By Kalle Marjola 1991,1994,1997

Update x.11.94, fixed melee rules, movement and firing, new spells and special abilities.
Updated x.3.97, rewrote some rules and clarified and balanced them

Not for commercial use, all rights reserved by author.

About ChessWar!

ChessWar is a strategic game for two players. It is meant to be played on standard chessboard with standard chess pieces although it can also be used on any kind of battlefield made of squares. It is NOT chess with dice and some extra rules! Instead, it is strategic game played with chess pieces. So, pieces are not automatically captured, some pieces (units) have ranged attacks and all your pieces (units) may move during your turn.

Required Components:

Object in ChessWar! is similar to standard chess: Kill enemy king (called general or warlord etc. in ChessWar!) unless players want to have a lengthened game for total destruction (see extra rules).

Note: For simplicity all references to players are made with 'he'. Readers may substitute she instead of he in all places.


All chess pieces are used to represent some kind of unit of your army.

King represents your king, warlord or general and his heartguards.
Queen represents mighty wizard or similar magician of your army.
Rooks represent your catapults, siege engines or giant troops. Rooks usually have long range support attacks.
Bishop represents your archers or other similar ranged units.
Knights represent your cavalry, was it 20 knightmen with war horses or two dozen wolf riders.
Pawns represent your core army, is it 50 pikemen, beastmen or fearsome zombies and skeletons.

Each unit has certain attributes which are used to represents its combat abilities.

Move is speed of the unit. Unit may move up to this number of squares each round in normal conditions. Movement can be done laterally or diagonally.
Save represents the toughness and morale of the unit. In most cases, the unit must make its save by rolling this number of more with d6 (but note that save roll 1 fails always)
Melee is unit close-combat skill and is used to modify melee combat rolls.

In addition to these basic attributes, some units have special abilities like bows or spells.

Starting the Game

1) Choose race 2) Choose army 3) Set-Up 4) Determine starter Now, the game of ChessWar! is ready to begin!

Playing the Game

Gameplay in ChessWar! is divided into so-called turns. Turn consist of one player moving his all troops and then attacking with them. After that it is other player's turn to do the same, and then again the first's. Game is continued that way until either general is dead.

Turn Sequence

Each turn is divided into 3 separate parts that cannot be mixed. In movement phase all units able to move in player's army may be moved. In firing phase all units armed with some kind of ranged attacks may fire them at enemy, and in melee phase all units in hand-to-hand combat attack each other.

Order in each phase is not fixed nor simultaneous. Player may do his actions one at the time, for example choose target by result of previous shot done by his other unit.

Movement phase

Each turn, player is allowed to move every unit in his army which is not currently in melee. Each unit may move up to number of squares equal to its move characteristic and is allowed to make special charge-move after that.



Firing Phase

Some units are armed with some kind of ranged attack like bows, catapults or large boulders. They are allowed to fire at one enemy unit in this phase with their weapons unless they are in melee.

Firing is started by selecting the target unit to attack. Target for attack must be within range of weapons and visible by firer or other unit in their army if weapon can be fired indirectly. Visibility is determined from center of firer's square to center of target's square; any square that is crossed by this line blocks the visibility if any unit is in that square. If this line crosses exactly between two squares, firer is free to choose which one of these two squares is crossed.

If target hit is in melee, roll d6: on roll 1-3 its opponent is hit, too! If faced with multiple opponent's, one randomly determined is hit.


Bows are basic ranged weapon for troops. When fired, select any target unit within 4 squares seen by firer or any other friendly unit, and roll to-hit.
To-hit: 3+ on d6 If target is hit, it must make its save or it is destroyed. Note that if modifier make required roll 7 or more, bows cannot hit!

Long Bows: As bows but have maximum range of 5 and to-hit 2+
Crossbows: As bows but cannot be fired indirectly nor if the unit moved. Target saves at -1.


Catapults are heavy siege engines and can be fired only if unit did not move this turn. Catapults have unlimited range and can be fired indirectly.

Firing procedure: A target square is selected (must be seen by some friendly unit), and scatter roll (d6) is made:
11 square up (toward enemy)
21 square right
31 square down (toward firer)
41 square left
5-6right on target!
If the catapult was fired indirectly, reroll scatter twice.

Any unit in target square is hit on roll 3+ and must make its save at -1 or it is destroyed.

