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Chess Variants

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Joined: 10/24/2012

Here's a quick and fun chess variant:

Suicide Chess

The objective is to be the first person to lose their king. Pieces move as in regular chess. Two special rules apply:

- You may move your king into check.
- If you can capture an opponent's piece, then you must capture an opponent's piece.

Note that if you have the choice of capturing two or more pieces, then you can choose which one you want (i.e., you don't have to capture the king if you have other options).

My son and I play this when we want a "lite" game of chess. You still need to look ahead a bit and there are some interesting surprises. Bringing the king out to the center of the field is a common strategy, and you might think that keeping the queen hidden away would be a good idea. However, the queen gives you the opportunity to choose more than one target, which you need when the opponent's king is going on a suicidal rampage.


- Qwib

Joined: 10/13/2011
Knightmare Chess

Steve Jackson's Knightmare Chess and Knightmare Chess 2 are interesting additions to the basic game of Chess.

In short, there is a deck of cards and each player receives half of the cards (or they can draft cards up to a certain point limit, etc). The cards bend (or break) the rules of Chess and each player can play 1 card per turn. Examples are "move your bishop like knight this turn" or "exchange your king with any pawn you control" or "exchange the position of one of your pieces with one of your opponent's pieces"

The cards are good way to balance players of different skill levels or to add an element of the unknown to the game.

The original is out of print; version 2 is still available

Joined: 10/24/2012
Special Powers in Chess

Very cool - I hadn't heard of Knightmare Chess before. The nice thing is, it's pretty easy to make up your own set of cards.

The New Rules for Classic Games book presents a similar idea, except each special power is specific to each piece, and can be only used once (for that specific piece). You represent this by using a checker or similar token that moves with the piece and is removed when the power is used. Some sample powers (as I recall them - probably not exact, but you get the general idea):

- Bishop: move like a King this turn.
- Rook: jump over a single piece and continue moving as normal.
- Knight: exchange the positions of any/all pieces in the 8 squares around it. Pieces may not be placed off the edge of the board.
- Pawn (forward move): push the piece in front of it one space back. If other pieces are in the way, move them back as well. If a piece is pushed off the board, it is captured.
- King: teleport to any empty space.
- Queen: capture all pieces in the 8 spaces around it. If any of those pieces are yours, your opponent captures them.

Lots of interesting challenges and decisions, but it makes for a pretty crazy game!

- Qwib

Joined: 04/08/2012
Backwards chess

Years ago in high school, my best friend and I were playing chess. After this game we started a new game. Then I came up with an interesting concept. We would set the pieces as normal. The only difference in this varient is that we sat in the same seats but his pieces in front of him were my tokens and my chess tokens were his. To play the game we would start in reverse. When we were down it was like resetting the game pieces backwards like in a normal start position. Captures were allowed. It was fun and a little difficult at first, but we managed this version of Backwards Chess.

Traz's picture
Joined: 04/06/2009
Chessmen of Mars

My very first game design [when I was 14] was to 'fix' JETAN - the chess variant E.R. Burroughs created as a plot device for the John Carter of Mars series [recently made into an awesome movie - the 1st book, CHESSMEN comes much later].

I finally created actual pieces for this variant and it turned out quite well. I put it up on BGG as a PNP first and later as a game for sale under my title, EAGLES & KINGS here:

My point with all this - if you create a decent variant that you have fun with, write up the rules and post it on BGG in the PNP section and share! You might just find others that will enjoy as well!

Joined: 10/24/2012
Print and play

Traz, thanks for the reminder about BGG's print-and-play (PNP) site. What an easy way to get people playing our games! And I really like the look of the pieces you designed.

That reminds me that when I was about 16 I found a book in the library called "Games of the World", which introduced me to Chinese Chess and Japanese Chess. The latter was a bit complicated for me at the time, but I really liked Chinese Chess with the Cannons and Elephants and I drew up a board and all the pieces on my Apple II computer and printed them, cut them out, and stuck them to some small checkers. My first PNP! An added twist to this story... I also programmed from scratch (in Turbo Pascal) the application that I used to draw the pieces.

And thanks for the Backwards Chess idea, Stormyknight. I'll definitely try that one with my kids!


Joined: 11/13/2008
Another variant

I have an idea already long time rolling in my head for another cool variant!

There are 2 decks of cards:
first deck has 64 cards with every possible square of chess-board (A1, A2,.., H7,H8)
second deck has 32 cards with treasure (there are different chess-pieces and treasure-values in these cards)

In any time there is no any treasure in the chess board one card is drawn from both decks and these show the location of treasure (f.e. there is treasure with value "3" beatable by knight in location C4)
If there are no chess-piece on the board showed on the card or the location is already occupied the new card is drawn from the correct deck.

First player who reaches in this square with proper chess-piece gets the card.
(Other pieces can´t be enterer in this square!)

Game ends if one of the two decks is exhausted and winner is the player with the most treasure value.
If any player win regular way.

Adds lot of multiple strategies and trap-building to the regular chess. :)

Joined: 04/08/2012
To Qwib

Your quite welcome. Let us know how it went on the Backwards Chess.

Joined: 09/23/2014
A friend of mine and I came

A friend of mine and I came up with this great chess variant we called Push chess. Instead of capturing pieces, you push them. The goal is to get as many pieces (yours and your opponent's) off the edge of the board closest to your opponent. Victory goes to the one who has the most points in the end, with the pieces having their classical values and the kings being worth 50 points.

X3M's picture
Joined: 10/28/2013
Chess variants? How about one

Chess variants?
How about one of the oldest chess variant there is in the books?

The same rules as ever, but you have to hit when you can do so.
With multiple hit choices, you can of course choose.

This results in having to cover as much as possible pieces, including your queen. When one piece goes out in front, it is often a suicide attack, trying to get 2 or more pieces out there.

But the main point is that there will be a situation that one of the players needs to move, but will loose an important piece in the process. Since it is going to be lured in.

Joined: 10/08/2015
All chess variants ever?

Look at Infinite: The card game

This game concept creates an opportunity to play games that are similar to chess... and games that are a bit further away. But the basic premise is to make and publish cards for any fairy chess piece people want.. and have it described on the card.

Absolutely. If you want nicer pieces just order them.

Want to play Shogi, Chaturanga, Mongolian chess but have difficulty finding pieces?
No worries.. just order from a site that allows to pick from classic pieces to making your own!

I want special rules that Apply to all pieces/ rules of the game.. can these vary too?
Of course! just look at the reference cards that come with base rules. Similar to fluxx or other rule changing games, play rules for the game and keep.. or even play a game where the rules change during the game!

Stealthpike's picture
Joined: 12/30/2015
Monster Chess

Here's an interesting variation One player is playing normal chess. King can't move into Check, etc. Just like normal. The other player starts with a king and 2 pawns. That is it. His advantage is that for every move the "normal" player makes, he gets to go twice (so player order would be Player 1, Player 2, Player 2, Player 1, Player 2, Player 2, etc.) The "Monster" player can move his king into check, as long as on his second turn, he moves his king out of check (so a king can capture a pawn that is protected by a rook, as long as he moves out of the Rook's attack squares immediately afterwards.

lewpuls's picture
Joined: 04/04/2009
A generalized discussion

A generalized discussion about making simple chess variants, on my "Game Design" youtube channel:

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