you can answer these questions, please mail us!

At various stages the company was called Voltmace or Videomaster (owned by Waddingtons, a huge boardgame company). They released a console called Voltmace Database in 1978 (?) which was Interton VC-4000 "compatible", but never released an "Arcadia 2001 compatible system" able to play the famous Star Chess game. Maybe Videomaster did not want repeat the Voltmace Database experience, and decided, upon pressure from Waddingtons, to release only a standalone system playing a board game, Star Chess, using technology and software they had access to. Just a guess though...

Anyway, the system did not sell very well and is now an interesting collectors item.

Important, read the real story from the inventor himself, Peter Gebler, in the first comment below! _______________

Special thanks to Michael Davidson for his knowledge, which helped me write this.

We need more info about this computer ! If you designed, used, or have more info about this system, please send us pictures or anything you might find useful.
NAME  Star Chess
ORIGIN  United Kingdom
YEAR  ? 1979
KEYBOARD  Two detachable controllers (with direction buttons and different functions)
CPU  ULA Ferranti ZNA 2H072E
CO-PROCESSOR  Motorola SC80801P + several other Motorola chips (RAM ?)
RAM  Unknown
GRAPHIC MODES  Blocky graphics
COLORS  Yes (at least 6 colors)
SOUND  yes, built-in speaker
SIZE / WEIGHT  Unknown
I/O PORTS  Video output (TV RF), power in
BUILT IN MEDIA  None, only built-in game available
OS  1
POWER SUPPLY  External power supply + battery cells ?
PRICE  £16.95 (UK, 1981)

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