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The Chess Variant Pages

Make-A-Rule Chess


Version 4.3

Original Idea and rules: Randy King and Nyegosh Dube
Additional rules development: Peter Williamson and Chris Conway
Multi-Player rules and development: Peter, Randy, and Chris


D1) Normal Rules: The Normal rules of the game of chess, as they come in the game when you buy it.

D2) Meta-rules: This accompanying body of rules about how Make-A-Rule Chess (or MAR Chess for short) is played. (abbreviated by R, for ex. R1)

D3) Rules: The rules that will be made and repealed by the players during the game.

D4) Amendments: Changes to the meta-rules that all players may decide to make for this multiverse only. All accepted amendments will have an 'A' prefix.

D5) Fixes: Name for permanent changes to the meta rules as they are realized to be insufficient or overly limiting. All proposed fixes will have a 'F' prefix.

D6) Universe: the "arena" where a single gamelet of the whole multi player game takes place, also used as a synonym for a single gamelet. There will be one universe for each combination of two players.

D7) Multiverse: The set of all the universes comprised in a full multi-player game, also used as a synonym for the game as a whole.

D8) Conventions: Conventions do not affect the play of the game, but set forth ways of specific methods used. All conventions will have a 'C' prefix.

D9) Turn: Refers to one phase for each player.

D10) Phase: Refers to a single "go" for each player, their time to make rules and/or moves in the turn.

D11) Instant Affects: Those rules created by the players that have an instantaneous affect on the game that is not lasting. For instance, creation,destruction, or alteration of a piece or of the board would be an instant affect.

D12) Continuous Affects: Those rules having a persistent nature, such as altering game behaviour.


The Game is the same as conventional Chess except that the players involved have the option of making or repealing rules instead of making a move. The rules made supersede regular chess rules, and are limited by a set of meta-rules:

R1) During a turn, a player may perform one and only one of the following actions:

  1. Make a move in each universe where the player has pieces.
  2. Make a rule for the whole multiverse.
  3. Make a rule for a specific universe, and move a piece in each other universe.
  4. Repeal a specific rule for the whole multiverse.
  5. Repeal a specific rule for a specific universe, and move a piece in each other universe.
  6. Repeal all rules made prior to the previous turn for the whole multiverse.
  7. Repeal all rules made prior to the previous turn for a specific universe, and move a piece in each other universe.

Any of these actions are subject to the rules made during the game and the meta-rules.

R2) A repeal shall be considered a rule which restates the standard rules of chess where the rule it repeals differs. A repeal shall be subject to all the restrictions that would apply to a rule. Repeals of Instant Affects would not alter the game since those rules have stopped working. A repeal cannot undo affects created in the past, but will stop an affect from continuing to occur.

R3) A rule will always supersede rules made prior to it or parts thereof.

R4) No rule shall be retroactive in nature. (Force changes in the game as if it had been in effect before the rule was made)

R5) No rule shall immunize the king from capture, or if the victory conditions change, then no rule shall make victory impossible by an arbitrarily long sequence of legal moves under the current rules structure, assuming no response by the opponent.

R6) All rules shall remain in force for at least one full turn after implementation. Thus, if the opponent's very next move is to repeal the rule or any part thereof, the repeal does not take effect until the end of the next turn of the original rule maker.

R7)No rule shall be made while the proponent of the rule is in a state of check. Check is defined to be the capability of the king to be captured without random elements, or the victory to be consummated by another player on the next turn by a normal move under the current rules structure, if the victory conditions have changed.

R8) The Maxim of Fair Play: The spirit of the maxim of fair play is that no rule shall give the maker unfair advantage. No rule shall be made that increases the power of pieces in that universe if the proponent of the rule has more of said piece than any of his/her opponents in that multiverse, or decreasing the power of a piece, if any of the opponents have more of said piece. Power of a piece is measured in its capability to move to new squares and capture other pieces. Anything extending these capabilities is said to increase the power of the piece, anything restricting these capabilities is said to decrease the power of the piece. Random removal rules shall not be made in circumstances where the expectation of point value lost is greater for any of their opponents in the given universe, or in the multiverse rule if the removal rule affects the whole multiverse. The "Maxim of Fair play" formula shall be used in tricky cases of determining whether this is violated.

R9) No rule shall be made denying the right to move to at least one piece possessed by all players (in any each universe).

R10) No rule shall deny the unconditional right to make or repeal rules. The meta-rules shall be the only stipulations on these actions.

R11) No rule shall be made which immediately removes a piece from any board involved. Rules may dictate how they are to be removed; otherwise, two turns must elapse to provide ample time for all players to respond.

R12) A rule cannot place the opponent in a state of check (or set up a victory via a single legal move), although it could be allowed by random action.

R13) The objective of the game cannot be redefined. (except by amendments changing this meta-rule.)

R14) Each turn, in addition to making normal moves, a player may propose a change to the meta-rules for this game only. Each other player will vote upon these changes when taking his/her turn. If the vote is unanimous, then the new proposed rule will be added as an amendment to the meta- rules for the current game, and supersedes the appropriate meta rules. Of course, there could also be an amendment repealing all previous amendments or this rule, or requiring only a majority...

