As a general rule I hate playing board games, but I make an exception for chess. I don't pretend to be anything but an amateur, and I've never played anyone but family members and friends, but I enjoy it quite a bit, and read about it from time to time. I've been playing chess with my son since his fifth birthday and my daughter since well before her fifth. My son has almost beaten me several times; I don't know whether that says more about me or about him! We're also reading Through the Looking-Glass, having just finished Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. The latter is definitely the superior of the two, but the kids are amused by the chessboard conceit of the former.
Another thing we three do together is play with Legos. You see, the awesome thing about having kids is that you get to play with toys all over again, but now that you're older you can do way cooler things with them. Plus, people think you're a devoted parent, etc. Anyway, when I was a kid, I was really into Legos. I eventually had this enormous plastic tub full of them. And my parents, who save everything, from my umbilical cord (carefully coiled in a little pouch) to a piece of my finger I chopped off in high school, naturally kept these stored in their garage like the Ark of the Covenant in a top-secret government warehouse. And now I have them all – cord, finger, and Legos.
It was quite an experience sorting through the tub, which hadn't been touched since my brother and I got too old for them. The Lego Movie is, naturally, quite a favorite around here. Best movie of 2014. Part of it takes place in a hall of "relics," which include a dirty Band-Aid and other nasty little bits of trash. The joke here, which only a person with lots and lots of Legos would get, is that all kinds of weird things end up in the bucket. Well, going through our old bucket was like opening up a time capsule of relics. The helmet of a G.I. Joe; the leg of a Parademon; the eraser-end of a pencil bitten so as to make the eraser protrude just a little bit further; the wrapper from a clandestinely consumed piece of candy; a plastic cockroach; a rusty binder clip; and so on.
Well, being the systematic person I am, I washed each and every Lego and sorted them into colors. That done, what was I to do? I made several increasingly grand gothic imperial space palaces, but, you know, that gets old. So at last I hit upon the awesomest idea of all: Lego chess! A bout with a stomach virus over the Christmas break gave me just the opportunity I needed.
Here's a picture of the white side:
Which makes me think of the Kenneth Branagh Hamlet:
The king is accordingly called Hamlet, and his wife, Gertrude. One of the bishops wears the sign of the shell, selected as being an ancient symbol of pilgrimage, and also because I ran out of red capes. The black side has more of an Iron Crown of Witchland thing going on:
Naturally, white represents Order, and black, Chaos. It's hard to see in the pictures, but the white king holds a sword across his lap for Justice, the black king a whip for Tyranny. The latter (King Gorice XII) has a fierce spiky cross:
His queen we call Semiramis. Just for good measure, here's another view of the white side:
The set is inspired partly by Battle Chess, which I loved watching on autoplay in Radio Shack in the late eighties. The horses' heads, alas, protrude beyond the edge of their squares, and they thus must sometimes be turned sideways. I could build a more traditional-looking knight, but what fun it is to use real horses!
And yes, the pieces are a little cumbersome to play with. But the kids and I derive considerable enjoyment from it nonetheless. As you can probably tell, I'm inordinately pleased with it. The Lego bricks are all from the late eighties / early nineties, the very latest having been bought by my younger brother after I'd moved on to other things. So they're not as specialized as what they make now, and the white ones are slightly discolored.
No arena of combat would be complete without spectators:
Most are from my old sets, but several of my son's make an appearance as well. As you can see, quite a few celebrities like to stop by. From left to right:
- Row 4: Blacktron Future Generation spaceman; Larry from Newhart; morning news anchor; Chima bird-thing; one-eyed cutthroat; M:Tron spaceman; Redbeard the Pirate; Blacktron spaceman; Jolly Roger pirate.
- Row 3: Burt Reynolds; Bane; the Toecutter; crossing guard; Justin Bieber; Lizzie Borden; airport worker; greasemonkey.
- Row 2: General Zod; General Zod's minion; doctor; Sally Ride (it's hard to tell because of the helmet); Sir Bruce sans Pitie; Shell gas station employee; rioting peasant; barbarian warrior; hardened criminal.
- Row 1: Emmet Brickowski; Batman; Super Mario; Commissioner Gordon; Robin Hood; Little John; Benny the retro eighties spaceman; Superman.
We keep ourselves entertained.