Chula was a game played by the Wadi race. The game board itself was a large abstract board, which however was portable; once the case containing it opened, the board, in a flash of light, automatically materialized in the room and the players were transported in a virtual world.
There are two levels of participation for players of the game, each represented in a different way. The primary player plays the game via a traditional physical apparatus with abstract structure to represent components of the game, including an inverted-pyramid shaped stack of horizontal planes representing each level (or shap), and small figurines representing the active internal players. The board also has a control panel where the primary players can program the hazards and other events indicated by the dice.
The internal players are transported to a virtual world generated by the game where they interact in the same way that they would physically interact with the real world. The primary player and the internal players can be considered to be on a team together, but the primary player cannot communicate with the internal players.
The primary player decides what paths will be available to the internal players and what challenges they will face. He makes a wager on the outcome, with challenges of higher difficulty offering a shorter path towards home as well as higher returns. There is also a measure of randomness added by rolling dice, affecting the challenge. The internal players must defeat the challenges to progress in the game, moving along a path that is separated by levels called shaps. Along the way they can be harmed or even "die". However, this is only in the world of the game and when it is over they will be returned to the real world unharmed. The goal of the game is to get at least one player to the final shap, which is referred to as "home".
When the Wadi delegation visited Deep Space 9, they discovered that Quark was cheating the dabo board. Falow gave him a chance to play honestly in order to forget this, and allow him to win more of their gems. When Quark accepted, Benjamin Sisko, Jadzia Dax, Kira Nerys, and Julian Bashir were transported in the game as internal players. Their disappearance alerted Jake Sisko and Odo.
George Primmin located an energy flux on the Wadi starship, being an intense bipolar current similar to a continuous transporter burst and speculated it was responsible for the Senior staff's disppearance. Odo transported onboard the Wadi ship to investigate, but when he reached the source of the flux, he was instantaneously transported back to Quark's.
When thialo' occurred to Quark, he thought it was too much to choose whom to sacrifice, believing that his player would die. As a result Falow programmed a random hazard to be decided who would be killed. Sisko, Dax and Nerys were unable to stand and fell into a chasm, thus being transported back to Quark's. This meant that Quark lost, but he was interested to discuss a licensing agreement with them. (DS9: "Move Along Home")
- Home: the goal where the internal players must reach
- Shap: a level of the game. It usually begins on the second shap; the first is used only by children
- Thialo: sacrifice a player to save the others
According to one of the writers of the episode, Jeanne Carrigan-Fauci, the name of the game, "Chula", comes from and is a portmanteau of Chutes and Ladders, as the maze game is a "three-dimensional form" of the game. (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion)
The script for the episode describes the appearance of Chula as "Falow opens the case and a flash of light obliterates the room. When it clears the dabo table has been replaced by a strange alien game board... there's a central start point from which a winding maze serpentines downward toward the end triangle. There are twelve shaps (levels). Within the board, there are short cuts between shaps, allowing players to move more rapidly to the end. Falow begins to put a variety of strange symbolic pieces (think hotels in Monopoly) at various intervals, elaborately "setting up" the board... there is also an electronic component to the board with switches and blinkies...". (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion - A Series Guide and Script Library)