Playing Chess with a Piecepack and 88 Cents or Less

Players 2
Length 30-180 minutes
Equipment Required single standard piecepack, 8 pennies and 8 dimes
Designer Traditional adapted by RonHaleEvans
Version 1.0
Version Date 2003-10
License public domain

This page describes how to create a Chess set from a piecepack and 88 cents worth of U.S. currency. If you don't have U.S. currency because you are not in the U.S., you will have to improvise with the local currency. If you don't have a piecepack, well, I feel sorry for you.


  1. Make a Chess board by creating a 4x4 grid of piecepack tiles, grid-side-up.
  2. Give each player two null coins, two ace coins, and two 2 coins. The null coins will become the Rooks (mnemonic: a blank coin looks like a castle tower seen from above). The ace coins will become the Bishops (mnemonic: the spiral looks like the top of a bishop's crook). The "two" coins will become the Knights (mnemonic: a "2" looks like a Chess Knight).
  3. How will the players tell their Rooks, Bishops, and Knights from those of their opponents? As in Shogi (Japanese Chess): by the direction they are facing. The pips on the coins show which way they are attacking. If the pip on a coin is facing your opponent, it is attacking him, therefore it is your piece. The reverse also holds.
  4. From the remaining coins, one player takes an Arms and a Crown coin, and the other player takes a Sun and a Moon coin.
  5. The player with the Arms and Crown coins is called the Royal player. The Arms coin is her Queen, and the Crown coin is her King.
  6. The player with the Moon and Sun coins is called the Astronomical player. The Moon coin is his Queen, and the Sun coin is his King.
  7. If you have followed these instructions, there should be only eight piecepack coins remaining, not enough to make Pawns, of which there are 16. This is where the pocket change comes in. The Astronomical player should use eight pennies for his Pawns (mnemonic: copper is reddish, the colour of his king). The Royal player should take eight dimes (mnemonic: the silver colour of a dime is close to blue, the colour of her Queen.)
  8. If you don't have eight pennies and eight dimes, improvise. You can use eight pennies and eight nickels, for 48 cents worth of change. You can even use 16 pennies, if you turn one player's Pawns heads-up and the other player's Pawns tails-up.
  9. In Chess, the White player goes first. I suggest that one player hide a Crown and a Sun coin, representing the Kings of the two sides, in her fists, and the other player pick a fist. The side whose King is chosen is considered to be White for the current game.


Illustration of Game Setup

--Tim Schutz


Traditional Game: ChessTextVersion

Modern game (written by TrevorLDavis): Sheet (letter, A4), Pamphlet (letter, A4)

Comments from Readers

Actually you can play (if in a very inconvenient way) using only a piecepack. Counting all 24 coins and the 4 pawns and the 4 dice, you have enough pieces (32) to play chess. Use the dice as rooks showing the aces (red and black on one side, blue and green on the other), use the pawns as kings and queens (colored the same as the dice), use the 2's and aces as knights and bishops like Ron's way, finally use the 16 left over coins suit-side up as pawns: 4 suns and 4 moons on the red/black side and 4 arms and 4 crowns on the blue/green side. --Mark A. Biggar

For us Canucks that's $1.18 ;) -- JonathanDietrich

Another possible piecepack chess setup building on RonHaleEvans's and Mark A. Biggar's recommended setups would be to equate the six piecepack ranks n, a, 2, 3, 4, and 5 with the six chess ranks pawn, knight, bishop, rook, queen, and king and use the piecepack pawns as bishops so 1) we don't need to memorize which suit corresponds to the king and which to the queen and 2) we have 2 extra queens hidden on the board that can be made available for pawn promotions (place the two extra '4' coins being used initially as pawns on the left so they are easier to find if needed). -- TrevorLDavis

 Animation of "The Immortal Game" between Adolf Anderssen and Lionel Kieseritzky
Animation of "The Immortal Game" between Adolf Anderssen and Lionel Kieseritzky using a chess-themed piecepack

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CategoryGame DisplaceDifferentiatedPiecesSingleTargetCategory MechanicRectangularBoardCategory