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Chess Variant Construction Set

Take a quick survey of the many Chess variants described on this site, and you will soon realize that only a fraction can be played with the usual Chess equipment. Many others include extra pieces or are played on non-standard boards. While you can buy sets for some of these games, there are still many more you cannot buy sets for. Besides that, even if commercial sets were available for every variant, it could get ridiculously expensive to buy a separate set for each game you wanted to play. A much more practical solution is to put together a Chess variant construction set, which you can use to put together boards and supply pieces for a wide variety of games. You cannot buy one readymade, but you can put one together.

I came up with the idea of a Chess variant construction set in 1998, shortly before I got involved with this site. After I met David Howe, he improved on my idea, putting together a better set than I had made. The idea is similar to having something like Legos, Lincoln Logs, Tinker Toys, or Micronauts, which you can put together into different combinations to make different toys out of. The main ingredients of a Chess variant construction set are Chess pieces and board parts. A good set should include various fairy pieces and a few sets of standard pieces. Board parts will generally consist of single spaces and board segments that can be quickly pieced together into various board shapes. Since some of the products I previously recommended are no longer available, and since this site is now an affiliate with some places you can buy Chess variant equipment, I have updated this page to point you toward currently available products you can include in a Chess variant construction set.


The following Chess variant pieces are currently available from The House of Staunton:

Sharper (Seirawan) Chess includes Elephant and Hawk pieces.

Musketeer Chess includes Cannon and Leopard pieces.

Camaratta Chess includes Chancellor and Archbishop pieces.

In general, you will want two of each set, because some games include two of the same kind of piece on each side. For example, Chinese Chess includes two Cannons and two Elephants on each side, Falcon Chess includes two Falcons on each side (which could be represented by Hawks), and Cavalier Chess includes two Chancellors and two Archbishops on each side.

Since these pieces are triple-weighted natural colored pieces, you may want to get matching Chess pieces. And for large variants that need extra pieces, such as three Bishops in Hexagonal Chess or ten Pawns in Capablanca's Chess, you may want two sets. For a good match with these pieces, I recommend two of these in the Black & Natural coloring.

For multi-player games, you may want to get another set of Chess men in a different color. So that the pieces work together, I'll recommend a triple weighted set.

Some Chess variant pieces can be found in commercial Chess variants. My own construction set includes Champions and Wizards from Omega Chess, Chancellors and Archbishops from Gothic Chess, and some figurine Chinese Chess sets. Unfortunately, these are not currently being sold new.

Another source for pieces you can use in Chess variants are Chess sets in various different styles. Here are some suggestions from The House of Staunton:

The Acerra Series Artisan Chess Pieces The Novara Series Artisan Chess Pieces The Empire Series Prestige Chess Pieces The Gods of Mythology Antiqued Chess Pieces Masked Chess Pieces The Peter Rabbit Chess Pieces CLEARANCE - The Mini Roman Chess Pieces The Knights Series Luxury Porcelain Chess Pieces - 3.75 inch King

In case these are too expensive, or you want some more options, here are some recommended eBay searches for sets you may find suitable. If you're in Australia, Britain, Canada, or the United States, these affiliate links should send you to your local eBay. If you're not in one of these English-speaking countries, you may still be able to search your local eBay using the affiliate link in the Shop menu.


I originally cut squares out of cardstock, which I would meticulously piece together, then place clear plastic sheets over to keep them in place. David Howe improved on this idea by buying chess boards made of rubber and cloth like mouse pads are, then cutting them up into different shapes that could quickly be put together into different board shapes. I won't recommend cutting squares out of cardstock. Cutting up mousepad-style chess boards is the much better option. Because you can cut them into different shapes, making a board is much quicker than laying out squares one at a time. Because the pieces are heavier than cardstock, you don't have to cover them with anything. And since you're cutting up chess boards, the end result looks more like regular chess boards than cardstock would. Depending upon your needs, I recommend getting from two to four beige and olive chessboards and an additional one with dark squares that are a different color than olive. I got one with beige and dark blue squares. This is used for games in which some squares should be in a third color. You can get these boards from The House of Staunton through this affiliate link. And if you buy four or more, you will get a discount.

