This was revealed to me in dreams. I saw the sum of all Games, as it was recorded at the end of times. I saw the games, and all the glory and misery they caused. I saw wars, both metaphorical in the board and literal in the fields. I saw flame, greed and hunger taking out three-quarters of all lives, and the remaining quarter quarreled over which pieces were canon and true to the game, alluding to millennia of changes, adaptations and replication. I saw men and women fight over a Truth that did not exist, but in their minds, for the ancient game they alluded was no more, but persisted, moving upon the face of the waters, among the formless void. I was asked to give testimony of what I saw, so that men and women of understanding may understand The Name of the Game.

Abandoned chess pieces

  • Archers may come down from their Towers (rooks) and move up to two spaces in a single cardinal direction only to attack an opposing piece at a perpendicular direction from the one they moved (i.e. if the Archers moved «up» the attack can only be performed to the «left» or «right»). If the attack fails for any reason, the Tower stays abandoned.
  • Battering Rams needs its three pieces to be assembled on-site in a single file or rank (that is, the three pieces need to lay together in a single file or rank). Can only attack buildings.
  • Builders don't attack, but dig material from the squares adjacent to them. For every turn they dig, their own square gains in height.
  • Chariots move in a single cardinal direction, agreed upon before the start of the game. Once a chariot has reached the edge of the chessboard and cannot more anymore, it will be «promoted» to a Settlement.
  • Dogs cannot be captured, maimed, scratched or even kicked, lest the offending player wish to escalate the fight from the chessboard into martial arts.
  • Dragons move like Queens but only in the z=1 plane (i.e. above the chessboard plane). Dragons may only capture if standing directly above an enemy piece.
  • Goats move up to three squares in any cardinal direction, in any combination (e.g. an «Up, Right, Up» is valid). Goats may climb over height differentials of up to 80 degrees. Refer to your Trigonometry tables if needed.
  • Horses move in line, obeying family hierarchy. Unless the First Male is properly tamed, the line moves unimpeded and captures all smaller pieces.
  • Inquisitors can only target Enemies by Faith and never attacks directly. When an Inquisitor and its group corner an Enemy by Faith (i.e. leave it with no liberties), they can perform Public Executions and purge the Enemy's side altogether. The Villagers adjacent will be permanently marked and will never answer to a new Enemy by Faith.
  • Mercenaries move like Knights, but cannot be part of a player's initial army; they must be bought. Please note that the currency to use must be agreed upon by both players before the game starts.
  • Monkeys may move on elevated terrain unimpeded.
  • Oxen move and capture in a boustrophedon pattern around the whole chessboard.
  • Pikers move in the cardinal directions and capture when they are at right angles of a single piece.
  • Pigs will cry if disturbed, and their cry will be heard and always assumed to be an alarm. If a pig is captured, it will provide their owner's army with a week's worth of rations and two patches of pigskin.
  • Rabbits move two squares in any cardinal or diagonal direction, jumping over one square . If the Rabbit hops over a smaller creature, it may make a second movement in a single turn.
  • Rats move up to two spaces in any cardinal direction, including the z-axis (above and below the chessboard plane).
  • Roosters may move an extra single square in any direction in the first turn after sunrise.
  • Settlements don't move, but are semi-permeable to attacks from his own color- In other words, regular attacks from the enemy side cannot go through a settlement, but a friendly piece can attack as if the settlement wasn't there.
  • Snakes move 3 squares at a time in a slithering pattern (e.g. «Left, then Up, then Right»). All squares must be free for the move to be done. While moving, Snakes don't provoke attacks.
  • Submarines are placed in position before the game starts and their square coordinates saved and passed onto an arbiter. A player may declare that instead of moving, they will search for submarines and announce a square to check. If the opponent placed a submarine on that square, the submarine is captured. Submarines can only capture if an opposing piece is lying on its same square, and by doing so the Submarine is placed on the board, its position known to the enemy. Submarines cannot capture aerial pieces.
  • Tigers move seemingly at random, but are focused on a single prey. All attacks done from a higher ground will succeed unless the attacked party has 3 or more members.
  • Warrior Monks are immune to all single-target ranged attacks. Before the game begins, a player with Warrior Monks must establish which of the animals of the Zodiac will be mimicked for movement: Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Goat, Monkey, Rooster, Dog, Pig

Forgotten chess pieces

  • Apostles move in diagonals, but only one square at a time. Their movement changes as soon as the Messiah comes into play, but this hasn't been observed to happen in any recorded game.
  • Archaeologists drop in at any empty space on the board, but only after receiving approval from a Department Head, Dean, or Private Investor. They don't move, but may capture any piece that lands on its digging site. The initial digging site is all 8 adjacent squares. Captured pieces stay in place and extend the digging site to their own adjacent squares. When funding runs out, the Archaeologist is expelled from the game and all captured pieces may move again.
  • Giant Death Robots cannot exist as part of a player's initial army, and must be built on-site. The building time and power must follow a strict cubic curve. If a player wishes to use GDRs, they must state so before the game starts and both players must agree. If necessary, the number of armies and size of the chessboard will change accordingly.
  • Observation balloons and Observation kites can discern the position of ground units behind the front line of the enemy, but must remain anchored to a point in the ground. If their line is severed by any attack (including friendly fire) the balloon will fly away, and the kite observer will fall to the ground.
  • Samurai cannot attack any piece of lower power. Even if an enemy piece is on the movement path of a Samurai, it doesn't count as «under threat» until the attack is declared and accepted by both parties. If you lose the game with Samurai alive, they become Ronin and it's your responsibility to spread them around the world in new chessboards. When the time comes, you will know when and where to leave them.
  • Spies move and capture as pawns until the opponent says the Activation phrase. The Activation phrase is decided before the game starts by a neutral third party. After being activated, Spies switch sides.
  • Rangers can discern either direction or type of any animal tracks they come across, but not both. Before the game starts, but after the opponent has stated their use of animals, a player must disclose which kind of information the Rangers will discern.
  • Ronin can be employed if they happen to wander into the game. After being employed, Ronin become a new piece, which one will depend on the exact nature of the agreement.

