The Chess Variant Pages




Rules of the game "THE TODDLER"

By Jean-Yves Boulay

1) Presentation of the game

This game of strategy draws its inspiration from Chess. Two players fight on a big checkered board. Each player owns a number of pieces with many properties. Some pieces have a power of protection, others block enemy pieces, others still are able to mutate. Some pieces are uncapturable and others cannot capture. The game depicts a universe of intricate relationships and introduces notions such as family, promotion (mutating pieces), solidarity and magic. Thus the odds of victory depend on mastering the powers of every piece of the game. The goal of the game is the capture of a sensitive piece which is defenseless at the beginning : The Toddler.

2) Play and goal of the game

"The Toddler" is played by two players on a checkered board of eleven rows and eleven columns. (These rows are numbered from 1 to 11 and the columns from A to K.) The checkerboard is symmetric and has a black square at each corner. Each player has twenty-two pieces at his disposal. Those pieces are light for one player (White) and dark for the other player (Black).

White starts the game. Afterwards, each player plays in turn. There is no time limit. For a player, a move consists either in moving a piece to an empty square or in capturing an enemy piece. In order to capture, a piece replaces another piece, which is definitively removed from the game. When not in a position of "Threat", a player may pass his turn without moving any piece (and is allowed to do so several times in a row).

The goal of the game is to put the Toddler in position of "Threat and Capture". The Toddler is in situation of "Threat" if an opposing piece can capture it in the next turn. A player threatening the Toddler must signal it to his opponent by saying the word "Threat". It is mandatory for the player whose Toddler is threatened to maneuver his pieces in such a way that his Toddler is no longer threatened. The Toddler is in position of "Threat and Capture" if it cannot by any means be protected from that threat. A player threatening the Toddler with unavoidable capture signals it to its opponent by saying the words "Threat and Capture". The game then ends with the victory of the player who has threatened with unavoidable capture the opposing Toddler. A player cannot put his own Toddler in position of "Threat" or "Threat and Capture"; if he does, his opponent has to inform him and he must change his move.

The game ends when a Toddler is put in position of "Threat and Capture".

The game ends with a draw if

  • Both players pass their turn in succession.
  • Both Toddlers (whether major or minor) sit on adjacent squares. (The positions of the other pieces do not matter.)

3) Depiction of the pieces (nature, ways of moving and capturing, powers of protecting and freezing, invulnerability and mutation) :

The Toddler : The Toddler is the central piece of the game. It must be put in position of "Threat and Capture" by the opponent who then wins the game. The Toddler is the child of two other major pieces: the Emperor and the Empress. Being a child, the Toddler cannot capture (kill) an opposing piece as long as it is minor. It becomes major only after the capture of its last remaining parent. It then becomes able to capture opposing pieces. It moves one square in all directions and captures (major Toddler only) in the same way. The minor Toddler can, at any time and with no limitation on the number of times, trade positions with a Nurse.
Starting square: F11 (for the white Toddler, White plays at the bottom of the Board).

The Emperor : Father of the Toddler. The Emperor moves an unlimited number of squares in any direction (horizontally, vertically or diagonally). This move is bounded by a piece standing in the way. It captures opposing pieces like it moves. The Emperor protects the Empress from being captured if the Empress is within its range of action. That propriety is not converse.
Starting square H11.

The Empress : Mother of the Toddler and partner of the Emperor. It moves and captures like the Emperor. Being a protective mother, it has the ability to position itself (from wherever on the Board) on an empty square which is adjacent to the (its) Toddler's square. The Empress is uncapturable when it is within the Emperor's range of action.
Starting square D11.

The Guardian Angel : The Guardian Angel has the particularity of making temporarily invulnerable all adjacent pieces of its side. This ability is intended for the protection of the Toddler, but is also available for the protection of any other piece. The Guardian Angel moves like the Emperor, but, like the minor Toddler, he is unable to capture (kill) any opposing piece. The Guardian Angel has limited invulnerability: it cannot be captured unless it is threatened by two or more opposing pieces; the opponent then chooses either of these pieces to capture it.
Starting square : E11.

The Genius : The Genius has the power of neutralizing the capturing ability of all adjacent opposing pieces. An opposing piece which is adjacent to the Genius may simply move neutrally. The Genius moves like the Emperor and has the same limited invulnerability as the guardian Angel. Like the Guardian Angel, it cannot capture any opposing piece.
Starting square : G11.