I recommend cutting up the four regular boards like so:

First Board

  • Four 4x4 segments

Second Board

  • Two 2x4 segments
  • Two 4x2 segments
  • One 2x2 segment
  • Two 1x2 strips
  • Four beige squares
  • Four olive squares

Third Board

  • One 4x4 segment
  • Two 2x4 strips
  • Six 1x4 strips
  • Four 1x2 strips

Fourth Board

  • Four 4x4 segments

First Two Boards

With segments cut from the first two boards, you can make the following boards:

8x8 for Chess

The standard 8x8 board can be most quickly constructed from the four 4x4 segements.

9x9 for Shogi

A 9x9 board can be made by adding four 1x4 strips on two sides of an 8x8 board, with a single space added in the corner.

10x8 for Capablanca Chess and many other games

A 10x8 board can be made by combining four 4x4 segments with two 2x4 segments.

10x10 for Grand Chess

A 10x10 board can be made from the four 4x4 segments, four 2x4 segments, and one 2x2 segment.


An 11x11 board can be made by adding four 1x4 strips and two 1x2 strips to two sides of a 10x10 board, with a single space added to the corner.

Omega Chess

An Omega Chess board can be made from adding a single space to each corner of a 10x10 board.

First Three Boards

With segments from the first three boards, you can make the following additional board:

12x12 for Gross Chess

A 12x12 board can be made by placing all ten 1x4 segments and two 1x2 segements around a 10x10 board. Place three 1x4 segments on the left and right sides, and two 1x4 segments plus a 1x2 segment on the near and far sides.

All Four Olive/Beige Boards

With segments from all four boards, you can make the following additional boards:

12x12 for Gross Chess

A 12x12 board can more quickly be made out of all nine 4x4 segments.


A 13x13 board can be made by placing 1x4 segments along two sides of a 12x12 board with one single square in the corner.


A 14x14 board can be made by placing three 2x4 segments on one side, then the remaining 2x4 and the two 4x2 segments on the other side with some 1x2 segments for spacing, since 2x4 and 4x2 segments don't align.


A 15x15 board can be made by placing the additional segments from 13x13 and 14x14 around a 12x12 board and adding a couple more 1x2 segments to fill things in.


A 16x16 board can be made by putting all four boards back together.

4x4x4x4 for 4D Chess

A 4D board can be made out of 16 separate 4x4 areas. In this diagram, the 4x4 areas alternate between two checker patterns, so that every orthogonally adjacent neighbor of a space is a different color.

Making More Colorful Boards

Because a variety of games can make good use of boards with three colors, I recommend getting an additional mousepad-style board with a different color for the dark squares. I recommend cutting it up like so:

  • Ten 1x4 strips
  • Five 1x2 strips
  • One 2x2 block
  • Ten single spaces

The main use for this extra material is to mix with the main green and buff material to make three-color boards or to distinguish some areas of your board. Here are some samples of what you can do.

Cavalier Chess

A Cavalier Chess board can be made by interlacing 1x4 strips of alternating colors.

Grand Cavalier Chess

A Grand Cavalier Chess board can be made by interlacing 1x4 strips and 1x2 strips of alternate colors. Each of its ten rows would have two 1x4 strips and one 1x2 strip. You would alternate color on a row by row basis.

Jumping Chess

A Jumping Chess board can be made by adding a different color trim around an 8x8 board.

Philosopher's Chess

The mind board in Philosopher's Chess can be represented by the alternately colored 2x2 block.

Fusion Diamond 41

Although this pattern for a 41 square diamond shaped board does not use three colors, it does use all nine light colored single spaces, five of which come from the alternate colored board.

Vyrémorn Chess

This pattern uses all four 4x4 segments, two 2x4 segments, five 1x4 segments, and one 1x2 segment from the green/buff material and seven 1x4 strips and one 1x2 strip from the extra material.

Chinese Chess

This follows the example of Cambaluc Chinese Chess of using the same checker pattern for each side, but instead of outlining the palaces, it distinguishes them by a different color for the dark spaces, which it uses for the diagonals. Since the diagonal is dark, the whole checker pattern is the reverse of what it is for Cambaluc Chinese Chess.

Written by Fergus Duniho
WWW Page Created: 10 November 2001; Last Updated 11 November 2001.