Starcraft, a widely known video game series, is often compared to chess in terms of complexity and strategy. As most of the instalments from the Starcraft family are RTS, or Real Time Strategy, it’s easy to draw certain parallels between these games and chess. Of course, there are some major differences; let’s just start with the fact that Starcraft with its three playable races is a deeply asymmetric game; that is, each playable race needs to be played in a different style to fully utilise its capabilities. There’s also the matter of reaction time in Starcraft; in chess reaction time is almost completely irrelevant, while in Starcraft it’s highly important.
But as for parallels, there are some. For example, both games have been mastered by computers; AlphaStar, an AI developed by google, is able to defeat over 99% of human players in Starcraft II. Both games require strategic thinking, and neither of those has a single winning strategy – that is, neither is a solved game. And it is even possible to actually play chess in Starcraft II – as a sort of an easter egg.
But despite all those similarities, chess sets themed after Starcraft aren’t terribly popular. However, it is possible to find one or two Starcraft themed chess sets out there, and there are a few more ways to source figurines that can be used as chess pieces. And today we shall have a look at all those options.
A set like this one is a good option if you look for something that’s sold as a chess set, with all the pieces needed for a chess game – no additional hassle. The artist who had made this particular one has since ceased to offer their handworks for sale, however due to the fact that it isn’t a particularly high-skill product requiring expensive hardware, one could conceivably create something similar at home.
Those particular Starcraft II themed chess pieces have been made from hand-painted polymer clay. Polymer clay isn’t a particularly popular material choice for chess sets, mostly because of the fact that it usually isn’t particularly durable, and tends to be very brittle. However, it is very easy to create things from that material at home, and with proper polymer clay mix, it is possible to get flexible and strong material.
How detailed handmade chess pieces are depends on the particular manufacturing process. If one uses moulds and resin, it is possible to create something that’s as detailed and as precise as mass produced pieces. On the other hand, if one sculpts pieces (as in this set), each piece is unique, but precision and repeatability suffers.
Scavenging pieces may be a little unappealing. However, there are two advantages of this approach. Firstly, as this is a mass-produced board game, those pieces are really easily available. Another advantage is that, if you do buy the entire boxed game, you can also play Risk – that’s two games at the price of one.
On the other hand, using pieces from a different game may be a little confusing, and there’s the matter of choosing which particular figure is to be used as which particular chess piece.
As for the figurines, the detail level is usually quite decent, however most often they are completely unpainted. And also, usually there are more figures than needed for chess – which means that if a piece gets damaged, there’s usually a spare or two. In this particular game, there are all the playable Starcraft races, so you can mix and match the pieces you use for chess to your preferences.
Another good game to source pieces from is “Starcraft: The Board Game”.
With the advent of 3D printing, creating custom real life objects from 3D models got much easier than it had ever been.
One of the options for getting Starcraft themed chess pieces is to find or create 3D models of all the pieces you would want to have and then have them 3D printed.
How does that work? Firstly, you need to prepare a three-dimensional computer model of the object you want to print. After that, you either print it on your own 3D printer, or have it printed by one of many companies which offer 3D printing on demand. In the latter case, it is even possible to have said object made from brass, aluminium or even steel!
The photographs above show one of the more easily found sets of 3D models meant to be used as chess pieces, with one example of how a real printed piece looks if printed on an inexpensive home 3D printer. Though, those models would probably require slight modification if one intended to really play chess with them – for example, adding a circular base would be advisable, as some of those pieces would likely fall over without one.
As for durability of plastic 3D-printed pieces, it is often better than that of comparable pieces made from resin, polystone, or even wood. Pieces printed from metal will be as durable as normal metal pieces.
Wrapping It Up
As is apparent, the choice in terms of Starcraft themed chess is limited – there are a couple different options, but none is really optimal. Perhaps the best option would be to bug Blizzard until they finally release an official, licensed Starcraft chess set…
But until they do that, those are your three major options for Starcraft chess.