The Phoenix : The two Phoenixes can fly over the other pieces and position themselves on any (empty) square on the Board, which is neither adjacent to, nor of the same color as, their departure square. In order to capture, they must perform a rotational move of one out of two squares (horizontally or vertically). A spirit of animal solidarity prevents a Phoenix from capturing a Phoenix.
Starting squares : C11 and I11.

The Android : The two Androids move on all the vertical and horizontal lines of the Board, with no limitation on distance. That move is bounded by a piece standing in the way. The Androids may either complete a single vertical or othogonal move or bifurcate once before reaching their destinaton square. This maneuver must be completed without any pause in the two sections of the move and the player must make the whole journey clear. The Androids capture opposing pieces as they move.
Asymmetric starting squares : B11 and K11.

The Nurse : The two Nurses move diagonally with no limitation of distance. (That move is bounded by a piece standing in the way.) They capture opposing pieces as they move. Out of motherly care, they may trade positions with the minor Toddler at any time, with no limitation of the number of times.
Asymmetric starting squares : A11 and J11.

The Soldier : The ten Soldiers move one square, horizontally or diagonally, in all directions (forwards or backwards). They capture opposing pieces one square diagonally (forwards or backwards). The Soldiers mutate into Captains after capturing an opposing piece which is not a Soldier or a Captain. Their new status is immediately on.
Starting square : from A9 to E9 and from G9 to K9.

The Captain : Being the initial leader of its Soldiers, the Captain moves and captures opposing pieces like they do. The Captain also has the opportunity of moving twice. It may move first horizontally or vertically and then capture diagonally or follow the reverse path (capture first and then move without capturing). But it is allowed to perform only one of these moves.
Starting square : F9.

So each player owns twenty-two pieces of ten different types :
10 Soldiers, 1 Captain, 2 Phoenixes, 2 Androids, 2 Nurses, 1 Guardian Angel, 1 Genius, 1 Emperor, 1 Empress and 1 Toddler.

4) Relative positions :

If two Geniuses or two Guardian Angels find themselves on adjacent squares, their protective power becomes ten-fold : no piece can be captured as long as that situation doesn't change. The adjacence of a Genius and a Guardian Angel (whether friendly or enemy) has no effect : these pieces keep their respective powers.

The Genius can be captured only when it is threatened by two or more opposing pieces : these pieces must not be adjacent to the Genius (loss of their capturing abilities). When the Genius is under the protection of the Guardian Angel, it remains invulnerable.

Capture of the Genius or the Guardian Angel : before completing such a move, the capturing player must identify two or more pieces threatening the piece which is about to be captured.

Move of the Captain in respect to the opposing Genius : the Captain cannot capture if his starting square is adjacent to the opposing Genius. If the Captain isn't adjacent to the opposing Genius, it may perform a two-step capture even if the first step brings it on a square which is adjacent to the Genius.

When a Soldier mutates into a Captain after capturing, it cannot complete a second (neutral) move. However, it may put the enemy Toddler in a position of "Threat" or "Threat and Capture". Since every Soldier can mutate into a Captain, each player can own theoretically up to eleven Captains.

Exchange of positions of the Nurse and the Toddler : this maneuver counts for a move. This also holds true when the Empress reaches a square adjacent to the Toddler's square.

A player can obtain a draw by moving his Toddler which is not in position of "Threat" or "Threat and Capture" to a square adjacent to the enemy Toddler's square. Whether the Toddler is now in situation of "Threat" or "Threat and Capture" is irrelevant. The game then ends in a draw.

5) Technical details

Position of the Board : The Board is symmetric, thus its position doesn't matter.

Nomenclature of the squares : the squares are numbered horizontally and from top to bottom from 1 to 11 (rows). They are numbered vertically and from left to right from A to K. Each player puts conveniently his pieces before the start of the game. White, playing first, posits his pieces at the bottom of the Board and Black at the top of the board.

Reminder of the pieces' starting squares. From the player's left to the player's right (from A to K for White and from K to A for Black) : Row 11 (for White) or 1 (for Black). Nurse, Android, Phoenix, Empress, Guardian Angel, Toddler, Genius, Emperor, Phoenix, Nurse, Android. Row 9 (for White) or 3 (for Black). 5 Soldiers, the Captain on the center square, 5 Soldiers.

A distinctive removable mark is set on the Soldiers who have promoted into Captains. Only the initial Captain carries that mark at the beginning of the game.

A distinctive removable mark is set on a major Toddler.

Context of the rule : The above rule is meant to be used in a friendly and amateur setting. However, tighter rules may be implemented by the players or within a Federation, particularly in tournament circumstances (count of games, time for thinking, etc.)