Chess sets have become somewhat of a tradition for the last few subthemes in Castle, and Kingdoms is no different. This set, apart from being a playable chess set, can also be regarded as an army builder/source for minifigures, with an excellent price-per-minifig ratio. It also compares favorably to previous chess sets in terms of general color scheme, minifigure selection and overall equipment.
Name: Kingdoms chess Set
Theme: Castle / Kingdoms
Price: $50 MSRP
Resources: BrickLink Brickset Brickshelf
Let's get started!
My first impression of the box: it is huge! Of course, it has to be able to fit a chessboard, plus the box art shows that there is some sort of base for the board too, with bastions on the corners. The box is LEGO Games style, made of thicker, more durable cardboard, and the top of the box slides onto the bottom. I prefer this kind of box to regular ones for storage purposes, and I don't often buy LEGO Games, so the box is highly appreciated.
Side of the box
Three of the sides are bland; the only interesting side displays some of the minifigures.
Actually, the bottom of the box is also printed. One of the smaller pictures show how the items are organized in the box, and there is a huge display of all the chess figures organized neatly. These are nice pictures, even though I won't stare at them that much.
There is this huge baseplate of sorts, with bastions on the corners. Very fitting for a castle-themed chess set. On top of it, there is a regular 32x32 green baseplate (fitting right into it), then a piece of cardboard listing all the chess figures, then building instructions and five numbered bags. Bags 1-4 contain the pieces for the figures, and bag 5 contains the black and white squares of the chessboard. Nothing is glued, thankfully.
This might be useful if someone wants to play actual chess and is not familiar with LEGO figures. Most of the figures are intuitive, except perhaps the knights.
Baseplate with bastions
The raised baseplate is sturdier than first expected, but still not the same quality plastic as regular LEGO parts. Eventually, I decided against using it, but others might find it useful (e.g. as a base of a castle).
The instructions booklet is slim, yet very detailed, with every single type of figure shown separately, down to pawns that differ in weapon only.
The instructions are nice and clear, but then again, it is not very important for a set like this. The whole set could easily be assembled just going by the box art.
Less random page
And this is how you put the complete set in the box once it's built.
The first thing to build is the board. It is monotonous, but at least quick and absolutely easy. From a parts point of view: basic plates are always welcome, but I have no idea what to do with this many 4x4 pieces (apart from building a chess board, of course). The green baseplate is also nice, it has enough room to accomodate both armies if you decide to make some sort of combat scene.
On to the main portion of this set: the minifigures.
The Red Side
The red pawns are regular soldiers with the quarter torso and armed with swords and spears (and shields). The two types of weapon give a bit of much needed variety. The choice of head is nice, one of the less-used heads. Actually, two different heads might have given even more variety, but that's probably asking for too much. Overall, the pawns are fairly standard, just as expected.
Without equipment & from behind
I have one quality issue though: the colors are slightly off. But more on this later, let's get on to the other figures.
Rook, knight & bishop
The rooks are straightforward builds from mostly common bricks. Each rook has two torches and an ovoid shield. The ovoid shields are nice since they are otherwise not so easy to come by. Again, the rooks are fairly standard, and I am happy with them.
The red knight is a jester with a crossbow. In some older chess sets, the knight was often brick-built with a horse helmet, which is more easily recognizable as a chess figure. In general, I prefer a minifigure to that, but seriously, a jester? For a knight, something more combat-oriented would have been better. I assume that it is at least useful for those who don't have it from the impulse set. (I do.) At least there are no quality issues here.
The bishop is one of the highlights of the set. It comes with the bucket helmet, a lion armor and an ovoid shield, which are all welcome, especially the plate. Its torso is more often used on archers, but the plate covers it anyway, so it's fine. The glaive/corseque is also nice, making this figure very distinct and well-equipped. Great!
The jester also appeared in his own impulse set, while a similar soldier was in the set Escape from Dragon's Prison (7187).
Both the knight and bishop have dual sided heads. You could switch to these once they are taken.
King & queen
No surprises here; the royal couple are familiar from other sets of the Kingdoms line. These are nice figures, even if they have been released before. The queen's hair color is dark brown (it has also been released in black before).
The king looks great, his torso very detailed with lots of ornaments. As for the queen, the gold on her torso is a slightly different shade than on her skirt. It's not much though, I only realized the difference after looking at the picture.
The queen has a dual sided head (in case she's taken, too ).
The Green Side
The green pawns are very similar to their red counterparts; this time with halberds and flails. The choice of head is strange; something less childish would have been better. I want grim soldiers ready for battle! These also have some problems with the painting. More on this later.
