Although I’ve watched and really enjoyed all three of the Lord of The Rings films, I’m not the biggest LOTR fan in the world and I must confess that I haven’t read the books. As you can imagine I was a bit surprised when I was asked to review this Lord of the Rings Chess set produced by Studio Anne Carlton, but here goes….
This themed chess set is based on the first film in the Lord of the Rings Trilogy; The Fellowship of the Ring and is officially licensed by New Line Cinema, who I understand are the producers of the LOTR films.
The set consists of 32 pieces each representing a bust of a character from the Fellowship of the Rings story and comes bundled with a lovely dark wood chessboard.
All of the pieces in the set are hand painted, with 32 pieces in total (no spare queens I’m afraid) – each piece is made from crushed stone.
The chessboard that comes bundled with the pieces measures approximately 55cm x 55cm. The largest of the chess pieces themselves (the king) is approximately 11.5cm tall.
Unboxing and First Impressions
Unboxing the Chess Set!
I wasn’t really sure what to expect with this themed set, although there are some lovely themed chess sets out there, I haven’t been too impressed with some of the cheap ones that I’ve seen in the past, especially from China.
The pieces come packaged in a lovely SAC (Studio Ann Carlton) box, which has a medieval style typeface and the box is a combination of yellow and red. There is no mention of Lord of the Rings on the outside of the box (I’m not sure if it is generic) but it does have a feeling of quality about it and the lid slips off very easily.
Inside we’ve got an information sheet printed on both sides; giving us some background on the Lord of The Rings, and each of the characters that have been used as pieces in the set.
After removing all the protective foam, we’re left with two trays each containing 16 chess pieces for each side of the board, both black and white.
Predictably SAC have chosen to represent the LOTR white pieces with the good characters from the story (Gandalf, Galadriel etc) and the dark/evil characters are represented by black pieces.
The SAC Box
One of the first things that I picked up on was that this Lord of The Rings set uses busts of the characters rather than an entire figure. This works surprisingly well and in my view helps to bring together the concept of a film and a traditional game in a way that isn’t tacky. I don’t think I would have any hesitation in having these pieces on display in the same way that I would with traditional pieces.
One of the things that I did notice with the SAC packaging is that because of the size of some of the chess pieces (i.e they are big) they do fit rather snuggly into the trays in the box. This is only a small issue, but SAC could look at tweaking the tray sizes to improve on this.
Moving on to the board, again it’s nicely packaged. It looks as though this has been produced by a manufacturer in Spain and has obviously been paired with the pieces by the supplier (in this case Regency Chess). This seems to be normal practice as chess boards and pieces aren’t always produced by the same company.
Opening the board up it is a lovely dark wood/light wood mix. It is a veneered board and the wenge/maple wood is a good contrast with a nice clean finish. No problems here, initial thoughts are that it is nice quality and matches the price bracket of the pieces.
Closer Look: The Lord of the Rings Pieces
As I mentioned above, each of the pieces represents a bust of a character from the Lord of The Rings. Here is a list of the pieces that SAC have used:
White Side (Good)
King – Gandalf the Grey
Queen – Galadriel
Bishops – Aragorn
Knights – Gimli
Rooks – Frodo Baggins
Pawns – Samwise Gamgee
Black Side (Evil)
King – Saruman the White
Queen – Ringwraiths
Bishops – Lurtz
Knights – Orc Overseer
Rooks – Moria Orc
Pawns – Orc
I’m incredibly impressed by the level of detail and I really like the hand painted finish, which looks fantastic (especially with the white pieces). The dark side is also intricately detailed and some of the characters are borderline scary!
Weight-wise the pieces range from about 66 grams for pawns to 132 grams for the kings. This is a nice weight for these types of pieces and adds to a general feeling of quality about the chess set. Because the pieces are made from crushed stone the weight comes from the actual material rather than artificial weights, which is great.
Lord of The Rings inscription
On the bottom of the pieces I noticed that they all have ‘The One Ring’ Inscription (another nice touch) and the bottom of the pieces are properly felted to protect the board from scratching.
The pieces range from about 5/6cm high for the pawns through to 11.5cm for the kings.
Closer Look: The board
Returning to the board – The one supplied with this Lord of the Rings chess set is a dark wood, light wood mix and manufactured by Rechapados Ferrer – based in Spain. From what I’ve heard Ferrer specialise in producing mainly veneered boards and this one is about 13mm thick and approx 55cm x 55cm.
Maple Winge Chess Board
Whilst I do like boards manufactured from a solid piece of wood, the price can often be a drawback. These veneered boards offer a good compromise between quality and value – and this one is beautifully made. Another advantage with veneered chessboards is that they are much more stable and much less prone to the cracking often associated with solid wood. Unlike solid boards each one is identical and free from the defects / variations associated with completely natural wood.
I think this is a fantastically made board that pairs perfectly with the SAC chess pieces.
I was initially a little concerned as to whether we would be able to remember which characters represent which pieces when we started to play. This has always been something I’ve wondered about with themed chess sets and we did have to refer to the information sheet to help us get us started, but after about 10 minutes of play we soon found our feet and ultimately this didn’t pose a problem.
Lord of The Rings Chess Pieces
In the past I’ve been on the fence in terms of themed chess sets, I’m a big fan of the traditional Staunton style and I’ve often struggled to see the value in themed pieces. This Lord of the Rings set seems to have converted me – the pieces are beautifully crafted and I like the Spanish chessboard that Regency chosen to match the chess pieces.
In summary – I think this set makes both a beautiful display piece and a chess set that can be used day to day. It gets my thumbs up and makes an ideal gift!!
Review by Daniel Edgebrook
The Lord of The Rings Chess Set is Available Here
2018 Update: The pieces in this set have been discontinued due to the demise of SAC and the expiration of the LOTR license. The Regency Chess Company have a VERY limited number of ‘New Old Stock’ sets left in stock which are available for sale on our website.