Magess [prototype] [boardgame]

edited in Projects
Say hello to MAGESS: A fast-paced skirmish game won and lost on poker-face bluffs and chess-level tacical command!


I managed to finally rope some playtesters for this little idea I've had for a while - I'm calling it Magess for now, and it's my idea of changing Chess to be less deterministic, more bluffing, customisable, yet still maintain the tactical flavour of the original Chess. (It started its life being called Magic Chess :P)

What you need to play:

The game can be played with
> a regular Chess board, and
> two sets of Poker cards.
(I did make custom cards for myself - thanks Minuteman Press... If anyone is interested in Print n Play lemme know and I'll upload the file, but Poker cards are the easiest to get hold of.)

A summary:

> The game is played on half a chess board (Thanks to @Rigormortis for this suggestion! It's super cool!),
> Each player chooses their two generals before the game starts. You can choose any two of these: Rooks, Bishop, Knight. You can have two different ones or two same ones. This is a bit like deckbuilding in CCGs.
> You play the game by playing cards out of your hand of four cards to move pieces.
> You always maintain a hand size of 4, so you draw up after each move.
> You can also throw away two cards to draw two cards, forgoing a move.
> You can only move pieces that you have cards of (in hand), except:
> You can also move the piece corresponding to the top card of your discard pile by discarding any card from your hand - therefore you can always move the same piece two turns in a row. This is called Doubling.
> This is a Chess game with hidden information and bluffing!

You can download the full rules PDF here:

Playtest experience:

Playtesting had been super revealing, as I'm not a very good Chess player myself, I didn't see the game in the same way people who played Chess more expertly than I did - it was interesting to see how they reacted to the mechanics originally - when I didn't have it at half-board the game dragged out and the seasoned Chess players didn't enjoy the game as they couldn't execute their original understanding of the original Chess game.

So halving the battleground created some really cool choices - first of all the selection of pieces so that players had meaningful choices before the game started, and made the game sharper and faster - even more enjoyable for non-Chess veterans, and changed the game enough such that veterans didn't feel chained, but instead it really felt like they were playing a new, different, yet familiar game.

Besides that we added a sidestep for the Bishop - as having a half-board severely limited its movement - so much that it was almost unusable and therefore would probably never be selected. The sidestep allowed it to change its aspect (I like to think of it as a Shaman of the Night - able to switch between Day and Night aspects like a Werewolf :P) and remain relevant throughout the game much more.

What I still wanna do:

> More playtesting! Please try it out if it sounds like fun! :D
> Add a 4 player variant/expansion.
> Change up the scoring system (especially for the 4P variant since player elimination would suck) to be valued per capture or something.
> Create "original pieces" for the game - so they really move away from being "just Chess with cards" - @Rigormortis suggested this too, I think it's a great idea, and one day I could 3D print my own custom pieces for Magess XD
> New, different kings? New, different generals?
> What else? :)

Cool - any input would be super appreciated! I know it's hard testing multiplayer stuff XD But it's what I love most about games :) So... I'll keep bashing multiplayer stuff out I guess!!! XD

Thanks for reading!! :D




  • @Tuism - super cool idea. The "half a chess board" reminds me a bit of my Cool Guy Chess prototype which i believe you and @Rigormortis tried out...Mmmmmm
  • @FanieG in fact this is the Chess variant I mentioned while on your Cool Guy Chess thread :)
  • Thought as much - it sounds really cool. Wish i didn't live so far out and could attend these meets. Would have really liked to give this a go. Thanks for posting the rule set, i'll see if i can round up a few friends and give it a go.
  • That seems like an interesting variant on chess. I don't think that I'm in a position to try it at the moment, but I think that I wouldn't mind giving it a shot at some ^_^

    A minor point regarding Doubling: if I understand correctly, it's not quite true that you can always use it to move the same piece twice: if you have only one card for a given piece in your hand, which you choose to discard, a card showing another piece on the discard pile and your next draw doesn't include another of the card that you discard, then you can Double with the card on the discard pile, but you may not manage to Double on the next move. After the first Double, the discard pile now has a new piece showing, which you didn't move last, and while you can use the same rule to move the piece corresponding to the new top discard you'll presumably end up putting something else on that after doing so, and not have another in your hand, preventing your moving the same piece twice. This does, however, presume that drawing a new card is a move of its own, thus "breaking" such a streak, or that you never again in that game get a card corresponding to the new discard top.
  • I'll be bringing the prototype to the meetup, if anyone wants to have a play :)

    I just wanted to make Chess more interesting and accessible, I have another version of "resource-based" Chess bouncing around in my head :P

    Re: Doubling

    I guess "always" is not quite right, but the intent is that you can always use it to move the piece you previously played out of your hand, eliminating the possibility of running in headlong and being stuck without possibility of escape for whatever reason.

    And thus... "you can always move the same piece two turns in a row", and not "always being able to move the piece you previously moved", if that makes sense to you? The limit to two turns in a row is intentional :)
  • Haven't played this, so don't know how relevant it would be, but there's a variation of Chess (called Doubles) played with two boards and four players that I absolutely adored back in high school. It's a 2v2 matchup where every piece a player captures is given to his partner in a kind of "hand" that can be played on the other board.

    So, for example, on Team A, player 1 captures a bishop. He gives it to Team A player 2, who can use his turn to place the bishop in any free square on the board instead of moving a piece, as long as it doesn't place the enemy king in check. Pawns have a special rule where they can only be played on the 2-6th rows, afaik (to prevent them from being queened too easily).

    We had to change the rules a bit to force people to make their moves relatively quickly; otherwise they'd do something we called "stalling", where a player pretends to be thinking about what move to make, but is actually waiting for his partner to capture a piece for him so that he could get out of an otherwise tricky situation.

    In case that helps. :)
  • @Elyaradine are you a "good chess player"? It's very interesting to see experienced Chess players engaging with the idea, I wish I could get more testing with both sides of the chess divide!

    I did some research previously and I saw that - it's called Bughouse Chess from what I've seen :)

    From what I've read it's a super fun variant on chess because it changes the game up - it appeals to the super hardcore Chess player because it essentially doubles/triples the complexity of Chess without introducing hidden information, and probably not what I want. For me it sounds like it turns chess into Starcraft - too much management... When I really wanted to make Chess more accessible, easier, while not making it dumber, if that makes sense?

    TLDR; More like Magic, more like Netrunner, more like a "boardgame", less like this epic, daunting, too-many-choices war :P
  • Ha, okay. Yeah, I'm more of a "good chess player" I guess. :P
  • Heh, that's cool, I'd be interested to see how you engage with the game :)

    @Rigormortis's reaction to it was super interesting as he's somewhere in between me (not a Chess player, knows the rules) and you ("good chess player"), and he had some really interesting perspective. For me, I want to find a happy medium that can be shared between the two, whether that's folly or not, I'm not sure :P
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