How to Play Insidious Chess: A Chess Variant

Updated on October 4, 2019
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PageBeard enjoys creating chess variants and sharing them with others.

Find out how to play this fun chess variant.
Find out how to play this fun chess variant. | Source

About Insidious Chess

Who is Insidious Chess for? Perhaps those bored with the game of chess who 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 wacky 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.

All you need to play Insidious Chess is a standard chess set and a standard deck of cards.
All you need to play Insidious Chess is a standard chess set and a standard deck of cards. | Source

The Rules

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.

Breaking the Rules

Be careful as some cards will break the rules, which can be fun; however, at times there will be some rules broken that 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!

Card Types

There are 3 card types: spells, interrupts, and enchantments.

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

Learn about the Warrior cards.
Learn about the Warrior cards. | Source

The Warrior

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.

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

The Necromancer

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. Their bishops are the heart of their repertoire.

2 of Spades
Destroy one of your own Pawns.
3 of Spades
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
After your move, choose one Pawn to be invincible during your opponents next turn.
5 of Spades
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
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
Resurrect a captured Pawn and return them to any of the 4 center squares that are open.
8 of Spades
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
The necromancer may legally move an opponent’s piece, but may not capture with it.
10 of Spades
Revive a dead Bishop and place it into its starting location. Do this after your move.
Learn about the cards in the Rogue deck.
Learn about the cards in the Rogue deck. | Source

The Rogue

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.

2 of Clubs
Move one of your pieces and legally capture your own piece.
3 of Clubs
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
Pawns can not be promoted while this enchantment is in play. Pawns will just sit stuck in the back rank.
5 of Clubs
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
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
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
If you completely surround an enemy piece the piece joins your side.
9 of Clubs
One of your Pawns can capture diagonally backwards this turn.
10 of Clubs
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.
Learn about the cards in the Wizard deck.
Learn about the cards in the Wizard deck. | Source

The Wizard

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.

2 of Diamonds
Counter any spell or other Interrupt as it is played. Your opponent can then make their move as normal.
3 of Diamonds
Destroy any enchantment after or before your move.
4 of Diamonds
Instead of your turn, randomly select one of your opponent’s cards to be discarded permanently.
5 of Diamonds
After your move you may copy any one of of your opponents spells in the discard pile.
6 of Diamonds
Look at all the cards in your draw pile. Select one and put it into your hand.
7 of Diamonds
If you have one Pawn left on the board then you can immediately promote it wherever it stands.
8 of Diamonds
Your opponent can not play a card during your turn or their next turn.
9 of Diamonds
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
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.
You can customize this variant to your liking.
You can customize this variant to your liking. | Source


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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