Chogue - half chess, half rogue

by Arne Kaehler
5/7/2020 – Pippin Barr and Jonathan Lessard are the makers of the unique chess variant "Chogue". It combines the normal chess game with a rogue-like theme. After you have played your first move with the white pieces, the black king escapes into a deep dungeon, where you have to follow and check-mate him. We had a chance to interview the makers about their game idea, intention and future projects.

What Grandmasters Don't See Vol. 1: Protected Squares What Grandmasters Don't See Vol. 1: Protected Squares

Many times when a top player blunders, it is routinely described by the esoteric term „chess blindness.“ In the series What Grandmasters Don‘t See, chess trainer and world-class commentator Maurice Ashley strips away the myth, and for the first time explains why the root of these mistakes is more often based on the psychology of human learning.
In Volume 1 of the series, Ashley coins a new term Protected Squares, and shows how many errors occur on squares that seem invulnerable because they are clearly guarded by pawns.


The Game makers

Jonathan (First photo) and Pippin are experimental game developers who have made games about everything from Eurovision to being a prophet to the action-packed field of academic game studies. They both work in the Department of Design and Computation Arts at Concordia University in Montréal, where Jonathan is an Associate Professor and Pippin is an Assistant Professor. Jonathan runs LabLabLab, a research lab focused on procedural conversation in videogames, and the director of the Technoculture, Art, and Games (TAG), while Pippin is the associate director of this Research Centre, which is part of the Milieux Institute for Arts, Culture, and Technology.

What is Chogue?

Chogue is a hybrid game created out of two masterpieces, chess and Rogue, by Jonathan Lessard and Pippin Barr. Throughout its design and development they followed the (fairly) strict rule of making decisions that meant Chogue corresponded either to chess or to Rogue in each of its elements, from its spatial layout (Rogue) to its movement style (chess) to its combat system (chess) to its overall gameplay structure (Rogue). The result is a game that is as least as good as Rogue and chess put together.

(The Game Makers and What is Chogue text used from the Chogue press kit)

The Chogue trailer

Interview with Pippin Barr and Jonathan Lessard

Arne Kaehler: Hello Pippin and Jonathan. Thank you for giving me this interview. What is your personal chess background?

Pippin Barr: I was interested in chess at the age of 13 or 14 years and joined a chess club in New Zealand, the country where I am from. I didn't stay in the club for too long, because it was an intimidating content, and I was a bit shy back then. I never stopped playing though and Jonathan really got me back into chess again. Especially in the last couple of months I played much more. Chess is a beautiful design object for me and a "pure" game, easy to learn but very complex in the end. I am sure Jonathan can confirm this.

Jonathan Lessard: Indeed I can. My father introduced me to chess when I was a kid, but I never joined a club. I always enjoyed playing this game and for me it was an excuse to go to the bar, because I could drink a beer and play chess with friends. This didn't help my rating of course. Once I met Pippin in Montreal we played chess a lot together, and this was also an inspiration to make the game called Chogue and also Rogess.

Jonathan Lessard explains everything you need to know about Chogue

AK: How did the two of you come up with the idea to make Chogue?

PB: We already collaborated on a game prior to Chogue called Game Studies, which was a satire about game theory. After that game, we wanted to make another game, because of the same sense of humour and being generally interested into making things which are funny. Do you remember how we came up with the initial idea Jonathan?

JL: Not really, but I think we just came up with many chess related ideas, of which one of them was:"How about having chess as a rogue-like game?" with the conclusion:"Yes! That sounds like something we should be doing." It actually took over one year to get this game working through our academic life.

PB: We documented the making of Chogue well, including all email conversations which are pretty entertaining.

Excerpts from the email correspondance:

Pippin to Jonathan 03/05/2017

Hmmm... so, I think there could genuinely be something to this idea of a rogue-like with chess pieces? My concern is that the idea might actually be too good and we'd have to spend actual time doing actual design (of mechanics, balancing, etc.) which sounds a bit nightmarish... though maybe it would be an interesting challenge given it's something I absolutely never do.

Jonathan to Pippin 16/06/2017

I agree that working titles are the worst... they stick around and pollute everything... however... that might be part of our... method!

Chesscort is sort of mysterious. I like Chesstival, too bad it's taken.

How about Chess Gue Vara?

How about Rogue Gambit?

Gambit Operation

Gambit Wise

Game Bit

Gah Meuh Bitte

AK: Can you win the game? I am asking because I haven't manage to do so yet.

JL: Oh yes, you have to reach level thirteen, capture the black king and get back up again. To tell you the truth, I have never managed to do it myself. Pippin won it, because he is the better chess player. The better you are at chess, the easier it is for you to succeed in the game. Patience is key. It is almost a bit of a stressful solitaire.

PB: When the black queen catches one of your pieces out of the darkness without a warning, I would say it is more like a horror game.

AK: I also saw some chess variants on Pippin's website called Chesses and Chesses 2.

PB: Yes, I am actually working on Chesses 3 right now. Some variants are more conceptual. The idea to take a very simple game and adding, subtracting or altering one or more rules and change the visual conceptualization making it into something new, really appeals to me. I prefer working on smaller projects, so I get them finished. About the name, I just like pluralizing and also made games like pongs and break-outs.

A very interesting way to play one of the many variants of Chesses 2

AK: Thank you so much for this insight and please keep on making chess games!

JL: My pleasure, and yes, we are planning to make a chess adventure game, but for now we only have this idea.

PB: Thank you for having us.



Arne Kaehler, a creative mind who is passionate about board games in general, was born in Hamburg and learned to play chess at a young age. By teaching chess to youth teams and creating chess-related videos on YouTube, Arne was able to expand this passion and has even created an online course for anyone who wants to learn how to play chess. Arne writes for the English and German news sites, but focuses mainly on content for the ChessBase media channels.


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