This set departs from traditional LEGO in that it is not intended to be a building toy. This set, with its sturdy box that doubles as a carrying-case, is intended to remain together as a chess set, not a bunch of parts that make up a chess set. The set arrives fully assembled and ready for battle.
There is a lot to like about this set but many LEGO fans are dismayed or angered by the use of glue in certain assemblies in this kit. Importantly:
- The chessboard squares, made up of 4x4 black and white plates, are glued to the 32x32 white baseplate.
- The rooks are completely glued except for the shield on the front.
- The square plate on the base of the knights is glued to the 2x2x2 slope.
- The 2x2x2 slope 'skirt' of the queen is glued to her torso.
- The Viking horns are glued to their helmets.
Given that the pieces are glued, it's important to note that people wanting a horde of regular Viking minifigs won't be disappointed. The 22 male minifigs are all normal figs, with nothing glued but their horns. Ironically the Viking helmets in the chess set are no better at staying on the fig's heads than the other Viking helmets in other kits; I find it funny and a little disappointing that LEGO glued the horns to the helmets, when these do not fall out as often as the helmets fall off. But the Viking helmets look silly with no horns and so these glued horns do not detract too much from the set's value.
Worse in my opinion is the use of the Knight's Kingdom Sword, which looks about as anti-viking as a sword could be. This awful sword is the bane of every Viking set. LEGO seems to have realized their mistake on that count and the new Castle line brings back the broadsword and greatsword, and so I won't berate them further on this topic.
Other than the glue, which is unavoidable, and the Knight's Kingdom swords, the set is quite good. The chessboard is a plain, black and white board, with velcro on the back to hold it in the box when it's not in use. The minifigs fit into a molded plastic housing where they glare out at you. The box folds closed and has plastic straps to snap it shut.
The Chess Pieces
The blue team, pictured above, is fashionably attired in dark blue pants and shirts, with light blue sleeves. The queen has a dark grey torso with dark blue sleeves. The king and queen have dark blue capes; this is the first set to contain these capes. The king and two rooks have black shields with a blue sticker on them. In the photo above the pawn is on the left, wielding a short axe. The knight is beside him, then the king, with the ridiculous Knight's Kingdom sword; then the queen with a double-bladed two-handed battle-axe, then the rook, with two torches, and the bishop, with crossed swords.
The read team, pictured above, is similar to the blue team with some minor differences. First, the men are arrayed in a different dark grey torso with dark-red sleeves but sport bright red pants. The pawns carry spears instead of axes, and the rook is topped with this piece which makes the rook more reminiscent of a tower than the blue rooks. Unlike the blue queen, the red queen has the same torso assembly as the other red soldiers. In the photo above the pieces are arranged, from left to right, as follows: pawn, rook, queen, king, knight, bishop. All four bishops have the same head, and the 8 pawns on each side have the same head, and the two kings and two queens share heads as well. This is fine for a chessboard but if these figs leave the board to mingle with your other Viking figs it will be reminiscent of the days when all LEGO figs had only one face: the smiley.
I think this set makes a good chess set, for a kit put together by LEGO (as opposed to one made by fans). The pieces look good and don't suffer from the Knight's Kingdom chess set's awful colour scheme. The construction of the box, which is intended as the permanent home for these pieces, is reasonable; both sturdy and handsome. My only criticisms aside from the glue and the swords: The pawn pieces are the same height as the other pieces, and the bishops don't look bishopy enough. In a traditional set the pawns are shorter than the stronger pieces, especially the bishops which often resemble the pawns in appearance. Unfortunately solving this problem would require either making the chessboard smooth or gluing some assembly to the base of the minifigs; neither of these is an ideal solution. For the bishops, however, I think it would be reasonable for them to have a different torso and a taller weapon. The double-bladed battle axe the queen has would be ideal as the bishop's weapon as it resembles a crosier... well, maybe not but it's much closer than the crossed swords. Thankfully this is LEGO and I can re-outfit the troops as needed from my existing collection. As an army builder this set is fairly good but the main issue is the lack of variety; Viking hordes are not know for their uniform appearance and thus this set is not historically accurate.
For me the ideal chess set would include a fully-brick-build chessboard that doubles as a carrying case; the board itself would be made of smooth tiles instead of studded plates, and the chess pieces would be taller and nothing would be glued. However this would probably add 200 pieces to the kit which is already fairly pricey so I can understand why LEGO chose this approach. LEGO has stated that minifigs are the most expensive components of a kit and this kit is pretty much all figs, so it's understandable that they have to compromise to keep the price down. I think they did a good job on this set. Here's hoping they continue with the chess line with the 2007 Castle theme, or maybe some other theme, such as pirates or space.