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Nuclear Pawns Chess

I'm sure this variant has been invented multiple times; I learned it from my friend Erik Wilson.

--Seth McGinnis


Nuclear chess is played with a standard chess set and a ten-sided die. Polyhedral dice are sold in many hobby shops for role-playing games, although really all one needs is a random-number generator of some kind.

The rule is simple: Any time a pawn is moved, roll the die. If it comes up 10, then instead of moving the pawn explodes, killing everything within a one-square radius (one king-move away). Naturally, the pawn also dies.


Although it is possible to have the randomness of pawn explosions ruin good strategy, this variant can be a lot of fun. We noticed that play tended to follow a pattern: near the beginning of the game, the pawns are moved frequently, but only enough to get them out of the way. (In fact, we often would move Queen's pawn or King's pawn first, so that if it were going to explode and kill the King, it did it early, rather than later.) Then, the pawns pretty much sit there for most of the game, until near the end, when they are advanced rapidly, in hopes that they will explode in the midst of the opponent's forces.

Naturally, you can use odds other than 1 in 10; we found that was a pretty good number because you can (on average) move all the pawns once without any of them detonating. On the other hand, it's still frequent enough an occurence that it is an interesting contribution to the game.

Written by Seth McGinnis.
WWW page created: February 2, 1998. Last modified: September 27, 2001.