Forgiven, but still outcast chess pieces

  • Apostates moves like a Bishop, but cannot be placed within 3 squares (taxicab distance) from any other Bishop of any color.
  • Berserkers move in a single 8-direction towards the nearest piece of any color and engages in combat. If victorious, the Berserker must move the next turn.
  • Conquistadors will only move to already occupied squares as if they were empty. They will only fight against a numerically and technologically inferior opponent. Their direct attack is mildly effective, but will infect the opposing pieces and opposing player with smallpox, measles and influenza.
  • Drones have their movements preset, but you don't know them. All information will be given on a «need-to-know» basis. Just press the button when ordered.
  • Heresiarchs will confound Apostles if given enough time. They will form their own side. Can only be purged with public executions.
  • Machine Guns can only attack a numerically and/or technologically inferior force. Two or more Machine Guns must be adjacent to attack. All pawn-class pieces parallel to the line of fire (up to 3 spaces away) are eliminated in a single attack, but the psychological damage is unavoidable. Repeatedly saying «I was just following orders» will keep the damage at bay only temporarily, and will only make matters worse.
  • Soothsayers can discern the outcome of the game, but require a suitable reading medium.
  • Vampires are regular pawns, but can only move if you're playing at night. They capture as pawns, but cannot be captured except for Pieces of Faith. Any other capturing move on them will end in the attacker's death.

Forbidden chess pieces

  • The Ancient Army waits patiently for its General to return. They will answer to no one and continue their training day and night. Their current location is unknown. If they appear in your chessboard, it is advised to abandon it forever and start a new game.
  • The Antipope is not on your side and must be eliminated. Their identity can only be determined by a Council of 3 or more Bishops or after they make themselves public with a Bull or Council of their own.
  • The Barehanded Fighter will not kill, unless their own life is at risk. The Fighter only engages with foes they deem powerful enough. All combat is a chance to increase their skill.
  • The Cavalry will arrive just in time to turn the tide of battle, once per lifetime.
  • The Deathbird was there at the beginning and will only act at the very end.
  • The Firing Squad will only be brought when a losing player asks for it. All but one of their arms contain blanks.
  • The Guru is disguised among the kibitzers and will never identify themselves as such. Only the worthy will listen. When they are in play, there can be no losses, for there are greater rewards.
  • The Rightful Heir will win their place as King, but only after hardships and learning their True Lessons. If they don't learn, the Kingdom is doomed.
  • The Scribes have the total sum of all chess games, even the ones not played on a board. Your move has already been recorded for posterity. This document is but a pale mirage of THE LIBRARY they maintain.


I'm not a game designer and these were written favoring lore and flavor over actual balanced or sane gameplay. Use them in your game at your own peril.

The original «challenge», if you want to call it something, was to take each and every unit in Civ 6 and turn it into a chess piece. By that metric I failed, but that's because some of the units are improvements on a mostly similar theme (many of the unique units are improved versions of a basic unit, e.g. the Viking Longship being an improvement over the Galley, but very similar gameplay-wise).

Of course, the project grew and grew beyond its original limits, and in my mind I started creating the idea of a single, mythical repository of all chess pieces past and future. I imagined myself being granted the vision of parts of this document and writing down the residual images left after my rapture. I would then bring into «the present» the vision of Chess to come, not unlike John in the Book of Revelations.

There's no grand order for these. Very generally speaking, my division is as follows:

  1. Abandoned pieces are the ones with very specific, «novel» or otherwise potentially interesting gameplay, even if they had no deeper lore.
  2. Forgotten pieces are the ones that, in my mind, were at some point part of the official ruleset and later abandoned mostly for practicality purposes.
  3. The Forgiven pieces are the ones that represent concepts, pieces and generally darker parts of Chess history that will have been discussed, accepted, caused damage and later dropped. In my mind, these are---lore-wise---the things that a prophet with visions of the future would want to warn about. The cataclysmic, the schismatic, the hurtful, the divisive... We know little about the precise movements/mechanics of these pieces, and more about the scars they left behind.
  4. The Forbidden pieces are the ones we know only through divine inspiration, divination, necromancy and generally through doing something that wasn't supposed to be. These were never meant to be known to humans.

I'm sure I saw a post very similar to this somewhere on the internet, but I haven't been able to track it down. My—possibly faulty—memory tells me it was either something on Tumblr, or part of Uel Aramchek's great and wonderful fiction. If you know of something similar, please tell me about it so I can properly attribute the original idea.

2021-05-03: First version. Part of SciFiQuest 3021: The Quest From the Black Lagoon Postscript: Only after publishing this I realize that some languages (like Spanish) call the Knight piece as "Horse" or something similar, so I should come up with a solution so that the set of Chinese Zodiac animals is complete...