||Chess and Chip Games:
games played with a Chess set and Poker
As mentioned in the "Starting Out" section of my
recommendations for game resources, one can maximize diversity of game
playing options with a minimum of money by getting a pencil and paper, playing
cards, dice and cups, a Chess set, and Poker chips. Concerning the Chess
set and Poker chips in combination, a few games were recommended. This
page expands those recommendations. It is not meant to be exhaustive, but
rather a place to collect my recommendations and links to relevant online
resources. Feel free to recommend others to me as well!
- Chess set alone - Chess has a rich history and allows
great depth of study, but there are also many Chess variations and puzzles
that can be played with a standard set.
- Chess set with Poker chips - Beyond Poker, Poker chips may be used for a variety of
games with a Chess set.
- Poker chips may be
purchased separately, or as part of a
budget set. Bargains on 11.5 gram plastic piece sets in
aluminum cases can be a great value. Generally the included cards
(and sometimes dice) are very poor quality, so focus on the weight of
the chips and the portability.
- Use the Poker chips on a Chess board to play other games such as:
- Achi -
Play on a 3x3 subsection of the Chess board (e.g. columns a - c,
rows 1 - 3).
- Amazons -
El Juego de
las Amazonas ("The Game of the Amazons"), this is an excellent
abstract territorial strategy game with very simple rules, yet lots of
depth to grow in interest as one grows. As of this writing, only a
paper grid version can be easily purchased from
However, one can play a smaller variation with a Chess set and Poker
chips as follows: Use pawns for Amazon pieces and Poker chips to mark
squares with arrows. Place white pawns at A3, C1, F1, and H3 of the
chessboard. Place black pawns at A6, C8, F8, and H6. Beyond the setup,
rules follow as in the
- Ataxx - When
using Poker chips, stack contrasting color chips as with
- Giveaway checkers: The winner is the first player to
have no legal move: that is, all of whose pieces are lost or
- Chomp - Let
square a1 be the "poisoned" square of chocolate, and form an m-by-n
rectangle of poker pieces for the initial setup. Players
alternate "chomping" by choosing a chip, and removing that chip and
any chips in the rectangular region from that position to h8, i.e.
having row and column greater than or equal to the chosen chip row
- Variant: Within the m-by-n rectangle,
randomly distribute p peanuts represented by
contrasting-colored chips. Each player is limited to
removing no more than a positive number q peanuts (as
in "quit eating all the peanuts!"). The normal
strategy-stealing argument for a first-player win doesn't hold
when there is a peanut in the far corner and the second player
response chomps q peanuts. (Note: I can't
remember if I created this variant or not. If you find a
reference to it or a specialization of it, please let me know.
Also, if you recommend a ratio of p to m*n or a value of q, I
would be interested in your observations.)
- Go (9x9)
- Although Go is typically played with black and white stones,
we will use dark and light chips, referring to them as “black”
and “white”. In Go, pieces are placed on the intersections of a
19x19 grid, and practice games are often played on a 9x9 grid.
Happily, the intersections at the corners of squares on the
Chess board form a convenient 9x9 grid.
- free 9-by-9 Go software
- Panda glGo
- free Go software
- Goproblems.com -
open database of interactive Go problems
- American Go Association
Capture Go - Capture Go is like Go, except that the
winner is the first player to capture one or more opponent
- Halma (8x8) -
the predecessor of Chinese Checkers
- On an 8x8 board, each player places 10 pieces (chips) in
opposing corners of the board. The starting positions (“yard”)
of the pieces should be along the first four diagonals from the
corner (1 in the corner, the 2 spaces orthogonally
(horizontally/vertically) adjacent, the 3 spaces orthogonally
adjacent to those, etc.).
- Hasami Shogi
- As with Go (9x9), one can play Hasami Shogi on a Chess board
by playing on the 9x9 edges intersections of the 8x8 squares.
