As far as themed chess sets go, many popular movie and television series and franchises have spawned their own array of themed chess sets. However, when it comes to Star Trek, the franchise can rightfully claim a deeper connection with the game of chess than any other popular film/TV series in that the franchise has made possible the development of a new chess variant in itself!
Chess and Star Trek: How They Connect
All Star Trek aficionados will know what we’re talking about. As early as at the second episode of the 1st season, we get to see Spock and Captain Kirk engrossed in a game that strongly resembles chess—but literally, chess played on many different levels all at once! And before we have time enough to wonder what this strange game could be, we get to know that it is indeed chess (Kirk refers to Spock as ‘our chess master’) but this is chess as it’s played aboard starship USS Enterprise!
For a bit of a back history here (just so you appreciate the fact that Star Trek chess sets are not just another variant of themed chess sets fashioned after a popular saga). In The Original Enterprise itself, we see the characters playing this ‘Tridimensional Chess’ in many different episodes. However, the game was just used as a prop back then—which is to say that there were no rules devised for the game and so on. It was only later, thanks to some avid Star Trek fans, that the variant, now commonly known as the 3D Chess, evolved with its set of clearly defined rules. And within this variant, there were some sub-variants as well.
So, it is very much possible that many chess enthusiasts may have tried their hand at this chess variant without ever suspecting the franchise’s role behind it. The reason we mention all this is the fact that this curious combination of the franchise and chess makes the Star Trek themed chess sets a coveted item both for Star Trek fans as well as those who especially enjoy the 3D chess variant. Of course, if you want to play 3D chess, you’ll need a set such as the famous Franklin Mint set, the first item described on our list. However, if you are a mere Star Trek fan and is eager solely on a themed chess set, you may like a set that has a regular chess board but with pieces designed after popular Star Trek characters. For this reason, we’ve included one from each variety on our present list and the reason for our choice that both items happen to be the most popular in their respective categories.
There are tons to be said about this great piece. In fact, this chess set, officially licensed by the producers of the franchise, has a somewhat long and elaborate history of its own. The first time it was released, it bore an exact resemblance to the elegant multi-leveled chess set (or shall we say contraption?) as was seen in the original TV series (the pieces, however, were different, but more on that later).
Once thise set became popular enough, Franklin Mint released a second 3D set in 1995. This was the Star Trek The Next Generation Tridimensional Chess Set and the design and the inspiration for this version were borrowed directly from the chess game we see played in the Ten Forward lounge in the Next Generation episodes. However, this commemorative edition (also called the ‘Star Trek 50th Anniversary Edition’) replicates the exact design of the Franklin Mint classic chess set. The excellent design of the set with its elegant curves can serve as beautiful showpiece in its own right and the makers have seemingly left no stone unturned to give this futuristic design chess set a grace and elegance that will fit seamlessly with any modern or industrial décor home.
Anybody familiar with the 3D chess variant will know that here the regular chess board are divided into three stationery boards and four movable or attack boards all arranged on separate levels. The three main playing boards (measuring 4.25 X 4.25 inch) and the four attack boards (each a 2.13 inch square) are made of high quality translucent acrylic. What we believe make the boards particularly attractive is the combination of its turquoise blue and transparent white squares on the board. But the pieces are no less attractive than the boards. All 32 precision cast pieces are coated with 24 karat gold for one side and the sterling silver for the other. When assembled, the board stands at 14 inches tall. In all, the set is a piece of dazzling artifact that you will love to have at your home whether or not you are a fan of 3D chess variant.
This product is more of a themed chess set and has nothing whatsoever to do with 3D chess at all. This is a much less elaborate set as compared to the first one and uses a regular cardboard chessboard and good quality PVC chess pieces. Expectedly, the set (at $99) is a much more affordable one and is aimed solely at the diehard fans of the futuristic TV series. The board is a 17 inch square and the pieces are 2-4 inches tall.
The pieces are really the figurines designed after various crew members of USS Enterprise-D as shown in The Next Generation chapter. One can easily separate the pieces by their black and gold bases that come in the shape of the TNG combadge the characters on the gold side wear the Ds9 Starfleet Uniform whereas those on the black are vested with the classic TNG Starfleet uniform. The pawns in this set resemble the shape of the USS enterprise-B whereas for back row players, the item uses the same set of characters for both sides (Capt. Picard for King; Dr. Crusher for Queen; Rooks, Lt. Worf, Knights Cmdr. Riker and finally, Lt. Cmdr. Data playing out the role of the Bishops). The pieces are finely detailed and the set will, as a whole, come off as a pleasant and affordable one to all Star Trek fans who are also interested in themed chess sets.
Star Trek Themed Chess Set Brands
Franklin Mint has the authentication certificate for the production of Star Trek collectibles. Apart from the the sets we mentioned, you can find many different packages of Star Trek characters boxes. For example, the company released two such boxes (one with a complete 32 pieces and the other with 14 pieces) in 1994, on the occasion of 25th anniversary of the series. So, if you already have a Franklin Mint set, you may consider getting these different pieces and it will be fun to change around pieces when playing on the board.
As for brands that produce star trek chess sets with series characters or figurines, they are for the most part modeled on the second item we listed here, with slight differences here and there. The brand our listed item comes from is United Labels. However, the first time this sort of a set was released by a non-US company and has latter been manufactured by a number of different brands/companies including Crown & Andrews, Wood Expressions, Really Useful Games, etc.
Well, if you are going for the later kind of themed board, expect to pay anything n the vicinity of $100. However, if you decide to invest in the commemorative edition, you’ll need to spend a considerably higher amount. Currently, the set is priced at Amazon at $249, although you can get it at somewhat lower prices from some other sites.
As always, it is important what store you buy from especially when you are buying online. For their reputation alone, Amazon can always be regarded as a reliable site. However, when it comes to the Franklin Mint Anniversary Edition, we found this site chessset.com where the set is currently available at $219. However, we cannot guarantee anything regarding this store, so our suggestion is that you do some research before you decide to buy from here. On the other hand, there is the Star Trek official shop startrek.com where you can buy this set as well as a variety of Star Trek memorabilia. However, we checked and the Franklin Mint set is currently listed with a $274 price tag attached to it!
Selection Tips for Star Trek Chess Sets
There is not much to be sais in way of selection tips when it comes to star trek chess sets. Because, if you are buying the Franklin Mint set, you don’t need to worry about a single thing. It is the most popular product in this category and you’ll hardly find any negative reviews about this product. However, if you’re buying one of those sets with chess figurines, you should consider the material and the style, as well as the details. However, pay most attention to good materials and this pertains to the build quality of bothe the figurines as well as the board.