Tiers, also known as Ultra Checkers, is a complex variant of Checkers that allows players to upgrade their pieces beyond kings. It is played on a standard eight by eight checkers board with two opposing players. The game has gained popularity amongst many northeastern collegiate students in the United States.
Using a standard checkers set, pieces are divided into Red (light) and Black (dark). Players are traditionally referred to by the color of their pieces. The colors are chosen either by a friendly agreement, by a game of chance or by a neutral third party. Each player begins with twelve pieces which they may arrange in a configuration of their choice, confined to the back three rows of their side. These formations are agreed to by both players before the game starts. Red moves first.
The players alternate moving one piece at a time. Standard (beginning) pieces move in three forward directions (relative to each player), straight ahead, and diagonal to the left or right, and move one unoccupied space at a time unless jumping.
Jumping involves capturing the other player’s pieces by moving two spaces in the same direction, jumping over the opponent's piece in the intermediate square. Multiple opposing pieces may be captured in a single turn provided this is done by successive jumps made by a single piece. Pieces must jump into an unoccupied square, and jumping enemy pieces is mandatory in all circumstances (including each successive jump). If multiple opportunities are available, players may choose which piece to jump with. Normal pieces may only jump in their three forward directions.
When a standard piece reaches the opponent’s closest row (known in checkers as the crownhead or kings row), it becomes a “king.” Pieces may be upgraded beyond this level (tier) by returning to the original players first row. The process of going back and forth further upgrades piece reaches its fifth tier (reaching the original players side for a second time). Each tier provides the upgraded piece with new abilities.
- Kings are the first and most basic improvement upon the standard piece. Kings are signified by stacking two standard pieces of the original player’s color (this process is referred to as “kinging”). Kings may move and jump in any direction, but are otherwise similar to standard pieces. Kinging is only awarded at the end of the pieces movement, including mandatory successive jumps.
- Triple kings (abbreviated as trip kings), the first upgrade to the king, are signified by a tier of three stacked standard pieces of the original color. They are obtained by returning a king to the owning player’s closest row. Triple kings not only can jump over two consecutive enemy pieces, but have the ability to make standard jumps over friendly pieces. The process of jumping over a friendly piece is never mandatory, does not sacrifice the jumped piece, and does not have priority over other jumps. Triple kings cannot jump over both an enemy and a friendly piece in one jump. Movement is identical to kings.
- Quad kings, the upgrade of triple kings, have the most complex jumping rules, and consist of four stacked pieces. They do not possess the ability to jump over their own pieces as triple kings do, but do retain the ability to jump over two consecutive pieces in one jump. Quad kings have the unique ability to skip an empty space before they jump a single piece; this process has the same priority as regular jumps. Quad kings can also make normal jumps and sequences, and have the same movement as normal kings.
- Ultra kings are the final piece upgrade to be attained by reaching the ends of the board, and are signified by placing an opposing player’s piece color between two of your own. Ultrakings can move (teleport) to any unoccupied square. They can also capture in a way completely unique to standard checkers games. Ultrakings “consume” an adjacent enemy piece by moving into the occupied square. This is, similarly, a mandatory procedure. Ultra kings also possess the ability to teleport any friendly piece. This procedure is performed by moving the ultraking adjacent to the piece one turn, placing that piece on top of the Ultra king another turn (whereby the Ultra king may not attack or move), and then moving the friendly piece to any unoccupied square on the board. If a piece is teleported onto the side needed to make an upgrade, the upgrade occurs. If it is teleported, it may make no further actions for that turn.
- If an ultraking is placed upon another ultraking, the resulting double ultraking can take two actions per turn (e.g. move next to an opposing piece and then consume it).
The complex rules for Tiers allow for a number of successful strategies. Rapidly upgrading a single piece before the opposing player is a common and generally successful strategy. Another common practice is to trap a stronger piece by forcing it to jump into a place where it can be taken. The ability to create unique formations for each player before the game begins is also considered very important to the overall outcome of the game.