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This page is written by the game's inventor, Ralph Betza.

Troll Chess

The monster known as the Troll can regenerate hit points, and this happens in many games that feature Trolls.

In Troll Chess, all the pieces have this ability.

Reduction of Crowds

Instead of making a normal capture, you subtract levels from the piece or pieces that would have been captured; unless it's already a Pawn, the piece can at most be demoted to the level of a Pawn, but a Pawn, when captured, is removed from the board. This applies both to real Pawns and temporary Pawns.

Each piece has a level, based on its relative rank in the Chess army. Pawns are 1, F or W are 2, N or B are 3, R is 4, Cardinal (Knight + Bishop) is 5, Q is 6, and K is 7; and so, when you make a move that would have been a capture, you subtract the attacker's current level from the defender.

If you have only demoted a piece, and not removed it from the board, both the attacking piece and the defending piece remain on the same square. If there is more than one enemy piece on a square, you can demote them all at once.

Because the Colorbound Clobberers have an unusual material balance, you may not choose them for this game.

When a piece is demoted to a rank that includes more than one type of piece, the capturer chooses which one.


After W's move, all the Black pieces regenerate (they gain one level), except that any pieces captured by this move do not regenerate yet; and of course any piece that has already healed all the way up to its original rank does not regenerate further.

After Black's move, all the White pieces regenerate, subject to the same conditions.

The regeneration rule is set up this way so that it is possible to capture things other than Pawns. When you demote a piece all the way down to a temporary Pawn, you will have one move to capture it; after one move it regenerates one level, and can at most be demoted to Pawnness.

When a piece is regenerated to a rank that includes more than one type of piece, the owner chooses which one.

If you have no legal move you simply pass, play no move at all; but naturally, if you have any move at all you must play it.

Levels 2 and 5

Before the game, you must decide which pieces are available to your army for use as level 2 and level 5 pieces. Thus, if you are playing with the Nutty Knights and choose F for level 2, and NB for level 5, your army now contains 8 types of pieces even though you only start with 6 types on the board. In fact, there are many more kinds than that -- there is the Pawn that started as a Pawn, the P that started as a N, the P that started as a R, and so on.

Although your level 2 and 5 pieces form part of your potential army, you start with no such pieces on the board. These two piece types will manifest themselves only temporarily, when some other type of piece is regenerating.

Choices for level 2 include Ferz, Wazir, Dabaaba, Wazir, Alfil, Crab, and Barc.

Choices for level 5 include any 4 picks from level 2, or the Bishop plus 2 picks from level 2.

Level Assignment

When you are using other armies, there is a simple rule that allows you to say what level any given piece should be.

Any piece composed of any two level 2 pieces is a level 3 piece; thus, WA, WD, Fibnif, and so on are level 3.

Likewise, any piece composed of 3 level 2 picks (or a B plus one pick) is a level 4 piece; and either 5 level 2 picks or a R plus 2 picks or a B plus 3 picks makes a level 6.

Example of Crowd Capture

Just to clarify how it works, imagine that a White Fibnif (which is in the process of regenerating itself to become the Chancellor it once was) moves to a square where there is already a Black K, Black Ferz (a partially-regenerated Rook), Black Bishop, and Black Pawn. Each and every one of the Black Pieces is "captured" -- but the Ferz merely becomes a Pawn and will regenerate; the Pawn is actually captured; the King becomes a Rook (because the Fibnif is a level 3 piece, you subtract 3 from the King's level; 7 minus 3 is 4, which is the Rook -- and notice that you don't subtract 6, even though the Fibnif is really a Chancellor, because its current rank is 3) and will regenerate, the Bishop becomes a Pawn and will regenerate.

Crowd Formation

You may only form a crowd by making a capture -- you may not move onto a square that already contains some of your own pieces unless there are also enemy pieces there.


A Pawn reaching the last rank may promote to anything in your army, even a King, and including the pieces that were not originally on the board. This applies both to real Pawns and to pieces that have been demoted to Pawnhood (likewise, a temporary Pawn that is on the second rank may move to the fourth rank just as a real Pawn does, and can then be captured en passant just as a real Pawn can).

You can have unpromoted Pawns on the last rank -- pieces that were "captured" there. If your King has been turned into a Pawn, you may have the opportunity to heal it at once by moving it to the last rank and promoting it to a King (you must promote, and promotion to anything else loses).

Promoting anything else to a King is risky because if you lose either king you lose the game. In the endgame, however, it is often a very good choice.


You win by getting rid of an enemy King. There are no rules about check.

Playability -- Instant win?

You will discover that trolls are hard to kill. Because the King is the biggest Troll of all, he is harder to kill than most; and the Queen is both big and highly mobile, which suggests that perhaps an early raid would do some good.

However, my analysis indicates that the immediate attack with 1 e4 e5 2 Qh5 does not accomplish anything, although it does reveal an interesting tactical wrinkle: 1. e4 e5 2 Qh5 Nc6 3 Qxf7 Kxf7 4 f7xg8=Q with instant healing. Of course, 4...Kf7xg8 5 Bf1-c4 Rh8xg8 eliminates the Q, and 6 Bc4xg8 merely demotes K to R and R to level 2 (A,W,F,D, Crab, or Barc) and level 2 (the Ng8) to P.

A raid by a single unsupported piece can usually accomplish little, no matter how strong the piece is. The reason is that you can demote a piece all the way to P, but then you have only one chance to capture it; and you're on the same square as your target, so you can't do anything.

A "promotion raid" would be another tactical ploy; for example, 1 Nc3 Nf6 2 Nb5 Nc6 3 Nxa7 Rxa7 4 a7-a8=Q (and now, 4...Ra7xa2!? gets interesting). The idea is to get your piece demoted to P on the 7th rank, and then promote it to a higher rank than it started with.

Because the premature promotion raid with N could be foiled (for example, simply don't capture on a7 in the example), something more sophisticated is required. 1 e4 e5 2 Bc4 Nf6 3 d3 is an idea, but simply 3...Bc5 4 Bf7 Kf7 5 f8=Q Qxf8 followed by Rh8xf8 puts paid to the ugly troll.

More Playability -- no win?

In order to eliminate the K, you have to capture it two or more moves in succession, and so perhaps it will be too difficult to win?

I can't be sure that isn't true of the midgame, but in the endgame, things work out pretty well. King versus King is a draw, of course, but you might notice that if one K moves next to the other it loses at once in almost all cases. This means that K + P versus K is also a win in almost all cases.

K + B versus K, or K+N v K, are draws; K + R versus K looks like a win.

Because K+PvK is a win, we know that the game is winnable. All in all, it appears to be playable.


In a way, this game is like Falling Off, with potentially many pieces moving of their own accord; however, the pieces in this game move in a different dimension!

In addition, the difficulty of killing Trolls means that all the power remains on the board; Pawns will be difficult to keep; Knights can sacrifice themselves in order to promote themselves to Queens; and running the K down to the 7th rank in the midgame is a powerful defensive plan. In other words, the play of the game is not at all Chesslike.

Design Note

The fact that there can be multiple pieces on the same square is merely a minor element in this game.

I cannot close without saying "The bite-covered troll rises from the dead!"

Written by Ralph Betza.
WWW page created: June 27, 2001.