Insights: Game of Teeth


The most important piece is often the most limited.

What can you learn about warfare by playing chess?   A whole lot according to history.   The game oozes strategy and requires you to know your pieces strengths and weaknesses.   There are overarching rules that give the game its magic outside of the movement restrictions as well.   The main one involves the King, the most important piece on the board.   Your objective in chess is to put the king in an inescapable situation, one in which no matter their move the King will lose their life.

So what happens when you get rid of the King?  If you look at the piece’s ability compared to the other pieces, the King is weak.   It is effectively a weaker version of the queen saddled with the restriction that it cannot be placed in danger.  How does the game change when the King is no longer in the game or the objective for winning?

Enter the game of teeth, a chess variant spoken of in my novel.   For sake of simplicity there are five pieces: scavenger, wolves, hawks, wildcats, and dragons.   I’ll quote the book for this:


Scavengers creep forward and bite at angles, they form the front rank.  A pair of Dragons dive in all directions and start in the middle.  Two wolves strike at tricky angles and stay close to dragons to get the prime scraps, two hawks ready to swoop at two and one or one and two perched near the wolves, and the twin wildcats strike straight and true, and protect the flanks.  -Naida on The Game of Teeth


It should sound familiar, but the differences don’t end there.   The removal of the king installs a need for a new objective.   That one is simple:  Obliteration of the other team.  There are two other rules applied to protect the game from ever going into a Stalemate:  Domination and Submission.

Domination is a three turn play that forces your opponent into action, and punishes those that run.   The side that has more pieces can call it at anytime.   The other player has the option to submit, thus losing the game.   Otherwise, the player calling Domination allows the other player three turns in a row to take a piece.   If three turns are taken and no counter strike is made, the Dominating player wins.

Submission is a defensive move that can be called by the losing player.  It lasts until a piece is devoured.   Two rules are inflicted upon the other player.   The first is no piece can move twice in a row.  The second is that any piece that moves during submission that did not devour a piece is lost.

Neither of these moves can be called within another on the next turn.   So they have a shared one turn cool-down period.

The game itself is named for the pieces that are used.   Originally the game had been played by hunters with teeth pulled from game with the exception of two pieces.   The Dragons are often modified versions of other animal teeth, and the hawk is represented by a talon.


2 thoughts on “Insights: Game of Teeth

  1. This post gave me flashbacks to when my brother and I would play chess, and he’d start his beloved “I Got Yo Piece” song whenever he snagged one of my soldiers. Then again, I remember times when I’ve forced him to quit by removing all of his offensive ability, so…yeah, highs and lows.

    That aside, your game sounds pretty cool — cool in and of itself, but more importantly what it reveals about the characters that play it. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: you can learn a lot about a person by the way he fights. (Or in this case, plays games.) I’m assuming you’ve already got your heroes and heroines — among others — showing their true colors through the game of teeth, of course…but suddenly, I feel like I should try coming up with my own game. Maybe some type of trading card game, so trap cards can be activated at leisure, and untrained observers can complain that the game makes no sense.

    It’d sure beat playing with sticks and hoops. Well, probably. I wouldn’t know, I’ve never tried. Could be a hoot, that.

    I have to go. I need to do some…experimenting…

    • Hey don’t diss sticks and hoops. That’s all we had back in the day and we liked it! But yeah, games are windows to the soul and release inhibitions that may not surface in normal situations.

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