Catapults of Fear: Unit in target square is hit automatically unless immune to fear.
Rocks: Can be fired even if unit moved, but have maximum range of 4 squares and no modifier for target save.

Melee Phase

All own units in melee attack in this phase. Dice is rolled for each attacker and target may be destroyed, routed or combat might be stand-off, which means that it carries to enemy's turn.

If unit is facing 2 or more targets, opponent is free to choose which one unit must attack!

Attack roll (d6)
+Own Melee
-Opponent Melee

6+(*)Defender is destroyed.
5Defender is routed and it must make its save or it is destroyed unless immune to rout. If unit survives this save, refer to 4 (i.e.. new save)
4Defender must make its save or it is destroyed.
2-3Stand-off, melee continues
..1Attacker destroyed unless save is made (if defender is under fear unit saves automatically)
* 6 always causes this result regardless of modifiers

If target is destroyed, one attacker not in melee with any other unit may advance to defender's square. Unit cannot make this advance move diagonally if both adjacent squares are occupied.
On result 1 or less previous defender cannot move to attacker's square even if attacker is destroyed.

Note that scared units (those who have failed fear test) have 1 point lower Melee skill.

Unit Saves

An unit must make its save to survive from lethal damage or to resist some effects like fear or offensive flight.

A saving throw is made with d6 roll, and player must roll same or more than unit's save. If the roll is successful, unit is unaffected. Otherwise it is destroyed (or is scared or moved).

Some attacks or effects have modifiers to roll, but in any case, save roll 1 always fails and roll 6 succeeds!


Most armies can include some kind of wizard in their force which is capable of launching devastating spells.

Each wizard can cast one spell per turn. This spell can be cast during wizard's own turn, or during opponent's turn just before or after wizard's turn if the spell is instant, but no two instant spells can be cast during same opponent's turn.

For example, player A has wizard. During A's turn, the wizard casts 'summon'. During other player's turn the wizard is Zapped!, so player A uses wizard's next turn spell to dispel Zap!. The wizard cannot cast spells on its next turn, because it has already used it. If the wizard hadn't originally cast storm, the dispel would have been spell of the previous turn.

The wizard can cast same spell again and again, but choice of spells is limited by actual type of wizard (see army lists).

Each spell has its own restrictions about when it can be cast:

Instant spells can be cast anytime, even on enemy's turn!

Move, attack and melee spells are cast on appropriate phase of turn.

Summon spells require so much time that wizard cannot move during his movement phase. Spell starts to affect before firing phase, between firing and melee or after melee phase, as decided by wizard.

Zap! (attack)

Storm (summon) Dispel (instant) Protection (instant) Flight (move) Healing (instant) Raise dead (instant) Fear (summon) Plague (summon)

Strike (melee)


There is all armies currently available in ChessWar! All units in each army are in standard order; king first, then queen, rook, bishop, knight and finally pawns.

Attributes for each unit are:
NoMinimum-maximum of this kind of units in army. The final army before set-up must have units of this kind in these boundaries. Note that each army must have 1 general and at least 4 basic infantry units!
CostCost in points per unit of this type
MoveMaximum squares that unit can be move per movement phase (excluding charge). Note that catapults cannot move nor charge.
SaveSaving throw. D6 roll which must be made for unit to survive some attacks (also used for rout and fear tests)
Melee Modifier to melee roll
SpecialAny special abilities

Special abilities:

When this units charges into melee it gains +1 to its Melee for this turn. If the unit itself is charged or melee continues, this bonus does not apply.

Cause Fear:
This unit is very frightening. Any unit wishing to charge this unit must make its save or its movement ends and it cannot enter melee this turn (but it may fire normally).
When this unit charges, target unit must make its save or is at -1 Melee until combat is over (or all fear-causing opponents are dead) and cannot destroy opponent defensively (it still can destroy fear causing opponent during its own turn).
A unit already in melee with fear-causing opponents does not roll new fear save. It is either scared for the entire combat or immune to fear until combat is over.
Immune to Fear:
Unit is immune to fear and does not need to roll fear saves.

Unit is infected with plague; if it is destroyed in melee all units in melee with it or opponent have caught the plague and must make their save at +1 or are destroyed. This unit is also immune to any kind of plague.

Member's of this unit are stupid, very stupid. Each time player wants to move, charge or fire with this unit he must first roll a d6. On a roll of 1-2, the unit is stupid this turn and cannot do anything for the rest of the turn (except fight in melee if already engaged). If the test is passed (3+ rolled) unit can act normally until next turn, when the roll must be remade if any action is desired.

