Review by Jonathan Lewis (SAFOLs Members)
I have 3 main hobbies in life: LEGO®, chess and photography. So this seemed like a good place to test the waters at writing a review.
I had to purchase this set from Germany as I could not find it on sale locally.
The first thing you notice about the box, which you may only notice if you actually play chess, is that the board is set up incorrectly. The bottom right square (A8) is supposed to be white, and the white queen is sitting on a black block! I’m not sure who should get a reprimand at LEGO® for letting that slip through. If you can forgive that minor fault, then you can move on to the set itself.
The box is packed with over 850 pieces, including 20 minifigures. I must admit, there is not a lot of variety in the pieces, as the chess board is, well, a chess board and you will be getting a lot of black and white! Pieces are packed in several individual bags.
The build starts with creating a very stable base for the board, which is also used as storage for the pieces when not in use. The pieces unfortunately do require some disassembly in order to fit into the base. Nothing particularly complex in the build process. Building the tiles for the board is a very repetitive process. I tried to found ways to make it more interesting, such as building only one edge of each block, forming patterns etc., until the board was complete.
The board includes some decorative sections on the sides, a beach for the Pirates and a fort for the Blue-Coats, which make the whole board a lot more interesting to look at, and add a lot of play value, for when you are not playing chess. More on that later…
The board is built in two halves, held together by technic pins. The extra sections connected in the same manner. They all dismantle and can be easily stacked, if space is limited, to leave the set out on display. I won’t say they can be easily transported, as the palm tree and lanterns are easily damaged. If you just want to carry the two board sections around, those transport very well.
As far as the actual chess pieces go: Each side gets 7 regular pawns (soldiers/pirates), and one eccentric foot soldier, wielding either a banana or a loaf of bread. You know what they say, “don’t bring a banana to a gun fight!” These 2 pieces have double printed heads, so you can take a normal face, and arm them with a proper weapon, if you take your chess that seriously. It makes you feel a little guilty if you want to sacrifice that pawn, though! An admiral and pirate captain, and their respective lady halves, bring the minifigure total to 10 for each side.
The back line can be a little confusing – Blue coats get a nice defence tower looking piece for a rook, Pirates get a barrel with a parrot on top. While they have a stone statue of a skull as a knight. I have often swapped these out and used the stone skull statue as the rook, it just looks more the part. Also, Blue-Coat’s nights and bishops are very similar in size and build, just try to remember that the bishops hold weapons (either a sword for the Blue-Coats, or catapult for Pirates), while knight has no weapons, just a map.
For playing chess, it looks very good all set out to play. But it requires a lot of concentration to keep track of what pieces are what, it’s a bit less of a headache to just play on a regular chess board.
For play-ability (not specifically just Chess), there many possibilities. 20 minifigures for a start, that’s great for battling it out however you want to arrange them. Spreading out onto the little island on one side, and the fort on the other, it’s a great place to develop a story. My kids have had a lot of great times, often adding in knights or pirates and princesses from other sets to really get a story going. A little chess diorama:
In summary: The building is a bit monotonous for the board, but it makes a great display piece, and an even better play piece, just maybe not for playing actual chess!
Perhaps Metalbeard thinks it should rather be used for checkers?