The Chess Variant Pages

Romulan chess

April 8, 2005, Hans Bodlaender received an email from Steve Kramer, who wrote:
I played on the Atholton High School Chess Club in the early 1980s, and had friends who attended other schools nearby and played in their clubs. One of my friends described a game called Romulan Chess, developed by the Wilde Lake High School Chess Club - the inspiration, he said, was being too lazy to set up the board for a practice match. :-)
He continued by describing the rules:


The game is a 2-player variant, but requires the addition of a referee. The referee has his own board - I believe they used a small, magnetic travel set - with which he duplicates all of the moves that the two players make during the game.

The game begins with the standard FIDE rules, board, and pieces; however, no pieces begin on the board. All the players' pieces are placed to that player's left, off the board, in an "in play" area. All the pieces which have been taken are placed on the opposing player's right - the "captured pieces" area.

All pieces, at the start, are considered "cloaked" - that is, they are not physically present on the board. Moving a piece "de-cloaks" it. Thus, to open with a pawn moving two spaces on the king file, the White player would take a pawn from his "in play" area and place it on e4.

On any turn, instead of moving, a player may "cloak" a piece - removing it from the board and placing it in his "in play" area. This does not change the actual position of the piece on the board (thus, a king can't avoid check in this manner).

"Cloaked" pieces are actually present on the board for the purposes of play. Thus, you may capture a cloaked piece. For example, to capture a cloaked pawn on e4 with your cloaked knight on f6, simply take your knight from the "in play" area, place it on e4, grab a pawn from your opponent's "in play" area, and place it in your "captured pieces" area.

The referee tracks the game move for move. The referee is permitted to tell the players only when they have committed an illegal move. This may include anything: failure to realize that you are in check, failure to capture a piece when you have unwittingly landed on it, failure to capture the correct piece from your opponent's "in play" area...and so on. The referee is not permitted to elaborate.

The rules as far as stalemate aren't clear, since you could cloak a piece rather than move in order to avoid it.


The game appears to be a variant of Kriegspiel; the rules of cloaking and uncloacking however are different.
Webpage made by Hans Bodlaender, based upon an email by Steve Kramer.
WWW page created: May 21, 2005.