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  1. Introduction: Who doesn’t love a good, mind-numbing game of chess? Not you? That makes two of us. But even if you aren’t among the chess nuts boasting in an open foyer, you can still enjoy this pieceful (but not peaceful) beauty – the LEGO Pirates Chess Set. With 20 pirate and imperial themed minifigures and over 850 pieces, this set is a great parts pack for anyone looking to expand their pirate collection! Your first look at it today comes courtesy of Brickset: Let’s open that shiny box up and see what’s inside! Product Details: Name: Pirates Chess Set Number: #40158 Theme: Pirates Year: 2015 Pieces: 875 Minifigures: 20 Price: USD $59.99 Source: Brickset Instructions: As I do not have a copy of the box myself, I cannot take pictures of it, but I can offer a few shots of the instruction manual. It comes wrapped up in a plastic cover, and though without cardboard to keep it straight, my copy arrived smoothly. There are two manuals, both with the same front artwork. A random page reveals a pirate-y background of mottled brownish tan. A shot of the inventory page gives us a taste for what is coming. And lastly, the back page presents all six sets from the most recent Pirates line-up. Construction: One of the first things that jumped out at me as I began was the immense quantity of baseplates this set contains, as you can see in this shot of the baseplate bags plus the starting “1” bag pieces. The build begins at the pirate side. Without the playing pieces (which you’ll see in more detail later), the three or so bags labeled “1” get us here: I felt kind of embarrassed uploading that to my photostream. Well, actually, for a TLG landscape, it is tolerable; the designers have done a good job of hiding the pin connectors. Next comes bag 2. Or rather, all the bags that are labelled “2” – pictured here along with the starting baseplates for this section. Naturally, this part of the build was rather repetitive. I was racing the sun, so I think I did it in record time, but it was still rather boring. Honestly, I wouldn’t have expected more from anything that had to do with chess. (My apologies to all you chess lovers out there. I’m more of a checkers fan.) Anyway, the set is designed so that both halves of this section open to reveal two separate compartments, which I thought was very thoughtful of TLG. Also, note the sweet light bley corner tiles! Now we move into the threes and hit the imperials! If the landscaping on the pirate side was tolerable, this is just dreadful. Water above the level of the ground, a walk that’s a cross between a dock and a fort… but why describe it, when you can see it for yourself? Again, we’ll see the playing pieces later on; this is just the landscape. And now for bag four, and more of the same. Only, since the imperials are landlubbers, they have sand colored pieces under their section of the board instead of water colored pieces. Once again, a repetitive build, but not too bad. The board opens on this side as well. The completed set has four separate sections that can be joined together very sturdily with the aid of several technic pins. And here she be! Note the brick separator… the first set I’ve ever got that included one! (That’s pretty pathetic, I know.) The extra pieces. Still wondering where all those 1x1 round red pieces came from. The Swashbuckling Pirates: Starting off with the pirates, you’ll quickly notice that the pawns are all very similar. I would have appreciated some more variation, but on the whole it’s not too bad. There are two basic variants (pictured below along with the banana boy) though some have black pants. The new headgear mold is great and the shirts all have back printing which is very nice. In the back row, we have the rook (or would that be parrook?), the knight (or the fright), and the bishop (the catapult) followed by the Queen and King before we head up the line-up again with another catapult, a fright, and a parrook. The parrooks are a little lack luster but the frights are very clever if not quite perfectly executed. I’ll admit though that I see no connection between a catapult and a bishop! A few round bricks to shoot would have been a nice addition; they could easily have been attached to the back when not in use. And then again, maybe that’s what all those extra red round 1x1s were for? Now for a closer look at the Pirate Queen and King! She looks like she’s the one doing the real work… but don’t be fooled – I played a game and she got taken before she even moved! Both figures have back printing and the Queen includes a double-sided face. The Marching Imperials: Left, right, left, right, left – left, right! Once again the pawns are very similar. The front printing is very nice though I’m not a huge fan of either facial expression. The torsos have back printing, continuing the white straps from the front. The back row here looks a good deal more cohesive than the pirates’ back row, which makes sense. Starting with the rook and moving on to the knight and bishop, we then hit the Queen (or Admiraless?) and King (or Admiral) before returning with bishop, knight, and rook. The rooks are quite plain, but with two dark red profile bricks each, I’m not complaining! It is admittedly somewhat difficult to tell why the knights should be knights and the bishops bishops. I think I owed a few of my kills during my game to the confusion this gave rise to on my opponent’s part! A closer view of the top two reveals some great torso printing, thought unfortunately the legs are plain. To compensate for that, however, we have some great back printing! And before we walk away from this section on the minifigures, here are a few shots of the food fighters – the banana boy and the baguette brevet. Both have the same hair mold but in different colors, and both also have reversible faces. At ‘em! Conclusion: Be ye ready, me hearties? Don’t shoot ‘til you see the whites of their eyes! As you’ve probably already guessed, I didn’t get this set for its chess value. I was far more interested in those minifigures and in the piece count which is pretty hefty especially for the reduced price I was able to pick it up at. In terms of an actual chess set, it is fun, but a little confusing and, well, I really don’t care if I play chess with pieces that look like pirates or pieces that look normal. In terms of a LEGO set, there’s nothing spectacular about it. The landscaping is rather plain at best and the board is boring, though most of the pieces are neat. But, when you look at it as a batch of MOC ingredients… this set is just plain hard to beat! Black and white tiles are great, large baseplates are always useful, and for a pirate builder all those minifigures are hard to pass up! That being decidedly how I look at the set, the only wonder is how come I’ve never bought a chess set before! Playability: 9/10 – It’s a chess set. Of course you can play with it. It even includes compartments to store the minifigures, it comes apart nicely for storage, the pieces can attach to the board, and there are a few catapults to boot. Even a youngster not interested in chess would still have to have fun fooling around with all 20 minifigures! Design: 7/10 – Well, the landscaping is awful – glaringly so. But to compensate for that, the playing pieces are for the most part really nice with only minor exceptions, the board itself is very handy and convenient and sticks together well, and I was pleasantly surprised when I ran across the opening compartments. There are no, “Wow, what a great technique!” moments, but for what it is, it’s solid. Minifigures: 9/10 – There are lots of ‘em, and they’re cool. What more can you ask? Sure, a bit of leg printing would have been nice but most of these torsos really don’t need it. For the most part, these guys are just begging for funny poses… “You won’t be gettin’ me anytime soon, lady!” So much for that. Price: 7/10 – After having praised its value as a parts pack up to the skies, I can’t well give it a bad score here, even if I got it for considerably less than the retail price of $59.99. And really, if you’re willing to take it apart and use it (and where better than in the new Brethren of the Brick Seas RPG?) then even sixty dollars isn’t too much to pay! Overall: 8/10 – So many pieces and so many minifigures… it’s worth every penny. If I were going to keep this built, I would have to do some thorough overhauling on the landscaping sections, but since I’m not, I can feel good about giving it a good average and then tearing it up to build something better. I’m sure I’m going to get some great use out of these pieces… but before I do, I had to have some fun. “Arg! Get in line, ye filthy scum!” “Forward… March!” “I believe this is check, mate!”