Considered by many to be one of the ultimate manifestations of competitive strategic thinking, its no surprise that the game of chess would find its way into the mythologies that have helped shape modern nerdom. Few games simulate commanding an army with the disarming simplicity and tactical efficiency of chess, meaning it's iconic among heroes tasked with leading others against threats both physical and psychological. The game's innate importance aside, its iconic game board and pieces are wide open for artistic interpretation, leading to reimagined chess components bearing the likeness of nearly every worthy nerd franchise. Read on to revel in the knowledge that chess isn't just the "thinking man's game" -- it's the "playing nerd's game."
10) The Simpsons
Produced by Cardinal Games, this chess set dons the Simpson family in regal garb for matches that could inspire a "D'oh" or two for the losing side. Hardcore fans might be bummed that a few of their favorite characters are missing from the game in favor of a more simplistic "family vs. family" arrangement, but the sheer novelty of this kind of set may be enough for casual collectors and novice players.
9) Super Mario Chess
There's something a little funny about the idea of a game where Mario has the princess at his side from the start and must employ both offense AND defense in order to keep the Mushroom Kingdom together, but USAopoly's Super Mario chess set makes that scenario a reality for players. With a cast that includes Mario's most essential characters for videogame reenactments, this set should make for an equally aesthetically pleasing and functional addition to the gamer/chess enthusiasts' collection.
8) Lego Castle Chess
Lego has utilized its brick dudes for a few chess games over the years, each varying in size and scope. Their latest castle-themed set seems to rule them all, however, packing in some of the series' most coveted knights and monsters in a massive 2400+ brick set. Owners may forsake the item's intended gaming purpose to fortify their own fanciful brick realms, but that's not necessarily a bad thing in this case.
7) Sesame Street
There's something horrifying about the sentient-seeming lampposts of Sebaba Chess's Sesame Street set that makes players forget all about their childhood programming of choice. Yeah, Big Bird, Grover and the rest are hanging out in medieval period costume and that's great, but when a board game inspires thoughts of a living lamppost horror film scenario, that's a chess set worth playing.
6) Harry Potter Wizard Chess
Like regular chess only, you know, destructive and sometimes giant, the Wizard Chess of the Harry Potter series is alive and well in this set by Mattel. Sure, the extra-sized plastic chess pieces aren't exactly 100% to evil Hogwarts' basement puzzle scale, but the reasonably priced novelty afforded to HP fans is a plus. Besides, if any young HP readers took the time to learn the game based on this kind of merchandise, nerds everywhere can pretty much consider this kind of merchandising a win.
Sporting a massive brownstone base, this Spider-Man chess set by SOTA Toys pits Spidey and his fellow urban vigilantes against a heaping portion of his rogues gallery. Marvel may have seen chess sets based on its wider universe in the past, in this particular instance the publisher's flagship character has its other offerings outclassed big time. It may not play as functionally as smaller, less rendered sets, but anyone worth their weight in webs couldn't look at this thing without letting out some trace of a squee. Alas, it's no longer sold officially, so if you want it, you'll have to hunt it down on Ebay.
4) Doctor Who
When Danbury Mint isn't busy filing Sunday newspaper coupon booklets with special plates commemorating dog and cat breeds, the collectible company actually served the greater purpose of furnishing nerd collections with a Doctor Who chess set in the '90s to celebrate the series' 30th anniversary. The set itself lacks the paint job that defines many of the other collectibles on this list, but its plain metallic pieces seem to suit this particular series just fine. Pitting the first seven Doctors (this was released before the American Fox movie, obviously), a few notable companions, his TARDIS and K-9 pawns against numerous Daleks, Cybermen and other famous alien threats, the set does right by collectors with a fairly handsome chess board. There's also a police box TARDIS case that can be used to display the game pieces when they're not in play. All in all a worthy addition to any Who collection if you can find it.
Chronicling the ages-long war between the heroic Autobots and evil Decepticons, the tale of the Transformers is a thoroughly apt property to translate into chess pieces... especially if chess included an off-board piece called "Unichesscron" that transformed into a chess board itself and had the power to eat the entire game. Though Hasbro's released a movie-friendly version of Transformers Chess featuring metallic game pieces, SOTA's 2006 G1 set stands as a limited release that commands affection. This version is something of a collector's item now, fetching some seriousish scratch on online auction sites, but its attention to detail seems to justify the fan demand. Now if only Hasbro would recognize the genius behind "Unichesscron...."
2) Star Trek Tri-Dimensional Chess
Spending most of their time living, working and fighting in three dimensional space, the crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise (and other vessels) had the highly logical notion of playing a more complex variation of our mundane Earth game. No official version of the game has cropped up care of the usual toy/game producing suspects, but enterprising (haw!) nerds have made workable versions and rules available online. Maybe it'll catch on if J.J. Abrams includes the game in his next "Trek" film?
1) Star Wars
While it's safe to say that most SW fans would rather watch holograms of monsters rendered in claymation strom a Dejarik board, the franchise's Earthly chess offerings come close to compensating. There've been abundant physical chess sets produced through the years, usually pitting The Rebel Alliance against The Galactic Empire, but the most entertaining version may actually run closer to Dejarik than you think. The "Star Wars Chess" video game released for PC and Sega CD in 1994 provided fans with hilariously violent animated confrontations between everyone from Boba Fett and R2-D2 to lowly Stormtroopers and Sand People. If you've ever longed to watch an astromech murder a Mandalorian without the use of thrusters that defy the laws of physics, this is the chess game for you.