© 1997 – 2016 Patrick Hassel Zein
This page was last updated 25.12.2016
~ In memoriam Franco Fulli ~
The history of this game started in 1985, when I, inspired by StarWars (episode IV), drew the board and invented the first set of pieces. During a period of eight years, I then worked out the rules with a lot of help from friends and family.
It was difficult to find the right name for the game. The first name I tested was "Utopia", since the first board that I made did look like a utopian city. Since I wasn't satisfied with that name, I tried a number of other names, such as "Magical Chess", "Dragon Chess", "SpiderChess", "Cai Qi" and "Mystic", but none of these names felt right and none caught on. However, during the spring of 2003, when I started sketching on my old idea of a computerized version of the game, and was working with the graphical design, the game got a bit of a new face and some pieces got new names. Both the board and the pieces got a clearly kaleidoscopic feeling, and the name "KaleidoChess" popped up as the absolutely logical and perfect name. The name "Cai Qi" is still valid for those who speak Chinese.
This is a strategic game for two (or sometimes up to four) players. In this document, I only present the basic rules (as opposed to the quite intricate rules for magic) plus some simple variations. The game should not be available in any store, and, as far as I know, this is the only place where the rules are published.
Experience shows that players that are good at playing some sort of chess, usually will be good in this game as well.
The purpose of the game is to conquer castles on a circular (or octagonal) board. There are 88 fields in five concentric circles around one central field. The central field and four fields in the outer circle are marked with, for example, double borders or a dark colour – these fields are known as castles. Around the castles are fields marked with, for example, an extra dotted border or a light colour – these are the towns (see illustration).
At the start of a game, each player has 18 pieces. One player usually has white pieces, and the opponent has black pieces. The pieces are divided into two categories: walking (marked with one or more dots) and flying (marked with one or more lines). The most powerful piece is the "wizard".
Comment: A roc is a gigantic legendary bird, said to carry off elephants and other large beasts for food. The name can also be spelled "rukh". It is, for example, mentioned in Arabic tales.
The following picture shows some examples of possible designs of pieces:
The white wizard is placed in a castle in the outer circle of the board, and the black wizard in the farthest castle on the other side of the table. The dragons are placed in front of their wizard. The other pieces are placed towards the sides in the two outer circles according to the previous illustration. When the pieces are placed, white player begins the game by making his first move.
Moving the pieces
The players take turns at moving their pieces (as in chess) to knock out their opponent's pieces and to get their own pieces into more strategic positions.
The number of dots or lines on the pieces tells how far each piece moves. Dots mark walking pieces and lines mark flying pieces. Pawns (marked with one dot each) walk one step per move, tigers (marked with 3 dots) walk 3 steps in one move, dragons (with 4 lines) flies 4 steps in one move, and so on... Note that the triangle marking the wizards consists of three lines – hence the wizard flies 3 steps in one move.
The walking pieces move between fields that touch at one side or a part of one side. Flying pieces may move like the walking, but they may also fly between two fields that only are only touching each other in corners. The walking pieces may not pass fields that are occupied by other pieces – neither your own or those of the opponent. Flying pieces may pass fields that are occupied by other pieces.
Pieces must always be moved all the steps they are allowed to – neither less nor more. No piece may pass one and the same field more than once in one move, and may not end a move on the same field as where it started the move.
The board is drawn with six circular (or octagonal) lines. IMPORTANT: The pieces may only cross one circular line once in each move. This means that it is only possible to walk one step towards the centre or one step outwards in one move. This also means that it also is forbidden to walk one step inwards and then one step outwards, since you then pass one circular line twice. It is allowed to make moves without crossing any circular line. There is one exception to this rule: the wizard may pass one, two or three circular lines in one move and he may cross one circular line more than once in one move.
If a piece ends its move on a field where one of your opponent's pieces is standing, that piece will be knocked out. Any piece can knock out any other piece. You may even knock out you own pieces. Sometimes it may actually be useful to knock out your own pieces, to solve difficult situations or to get a better guarding. Piece that are knocked out are removed from the table.
Rule added 2004: Your may never undo your last move during your next move. If you move a piece, your competitor makes an unexpectedly good move and you then want to move your piece back again, then you cannot do that. You must instead move the piece to a new position or move a different piece. This may add to the risk of getting into a situation where you cannot make any move.
You may not move your opponent's pieces!
The following picture shows some examples of possible moves:
If your opponent does not have any piece in any castle, then you are the winner. This may happen by you knocking out your opponents pieces from all castles or by your opponent being forced to move a piece from his last castle. It does not matter if the winner posesses one, two or more castles.
If a player gives up his last castle by his own free will (i.e. without being hit by an other player), or by being forced to do so, that is referred to as a capitulation or a suicide attack.
It you at some point cannot move any of your pieces (this is very rare, but it may actually happen!), you loose. This is referred to as a blocking.
There is no other possible outcome of this game, such as stall mate. However, if the players agree, they may decide to call it a draw.
If the players agree, the length of the games may be restricted by forbidding repetition of the same move or setting a maximum number of moves per game.
Suggested initial positions for three players
Suggested initial positions for four players
Variations of the game
You can test to replace the pieces of one player with 18 pawns or 18 ravens. It is also possible to experiment with the initial set up on the board...
Below I will describe one other variation, which makes the game a bit more random by using a dice. This will make it possible for a learner to have a chance against a more experienced player. As a matter of fact, dice were often used in chess like games in medieval Europe.
All previously defined rules are still valid, but a few rules on how to use the dice are added.
Before each move, you have to throw the dice. The number of eyes on the dice tells you which piece you may move according to this simple table:
If you can move a piece then you have to do it even if the only possible move is a very unfavourable one (such as moving your last piece away from a castle). If you cannot move any piece you do not loose, but you may not move any piece until it's your turn to throw the dice again.
These small changes make the game into something entirely different from the basic game.
Do you want to make the game even more intriguing? Then you should read the rules for advanced players and see the game change even more through the use of magic!
To be able to write protocols of games, or to play correspondence games, I have specified a system to enumerate the fields of the board. The system is based on the fact that the board is like a pie divided into eight equal pieces. Starting at the piece where white player has the wizard, each piece is given a number from 1 to 8 clockwise. Within each piece, the fields are labelled clockwise with the letters A to K. The centre field is named 00 (zero-zero).
In the protocol, you write a move as for example 1B-2F. If the move causes one piece to be knocked out, then you change the "-" to "+", i.e. 1B+2F. If you want to be very clear about the moves (e.g. in correspondence games), it may be advisable to specify the name of the moving pieces and, when applicable, the knocked out pieces involved in each move (e.g. "wizard from 1B goes to 2F" or "wizard from 1B knocks out raven at 2F").
These rules are available in the following languages:
Information about this game, regular chess and many variants of chess is available at "The Chess Variant Pages":