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This page is written by the game's inventor, Ralph Betza.

Wand Chess



Anybody who has played Nethack will know where I got the idea for this!

A random number generator is required to play this game; a pair of ordinary dice can be used.

This game is a nifty idea, and seems to be quite playable; but it is a bit complicated, and it requires a bit of bookkeeping.

Of course, you could play Progressive Wand Chess with different armies on a trapdoor earthquake board; the Wand rule is the type of rule that can easily be combined with other games. Why you would wand to is another question....

Basic Premise

In addition to its normal powers, every piece or Pawn has a wand; instead of making a move, it can zap the wand at any neighboring square, or at itself.

There are several wands with different effects, and until you zap a wand at an occupied square you do not know which wand each piece has. Furthermore, every wand always has a chance to misfire, which simply wastes your move and destroys the wand.

Some wands have good effects, and you would prefer to zap them at friendly pieces; most wands have bad effects, and it makes you happy to zap enemy pieces with these wands.

Formal Rules

For the purists, here are the rules of Wand Chess in "legal" form:


Notation is important, because people like to be able to write down the moves they made and think about them afterwards, and talk about them, and so on.

Notation for Zapping a Wand

Use the letter Z as though it were the name of a piece, write the move as a capture, and put the name of the wand's effect in parentheses after the move.

Example: 1. e4 e5 2. Ze4:e4 (polymorph = Queen); White's Pe4 zaps its wand at itself; it turns out to be a wand of polymorph, and the lucky Pawn becomes a Queen!

Notation for Timers Running Out

Square brackets, and a separate line for each event, for example:
47.  Ne4-f6             Nf8-g6
48.  Nf6-d5
     [Qd3 dies from Sickness]
     [Ra4 wakes from Sloth]
                        [Ke8 wakes from Stoning]

Strategy Ideas

Stoning is not necessarily bad. Sometimes you might want to stone your own King.


Each wand has three shots on average; but the first shot, you con't know what kind of wand it will be. Most wands have bad effects, so you want to zap them at enemy pieces. So you zap an enemy Pawn, and it polymorphs into a Queen; you might not lose the game -- luck will tend to equal out.

When you zap the enemy Queen, and your wand turns out to be a wand of Speed, expect it to be a Speedy game.

Zap or Move

You have to find the right balance between zapping and making normal moves. Normal moves can be quite powerful; don't be so obsessed with zapping wands that you overlook checkmate!

I want there to be a good balance between normal play and wand play, and have tried to provide this by having unidentified wands, whose powers may be both good and bad, combined with a small number of zaps for each wand and a short-range wand effect.

Discovered Attacks

A new tactical element is introduced by the fact that pieces can disappear (sick and dying) or suddenly come to life (stoned, slothful, or sleeping).


When a piece is captured, the capturing piece could be able to take the victim's wand. Likewise, when a piece is killed by wand of death, or by sickness, its wand could stay on the floor until another piece moves there and picks it up. I rejected this because of the extra difficulty of keeping track of so many wands.

If you have a moderator available, by all means try this with a Wand of Invisibility.

A Wand of Nothing would simply waste a move; a Wand of Lightning would blow up enemy wands, leaving the target piece unhurt. A Wand of Reflection would coat the target piece with a shimmering silvery shield that not only protects against wands, but reflects them back at their shooter.

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