R15) Whenever a rule is defined, the defining player may specify how a repeal of this rule will reinstate the normal game of chess. If a rule depends on another rule (or set of rules), the rule maker may define how repealing the dependent rules will affect this rule. Remember, repeals must simply reinstate the normal game of chess. If not specified, the repeal of a rule will reinstate the normal rules of chess as modified by the currently active set of rules in the make-a-rule chess game.

R16) No rule shall enable a player to break any of the rules in the meta-rules, except as allowed by R14. For purposes of this rule, a player may be assumed to be any participant in the game, including those empowered through rules, but not limited to them. It is customary for any move made more that one full turn ago, to stand if it wasn't challenged, this is not a rule, but helps keep the game moving.

R17) In mail games, if a player is insufficiently specific, another player may try to clarify the rules by PRESUMING. If the original author does not say anything by the time the presuming player moves again, the presumption is written into the rule. In the interim, any players using a presumption must leave alternate moves if the original author decides that the presumption is not in the spirit of the rules. Alternately, the presuming player is given the opportunity to make a new move.

The Following are clarifications for multi-player games:

M1) If a player chooses the move option for a turn, then he/she may move pieces in all games in which the current rules permit movement.

M2) If a player chooses to make a rule, that rule may apply to the entire multiverse or any one specific universe, as long as it adheres to the standing rules (note especially rule R8).

M3) Each Person shall start with only one real king, all multiverses with more than two players will start with n-2 dummy kings (each), where n is the number of players. Each Player shall designate which king is the real king with their first move.

M4) When a player has lost his/her king (not dummy), capture is required, his/her pieces are removed from the board, unless current rules state otherwise.

M5) If a piece moves from its home universe, is is now subject to the rules of its new universe, and no longer its old universe, although it retains it's identity (move/capture/special abilities/name)


C1) Instead of white and black, we should use a different color for each set of pieces in each universe: I suggest hot colors to move first, cold colors to move second. This provides an easy way to keep track of a piece's owner when the pieces start moving around. The move order will be based on color, not game. For instance,


First Player


Second Player

















Pieces move in all universes in the following order: white, yellow,green, orange,blue,red. This allows for easy mailing around, and for the games to remain in sync, which is vital.

I also suggest that each multiverse should have a name, like Zaphod, and each universe have the name followed by a digit, like universe Zaphod:1. This will make it easy to identify games where everybody has pieces. The first player will designate the name for the multiverse, the colors used, and the turn sequence.

C2) A subroutine library will be kept for things like hiesenberg moves, spaghetti rules, a sunset clause, and acceptable randomizers.

C3) For Randomizers, the players will either use dice and trust each other or base it on stocks in the NYSE, at a date given in the letter which must be at least two days in advance of their being printed in the paper (to avoid someone who has electronic market reports available, and mails the letter the same day, as the number appears in the paper the next day.) I suggest that we use the last digit in the volume of shares sold column for a stock we name on a date we name as a percentile die roll, and every random event defines a mapping from however many percentile dice rolls are needed to what happens. Using the stocks shall be the default method, unless all players agree otherwise. (* And Peter, Chris, and Randy always agree otherwise, to use dice instead, because they trust each other, this is added to protect against possible cheating in mail games. Randy, Chris, Peter *)

More recently, good randomizers on the web have become available (see e.g. Irony Games' Dice Server) and shall be used in preference where all players have adequate net access.

C4) A meta-rule custodian shall be appointed to assign rule numbers and keep a list of the current meta-rules.

C5) Clarification - Definitions are not rules, and may be made anytime.


L1) Heisenberg moves: useful for conditional moves, the Heisenberg move is an essentially random move. It can be used conditionally for circumstances not under the player's control, but neither conditional on what the other players do. For instance, a rule may require each player to make a Heisenberg move once every five turns, or it could be used as a default: Ex) "I forgot my last move, if it was d2-d4, then I move b1-c3, else I do a Heisenberg move."

  1. The standard Heisenberg move is to roll randomly with equal chance of selecting any piece belonging to that player in a universe, and to roll among its legal moves with equal probability.
  2. The Currasow move is a Heisenberg move with the exception that before moving, the player rolls a 25% chance that the piece will switch universes, randomly selecting universes first, and then moving. Note that a currasow move is not legal under the normal rules of chess, while a Heisenberg move is, until "legalised" by a rule. (*Peter presumes that the piece is sent to the isomorphic square in the new universe (as opposed to randomly deciding as in a super nice white hole), and 'hovers' above the square it would move to while the Heisenberg move is being decided. If no legal moves are available, then Peter presumes that the piece remains in it's home universe instead of moving. *)

L2) The Spaghetti Rule: Before any player moves an actual piece, they must say (or write in mail games) "I like spaghetti", or they lose that piece.

L3) The Manicotti Rule: Before any player moves a piece, they must say (or write) I like Manicotti, otherwise, their opponent gets to move it for them. (and if their opponent forgets, the original owner can move it, and so on...) Technically, this violates the letter of an old rule stating that rules cannot affect anything outside the game, but if the players don't object, it can be used. (If any player objects within one turn, treat the rule as a pass instead.)

Last update: 09/30/96

If anyone finds some interesting rules, or run into any problems with the current rules, please let me know. These rules have been evolving since 1972, and there is no reason to expect it to stop - though they are much more stable than at any time in the past!

To contact one of the designers, email to:

See also:
WWW page created: October 4, 1996. Last modified: 16 June 2001.