Leo likes making up new kinds of chess. Usually his mods are pretty unplayable, but a couple of them have been sort of fun.
For some time we’ve had these elementary math table things that have pretty solid spring mechanisms so that you can pop in or out the problems to reveal the answer. These are kinda fun; One fun thing to do is to make a marble maze and then trying to run a marble through it. Over the weekend, we invented what actually appears to be a an interesting — and even playable! — kind of chess that we call “Trap Chess”. It works like this: Whenever you take another piece, you are “trapped”, that is, the square that you take on is depressed, and you have to use a move to pop it back up. And if you take into a trapped piece, the attacker is now trapped.
Here’s are a couple of examples:
(Note that because a times-table is 9×9, we had to depress one edge all around.)
In the righthand game the black rook is trapped (from having taken something in some previous move). If it was white’s turn, the rook could be attacked by the white bishop moving to 5×3, because the rook would have to spend a move to pop out of the trap, and would thence be prey to the 5×3 bishop.
In the lefthand game, the black knight at 6×4 is NOT checking the white king, because the knight is trapped. But if it were black’s move, and the knight were to pop out of the trap, THEN the white king would be in check! (And note that the bishop is pinned by the rook!) Also, that if the black rook was to take the white bishop, it would become trapped, and the white king could take it (as usual), but then the king would become trapped. Having a trapped king is a recipe for a checkmate because in order to move out of check, the king would first have to pop out of the trap!
We tried several modifications on this, but the basic rule, as above, seemed to be pretty good. One mod that seemed sensible was that you were also trapped if you promote a pawn, giving the defender an extra move.
The nice thing about Trap Chess is that it doesn’t introduce randomness, just a new twist to the standard chess game. Two other kinds of chess that Leo invented had random components, and were less playable. In one, which I’ll call “Pillar Chess”, there is a 2×2 object (we used a pill bottle — and called it a “pillar” :-)) in the middle of the board, and on every move (or maybe it was ever two moves — one white and one black) you would throw a 1d6 die, which would dictate how the pillar would move. 1 = no move, 2 = toward black, 3 = right from black, etc. And I think that 6 was “throw again” … doesn’t matter how the assignments work, obviously, the idea is just that this thing in the middle of the board both blocks long moves, and randomly moves around the board! If a piece is bumped by the pillar moving, it pushes in the obvious direction, and this “dominoes” along in the obvious way. Any piece bumped off the board, either directly or indirectly, is out of the game.
This wasn’t actually all that much fun. Since it’s really hard to plan moves around where the pillar might end up, you just end up planning around it, and it’s possible path, so as to avoid potential problems, making this much less interesting than it sounds. Pretty much where the pillar is, is just a big hole in the board, and one there aren’t as many pieces on the board, the pillar didn’t move fast enough to matter much.
The other version we played was teleport chess, where on every move, 2d8 die (that is, 2-eight sided dice) are thrown twice. The first throw identifies where the “black hole” opens up, and the second roll identifies where it exits. Any piece on the hole’s entrance gets sucked in and deposited at the exit. This turned out to be slightly interesting, until there weren’t enough pieces on the board for it to pretty much ever hit on of them, so the rolls had no effect. You could imagine versions of this that would fix that problem, but still, as above, it’s pretty hard to plan against randomness, which breaks the main beauty of chess!