- Rules and Variants at
- While awkward perceptually, one can play 8x8 Hex with two
contrasting-color Poker chips on a Chess board by (1) having
opposing players seek to connect north-south edges and
east-west edges, respectively, and (2) having
adjacency defined as horizontal adjacency, vertical adjacency,
and diagonal adjacency for one diagonal (e.g. b1 is
adjacent to a2, but a1 is not adjacent to b2).
Hex Variants, e.g. Chameleon Hex - Players seek to connect
opposite board edges, but may play pieces of either color and
make the connection through a chain of single color pieces of
Hey! That's My Fish!
- Mr. Pauper's Penguins - This
presentation compares Amazons and
Hey! That's My Fish! , and introduces my variation, Amazon Penguins,
combining the two. The "Mr. Pauper's Penguins" slide describes how
one can play the excellent game Hey! That's My Fish! using Poker chips
and small game tokens.
- If playing with two colors of chips on a chess board, one
can work the setup as follows:
- Players decide the starting player. Beginning with the
starting player, players create the ice floe by taking turns
placing 21 chips of one color (e.g. red) on the chess
board. Each of these chips represents a section of the ice
floe containing 2 fish.
- Chips of a second color (e.g. blue) are placed in the
remaining empty spaces on the chess board. Each of these
chips represents a section of the ice of the ice floe
containing 1 fish.
- Beginning with the non-starting player, players take
turns placing one of 4 penguins (pawns) each on top of the
chips. The starting player uses black pawns.
- Knights Tour
puzzles - Place chips in a pattern on the Chess board (e.g. whole
board, 5-by-6 subgrid, etc.), place the Knight on a chip, and see if
it's possible to visit every chip using Knight moves. Remove
each chip from the board as you visit it with the Knight.
- Lights Out puzzles:
- Select a section of the Chess board (e.g. rectangular
subgrid) and cover it with Reversi/Othello-type piece stacks
with the dark color chip on top of the light color chip. Select a switching rule, for example:
- When selected, a piece and all pieces orthogonally
(horizontally and vertically) adjacent are switched.
- When selected, a piece and all pieces orthogonally
(horizontally and vertically) and diagonally adjacent are
- When selected, a piece and all pieces in the same row
or column are switched.
- One player creates the puzzle by selecting a sequence of
pieces, performing the chosen switching rule for each selection,
and then announcing the number of selections.
- The other player tries to restore the board to its original
"lights out" condition by selecting a sequence of pieces, using
the same chosen switching rule. If desired, the solving
player seeks to restore the board with the least number of
selections, less than or equal to the number announced.
- Lines of Action
- Mancala - a
family of "sowing" games. Many of these can be played on a
Chess board with Poker chips by designating squares as specific
"pits" and stacking chips on a square to "sow seeds" in a "pit".
While losing the tactile sowing feel of traditional Mancala games,
the games are still functionally the same, and in some cases, chip
stacks may make it easier to count the seeds in any given pit.
- For example, Kalah is the most well-known Mancala game in the West.
Players sit across the Chess board from each other, with player
pits at b1-g1 and b8-g8, and stores at h1 and a8, respectively.
The Complete Mancala Games Book by Larry Russ is an
excellent survey of more than 100 Mancala games and their
- When using Poker chips, one creates a Reversi/Othello piece by
stacking two chips of contrasting color in a square. The chip on
top indicates the owner of the piece. To change ownership of a
piece, flip the chip stack over.
- Poker chips alone
- Nim, with
- The Subtraction Game
- single heap with a limit to the maximum number of pieces (e.g. 3)
that can be taken
Heap Rule - like Nim, but allowing one to take from multiple
heaps, so long as the same number of pieces are taken from each heap
- Variants can sometimes be made more interesting by adding
asymmetric restrictions on player actions, e.g. the peanut variant
of Chomp above.
- Related resources:
- Zillions of Games
- a commercial general game playing program with many games listed above
and free user game extensions
games list - a good list of abstract strategy games, along with
computer play and analysis
The New Games Treasury by Merilyn Simonds Mohr - my favorite treasury of 500+ diverse games
with good illustrations and interesting historical information. Although
out of print, it is still relatively easy to purchase a used copy.
About.com Free 8-by-8 Board Games
Last updated October 2011