Without equipment & from behind
Ugh, that face... it is much better looking from behind!
Rook, knight & bishop
The green rook is fine; it differs from the red rook only in color scheme.
The green knight is actually a knight! That is a nice surprise after the red jester. It is one of the trademark dragon knights from Kingdoms, which last appeared in the set 6918 Blacksmith Attack. He comes with an axe; I assume they wanted to give him something which is different from any of the pawns' weapons. Great minifigure, I am happy with this one.
The bishop is, again, excellent, equipped with armor and ovoid shield. Unfortunately, the colors on the ovoid dragon shield are off. It's surprising since all the other shields in the set were OK. The torso is an archer torso again, but again, the plate covers it, or you can alternatively give the plate to the knight to have a fully armored knight. Either way, this figure is very useful.
Real heavy duty guys. The choice of heads is excellent here. They are more common ones, but on 2-of minifigures, that's fine.
No dual heads here. I assume these guys will keep their grim faces even in death (e.g. taken).
King and queen
The green king is a wizard similar to the one in the set 7955 Wizard, but there are some differences: the green cape, grey beard, and no dragon painted on the hat. He has the same scroll and wand as in 7955 Wizard. I think I overall prefer the impulse version a little bit more, but this one is abolutely OK as well.
The green queen is technically a new figure, but from old parts; basically one more variation on the dark green-black 'barmaid' torso. Her head is the same as that of the red queen, but interestingly, here the annoyed face is put forward instead of the smiling one. She comes with a cape and a dagger. The dagger doesn't look like much of a weapon, it feels like they just tossed something in her hand. Also, the queen's hair pushes down her cape too much, which is poor design.
Overall, I think that the green king and queen minifigures do meet the minimum requirements for the job, but just that, and they look definitely inferior to their red counterparts.
They don't look like much, do they?
You might notice that the queen's head is looking sideways. This is not an oversight on my part, and goes down as yet another quality issue.
OK, so this is highly subjective, but for me, these parts are the most interesting:
The lion plate is an especially rare commodity. I possibly would have passed on this set without it.
The complete set
It's a nice display, the colors of the two sides are distinct, and the figures are impressive. The raised baseplate with the bastions is a nice addition.
Before the final verdict, there is one more thing to address.
My main quality issue is that some of the color on the minifigures were off.
The white on the red pawns' torso has a little pink hue, and the gold painting is darker than on figures from regular sets. It is actually not that bad, hardly noticeable in itself, but the comparison shows there is a difference.
Green pawns: again, the gold is darker than it should be. Among themselves, the pawns still look fine, but against an older figure, the difference is striking. Even the green shades are different.
Bishops: I just wanted to mention that the gold painting is darker on the bishops' torsos as well, but seeing that there is very little gold on these torsos anyway, plus they are covered by plates, I think this is practically not an issue.
Both of the yellow shades on the dragon ovoid shields are MUCH brighter than on other shields. It is actually quite bad, possibly the worst of all the color issues. I am not happy about this.
Finally, the green queen's head is misprinted: the two faces are not exactly opposite to each other. Her hair still covers the back face, but this could be problematic with other types of hair.
I am actually quite disturbed at the amount of quality issues. This is not what I am used to from LEGO. The value-for-money ratio of the set is still OK, but frankly, it would have been much better without all these pesky color and printing issues.
Regarding these issues, my advice is that don't mix them with figures and items coming from regular sets, especially the pawns and the dragon ovoid shields. In among themselves, they look OK. I personally planned to use these figures as 'extra' armies anyway, so it's not that big of a problem for me, but still, it would have been nice to have the option to mix the figures up at will. Oh well.
Playability: 8/10 - either as chess or two opposing armies, it's nicely playable
Minifigures: 8/10 - a few weird choices, but mostly great
Quality: 4/10 - some colors are off; the weak point of the set
Price: 10/10 - a lot of minifigures for a very reasonable price
Pieces: 10/10 - very generous equipment
Overall: 8/10 - a nice set, but with some quality issues
Overall, this is a nice set with a very good value-for-money ratio, and I have no regrets about buying multiple boxes. It definitely delivered in the areas most important for me. Also, if you didn't have any Kingdoms figures before, you don't have to care too much about the color differences, and this is a great set to get two sizeable armies for a low price in one swoop. That said, you should consider the quality issues before buying this set.
Edited by Stiel, 22 July 2012 - 12:32 PM.