Giant boulders hurled by trolls or giants are counted as catapult attack with maximum range of 4 and no save modifier. Rocks can be thrown even if unit moved.

Human Army

UnitNoCostMoveSave MeleeSpecial
General1522+ +1Immune to Fear
Wizard0-2623+ -1Spells Zap!, Storm, Dispel, Protection, Healing
Catapults0-4304+ -1Catapults
Archers0-4225+ -1Bows
Knights0-4433+ +0Charge
Infantry4-16214+ +0-

Dwarf Army

UnitNoCostMoveSave MeleeSpecial
Warlord1512+ +2Immune to Fear, Crossbows (see below)
Rune Lord0-1812+ +2Immune to Fear, Spells Storm, Dispel, Protection, Anti-magic*
Catapults0-4403+ +0Catapults
Crossbowers0-4412+ +0Crossbows (no move or indirect, -1 saves)
Infantry4-16412+ +1-
Note: Dwarves have no cavalry.
*As long as Rune Lord is alive all friendly units gain additional 5+ save against any magical effect directed at them (like Zap!, Flight and even Raise Dead) if needed to. Indirect effects (like Storm, Fear or Plague) are not affected.

Elf Army

UnitNoCostMoveSave MeleeSpecial
General1733+ +1Charge, Immune to Fear
Wizard0-2833+ -1Charge, Spells Zap!, Dispel, Protection, Healing, Fear
Treemen0-2611+* +1-
Elite Archers0-4425+ 0Long Bows (max range 5, +1 to-hit)
Cavalry0-2433+ +0Charge
Archers4-16225+ -1Bows
*Note that roll 1 always fails anyway.

Undead Army

UnitNoCostMoveSave MeleeSpecial
Liche1112*2+ +1Spells Zap!, Storm, Dispel, Raise Dead, Strike
Necromancer0-2823+ -1Spells Zap!, Storm, Dispel, Raise Dead, Strike
Catapults0-4404+ -2Catapults of Fear (auto-hit unless immune to fear)
Undead Archers0-4226+ -1Bows (-1 to-hit)
Night Riders0-4434+ -1Charge
Zombies4-16215+ -1-
*Liche may move by teleporting. Simply move unit to any empty square in range (even through units). This move can be used to remove Liche from melee, and unit can charge normally after this move.

Special Rules:
All units are undead and therefore subject to following rules:

If all necromancers and liche in army are destroyed all other units are automatically destroyed (if lengthened game played)


UnitNoCostMoveSave MeleeSpecial
Warlord1522+ +1Immune to Fear
Shaman0-2623+ +0Spells Zap!, Dispel, Flight, Protection, Strike
Trolls0-4512+ +1Rocks, Stupid*, Regenerate**
Archers0-4314+ +0Bows
Wolf Riders0-4344+ -1Charge
Orc Boyz4-16213+ +0-
*Trolls are very, very stupid. Each time player wants to move, charge or fire with this unit he must first roll a d6. On a roll of 1-2, the unit is stupid this turn and cannot do anything for the rest of the turn (except fight in melee if already engaged). If the test is passed (3+ rolled) unit can act normally until next turn, when the roll must be remade if any action is desired.

**If Trolls are destroyed, they may regenerate at the end of turn if the square they occupied is still empty. Roll d6, and on roll 3+ trolls are returned back to game. Otherwise they stay dead (and cannot try again to regenerate). If killed again, they may again regenerate.

Chaos Army

UnitNoCostMoveSave MeleeSpecial
Chaos Lord1822+ +2Immune to Fear and Plague, Causes Fear
Sorcerer0-2623+ -1Spells Zap!, Storm, Dispel, Fear, Plague
Giants0-2622+ +1Rocks
Thug Bowmen0-2225+ -1Bows
Chaos Knights0-2633+ +1Charge, Immune to Fear
Beastmen4-16314+ +0Plague

Extra Rules

These rules are optional and must be approved by both players. At least magical items are recommended if played with only one set of chess pieces, or otherwise some armies will become quite dull...

Lengthened Game

If both players like, game could be played to total annihilation of either army instead of general hunt.

In that case, some special rules apply:

When there is only troops of one army left on battlefield the side with most survivors wins. The value of survivors is equal to their points value. In case of draw the army which has last unit in battle field wins.
Home Page of the Author