DIY puzzling is only limited by your imagination and inventiveness. After all, pencil and paper is all you need for most improvised puzzle games (hangman comes to mind, for instance).
But if you require a bit more inspiration for some down-home puzzling, look no further than a chess or checkerboard.
I’ve written about knight’s tours before, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to chess-based puzzles and brain-teasers.
You could challenge yourself with an Eight Queens puzzle. It sounds easy but it’s deceptively difficult. Place eight queens on a chessboard so that no queen is attacking (or capable of attacking) another.
This means that no queen shares a row, column, or diagonal with another queen.
There are only 12 distinct solutions, though each one can be rotated 90, 180, and 270 degrees, as well as mirrored on the board, leading to a much larger number of acceptable solutions. Numerous variations on this theme are available to test your wits and spacial reasoning, including placing 32 knights on the board without conflict, or nine queens and a pawn.
If that’s not your cup of tea, and you’ve got paper and scissors handy, you could whip up a quick game of pentominoes.
A pentominoes game consists of placing all of the above pieces into a given space without overlapping. You can play this on your own as a mental challenge, or add a bit of competition and strategy to it by alternating turns with other players and seeing who is the last person to place a piece on the board.
While you can use any size square or rectangle for your game board, a chessboard works well, especially since you can fit every piece on the board (leaving only a 2×2 space of uncovered squares). By setting or moving around this 2×2 space, you’ve instantly created a new challenge for yourself.
Personally, I’ve found them to be excellent palate cleansers after a few mentally-exhausting rounds of chess (though there are always variants on the game itself, like Pardu Ponnapalli’s TrimChess (image 2) and Jose Raul Capablanca’s expanded chess, if you’re looking for fresh ways to play.)
In any case, these are wonderful challenges with a minimum of set-up time, perfect for puzzlers looking for a new challenge without a lot of fuss. I hope you enjoy.