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Jumbling the Rules of Chess, Eight Different Ways

By Heather Alexandra on at

Chess is a game of seemingly endless complexity, each new match expanding into an intricate weave of strategies, gambits, and countermoves. It only gets stranger if you decide to throw out the rulebook.

Chesses is a new browser-based game that does just that, with game modes that pack the board to the brim with pieces or make them fall “down” to the bottom. Created by Concordia University assistant professor and game designer Pippin Barr, Chesses offers eight new ways to play Chess. (Barr’s also made various games based on Greek myths.) These rules range from tame to absurd. Chance mode randomly transforms your selected piece on each turn. Lite mode automatically moves your pieces into optimal position the moment you choose one.

Those aren’t so bad, but it gets a little trickier in other modes, like the one where your pieces move as far as possible until they hit something, or quadruple on each turn.

These rules push Chess into strange new heights. Seeing how much the game breaks apart when rules are changes stresses how well-designed the normal version is. Chesses’ various modes are goofy, sure, but they’re a case study in how one tweak can turn a centuries-beloved classic into something that’s completely broken.

Other developers had toyed with Chess before. Zach Gage’s mobile game Really Bad Chess completely randomised each player’s pieces, leading to all kinds of scenarios. Chesses is cut from a similar cloth. It’s fun but a solid lesson in game design.

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