Insidious Chess: A Chess Variant

Updated on December 25, 2017

Insidious Chess

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Who is Insidious Chess for? Perhaps those bored with the game of chess are looking for something new. Chess beginners will also find something that may be more entertaining than standard chess. This variant offers deeper tactical play and whacky randomness that is available to all ages. The best part is that it is free! The only requirements are a standard chess set and a standard deck of cards.

The Rules

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The game starts like a normal game of chess but players will choose a class type based on the tables below. Normal chess rules apply. Players can make one move a turn like normal. Instead of a move, a player can play a spell or another card type. Some card types allow the player to move after or before the card is played. In general, spells substitute a move, unless the card says otherwise. Players can only play one card a turn. Each player will select a suit of cards. Hearts = Warrior, Spades = Necromancer, Clubs = Rogue, Diamonds = Wizard. Players will choose 3 cards at random and after playing a card they can select a new card from their draw pile. Only 3 enchantments may be in play at any time. If a fourth is cast then it will remove the oldest enchantment. Be careful as some cards will break the rules which can be fun, however, at times there will be some rules broken which involve the king. If this happens the default response is that game-breaking rules against the king should be avoided or have the turn redone. Most of the cards protect against this but the human brain always finds a way to exploit the rules!


There are 3 card types. Spells, enchantments, and interrupts. Spells are actively cast during a player's turn and often consists of being the move for that turn unless the card says otherwise. Interrupts can be played at any time during the game before or after a move, but will still allow your opponent to take their turn. Enchantments are lingering spells that affect the permanent rules of the game and are played after a turn unless the card states otherwise.

The Warrior

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Warriors will play using tactics and will often be manipulating the moves a piece can make. The focus is on the power of knights and the backbone of any army, the pawn. Warriors are one of the easier classes to learn and their moves and style will seem more basic than other classes.

Card
Type
Ability
2 of Hearts
Spell
Move a pawn forward 3 spaces.
3 of Hearts
Interrupt
Swap a Knight and a Bishop before or after your move.
4 of Hearts
Spell
Move a Pawn sideways 1 square.
5 of Hearts
Spell
Move a Pawn naturally, and the piece behind it may follow.
6 of Hearts
Spell
A Warrior’s Knight may move twice a turn but only capture once.
7 of Hearts
Enchantment
All Pawns can capture moving forward.
8 of Hearts
Spell
Any piece can move like a Knight but not capture on this turn.
9 of Hearts
Spell
After your move you may replace a Bishop with a Knight permanently.
10 of Hearts
Spell
A Rook can jump over one piece and capture as normal unless the captured piece would be a King.

The Necromancer

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Necromancers survive by reanimating dead pieces and manipulating what pieces are really playing. A necromancer may appear to be out of the game only to emerge victoriously. Thier bishops are the heart of their repertoire.

Card
Type
Ability
2 of Spades
Interrupt
Destroy one of your own Pawns.
3 of Spades
Spell
After your move, if your opponent has more Pawns than you, you can add a Pawn to your army in its original starting position.
4 of Spades
Spell
After your move, choose one Pawn to be invincible during your opponents next turn.
5 of Spades
Spell
The Necromancer can summon their queen back from the dead, however, the queen can only move one space in any direction instead of their normal movement pattern. The Queen must be placed somewhere in their own back rank.
6 of Spades
Enchantment
Choose a square, any piece touching the square becomes a Bishop while on that square. The Bishop can then make a turn as Bishop but after the turn it will return to its normal rank once it is on a new square.
7 of Spades
Spell
Resurrect a captured Pawn and return them to any of the 4 center squares that are open.
8 of Spades
Spell
Combine 3 Pawns to make a Bishop. Place the Bishop on one of its original starting squares and then take a turn.
9 of Spades
Spell
The necromancer may legally move an opponent’s piece, but may not capture with it.
10 of Spades
Spell
Revive a dead Bishop and place it into its starting location. Do this after your move.

The Rogue

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Rogues are the tricksters often making the game complete chaos. Their style of play will require very deep thinking and can often be self-harming if not played right. They test your opponents patience because all laws of the game will be rewritten by the rogue class.

Card
Type
Ability
2 of Clubs
Spell
Move one of your pieces and legally capture your own piece.
3 of Clubs
Enchantment
If all 4 corners of the board are filled with non Rooks then the Rogue may imprison any enemy piece until the enchantment is destroyed. Once the enchantment is destroyed the enemy piece can return to its starting location, but only if the square is available. If it is occupied by something else then the piece can never return to play again.
4 of Clubs
Enchantment
Pawns can not be promoted while this enchantment is in play. Pawns will just sit stuck in the back rank.
5 of Clubs
Spell
The Rogue skips a turn but forces their opponent to capture a piece during their next turn if the option is available.
6 of Clubs
Enchantment
Turn the board 90 degrees in any direction. The new back rank coincides with the turn of the board. The Rogue must play this enchantment instead of their turn.
7 of Clubs
Spell
Backstab any or your opponents Pawns that have crossed over the half way point of the board and remove them from the game permanently. This is your turn.
8 of Clubs
Interupt
If you completely surround an enemy piece the piece joins your side.
9 of Clubs
Spell
One of your Pawns can capture diagonally backwards this turn.
10 of Clubs
Enchantment
Write down a square number on a piece of paper. If your opponent’s non King lands on it the trap is triggered killing the piece and the enchantment is discarded. The square must currently be empty.

The Wizard

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Wizards represent the most loyal path to the original gameplay of chess by countering plays and attempting to keep the world stable. The wizard also has access to powerful game-changing spells that can leave a hole in the enemies defenses as well as your own.

Card
Type
Ability
2 of Diamonds
Interrupt
Counter any spell or other Interrupt as it is played. Your opponent can then make their move as normal.
3 of Diamonds
Interrupt
Destroy any enchantment after or before your move.
4 of Diamonds
Spell
Instead of your turn, randomly select one of your opponent’s cards to be discarded permanently.
5 of Diamonds
Spell
After your move you may copy any one of of your opponents spells in the discard pile.
6 of Diamonds
Interrupt
Look at all the cards in your draw pile. Select one and put it into your hand.
7 of Diamonds
Enchantment
If you have one Pawn left on the board then you can immediately promote it wherever it stands.
8 of Diamonds
Interrupt
Your opponent can not play a card during your turn or their next turn.
9 of Diamonds
Spell
You may explode one of your Pawns killing every other piece around it including the Pawn. Kings are immune to the explosion.
10 of Diamonds
Spell
A Lightning bolt can be cast by either of your Bishops. The bolt kills every piece in any ONE direction diagonally from the Bishop. Your own Bishop will also die during the spell. Kings are immune to lightning bolts.

Customization

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Feel free to make your own classes or skills. Each deck still has the face cards that are not assigned to any ability. This leaves room for growth and creativeness. There is room for some defensive spells that protect the king or maybe a class that can heal dead pieces. Your own imagination is the limit!

I created this variant of chess using several different games that I have encountered over the years in my life and I wanted it to be something free and customizable by those who played it. I hope you enjoy it.

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