HEMA Game Archive


How the game is played/scored. This should be information about WHAT to do, but please save WHY for the "Design" field.

Additional rules could be added because:
- You've decided that the game is better in every way with the new rule.
- You found a *slight* tweak that makes a small difference in a meaningful way. (If it's a big enough change just make a new game and tag it as a variant of this one.)


Why the rules are designed the way they are. What are the core skills targeted, and possible weaknesses.
Descriptions of the design iterations, failed attempts, or changes in thoughts are also helpful to other coaches.


Notes on what coaches have noticed playing this game with their students.


Video or article links

HEMA Chess

Uploaded by Sean Franklin on 2022-12-15
Tags:   adaptability | approach | chess |


  1. Throw down a big grid of squares approximately 1m wide. Grid should be at least 5 x 5. (Big enough squares that you can stand in a fencing stance, but also small enough you can move into the next square with a single step.
  2. Each player gets randomly assigned a piece. This piece defines how they can move, just like in chess.
  3. Other than the weird movement restrictions normal sparring rules apply. Go to first hit.

Movement Definitions

Players do not have to stop in each square and may move fluidly. They should also adjust their orientation so they are always facing the opposing player. They, however, must always be either in a square or moving between two squares. You may not step into one square and then move to another square before entering the first square. Examples:

  • You can not do an attack on a lunge, because you are ending straddling two squares. Unless the lunge-gather is done without interruption.
  • The rook can move diagonally forward-left by moving fully to the right square, then fully forward. They must pass through the intervening square completely.

Small foot faults are ignored (as it would be lame to interrupt the game every time.) In addition if the bishop runs backwards several squares and ends up slightly off-angle, and a square over, it isn't a big deal. As long as people are trying to do the correct thing.

Piece Definitions

  • Pawn: Can only move forward. If they get to opposing end they end they become a queen.
  • Bishop: Can only move along diagonals.
  • Knight: Can move in the L shape a knight moves in chess (look it up). They must do it as a leaping action, but if there is a foot touch down in the middle by shorter or less athletic player it is allowed.
  • Rook: Can only move in 4 directions.
  • Queen: Can move in all 8 directions.
  • King: Can move in all 8 directions, but can not move into any of the 8 squares adjacent to the other player. (A king can't move into checkmate.)
Rules (added 2022-12-15 by Sean Franklin)

I've started to add a "no hand snipes" rule to force people to move more rather than stand 1 square apart and hand snipe back and forth. (Because if I wanted to train that I wouldn't need a full chess board.) Hands are not on target if reaching for them with full extension.

Rules (added 2022-12-15 by Sean Franklin)

Optional RuleDo games to best of 3 with the current assigned pieces. If someone goes up 2-0 their opponent gets to be the queen for the rest of the match.

Design (added 2022-12-15 by Sean Franklin)

This doesn't teach any specific skills, but does get people to think about the approach and how it will develop. You have a limited amount of ways to approach your opponent, and have to think about how you want to do so, using patters that aren't your normal routine. In addition you know the possible ways they can approach you, and can base your strategy around it.

Note (added 2022-12-15 by Sean Franklin)

This can also be played 2 v 2 (or maybe more) if the grid is big enough. I'm not sure what that adds from a learning point of view, but it is also very fun.

to Wat?
HEMA Game Archive
Developed by Sean Franklin
GD4H project