5D Chess Has Completely Broken Me

By Nathan Grayson on at

The other day, my partner and I were discussing time travel, and I brought up recent science surrounding the multiverse theory – that it’s mathematically possible for multiple (though not necessarily infinite) branching universes to exist, and time travel would merely cause us to move between them, sans paradoxes. I felt smart, having said that. Now, after playing a chess game sort-of based on that idea, I feel dumb as rocks.

5D Chess With Multiverse Time Travel’s name sums up exactly what it is yet also explains nothing. While you start out with a standard chess layout, some pieces can travel right off the board and onto past iterations of it. Each time you or your opponent does this, it creates a new timeline that you also have to account for during subsequent moves. It takes very few moves for shit to get wacky. In my current game, I have two kings on one board and four bishops on another. You lose when you cannot make enough legal moves across your existential nightmare headache explosion of boards to complete your turn.

Now, I am not a chess person. I know what all the pieces do, but unless we’re playing in a park and a squirrel knocks over our board and birds steal several of your pieces and I paid the squirrel and the birds, I’m probably not gonna win. That said, I still have enough of a grasp on chess and, more importantly, the human mind’s linear perception of time, to know I am far from alone in feeling like my brain is being cracked open and fried like a scrambled egg while reading rules like this:

Triagonals? Quadragonals? Fuck you.

But also, it’s actually remarkably elegant for what it is. Placing boards in arrays such that forward or diagonal moves can be done on a single board or across timelines, and keeping those capabilities consistent regardless of whether a piece is doing a normal move or a dimensional move? That’s pretty brilliant. Also, the game recommends attacking past kings, because “history cannot be altered” to change its location, and that might be one of the best introductory pieces of advice a game has ever given me. My brain is definitely broken, but I’m not entirely lost, is what I’m saying.

Oh, and the little scene that plays out the first time you send a piece back in time is very cute:

Fly, little bishop! Fly!

At any rate, I’m just glad that now if anybody tries to say that Trump, or any politician, for that matter, is making galaxy brain moves on a 12-dimensional chess board, we can point out that they probably couldn’t even handle five.