LEGO Chess

A couple of weeks ago, Lucy and I were building with LEGOs, and I happened to grab one of our large plates.

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We’ve had several large, square plates like this for a while, but it didn’t occur to me until that particular day to see just how big they were.  As it turns out, they are 32 studs on a side.  If I were to break the board up into 4×4 blocks, I’d have exactly enough to make a chess board.

A LEGO chess board.

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I realize this board doesn’t have the usual checkered pattern, so it would be very difficult to actually play a game with this set, but I think it’s a great starting point.

With this board, I wanted to make sure that the pieces were very distinctive when viewed from above – the normal perspective when you are playing a game.  I’ve played on several different boards in the past, and probably the most frustrating thing is trying to tell – at a glance – which piece is which.  In particular, it seems to be a running problem that Bishops and Pawns look very similar, differing in height, but not much else.  That works fine at the start of the game, but not in the middle game, when nothing is next to each other any more.  The "at a glance" issue is worse with the commemorative boards, such as for Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, and Harry Potter.  These are gorgeous boards, but it would take a lot of play before I could just glance at the pieces before making a move.

The Pawns are simple, and distinguished from the other pieces by being significantly shorter.

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With the Rooks, I tried to create a very simplified rampart.

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The Knights are designed to look like horses.  These went through a few iterations before I landed on this version, though.

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The antenna look like strange stand-ins for ears, but they certainly allow the Knights to stand out on the board.

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I originally thought about using pure-black antenna on the black Knights, but I didn’t have four of them, and the grey versions stand out better, anyway.

Many of the boards I’ve played on have the Bishops’ hats narrow to a point, very much like what a Catholic bishop would wear.  With the LEGO Bishops, I tried to evoke that look with a slanted top. 

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Up to this point, the pieces had been purely black and white.  With the Queens and Kings, I decided to add a splash of color – blue with the white pieces, and red with the black ones.  Here are the Queens:

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And the Kings:

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Overall, I think it’s a fine-looking first attempt.

And as a bonus pic, I present you with the "Knights of the Rounded Table".

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You’re welcome.

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“Katherine’s Salon” gets a little hairy

This afternoon I was watching the girls so CJ could get some grading done.  Katherine was sick, and it was in the 20s outside, so our options were fairly limited to what we could do in the house.  CJ suggested that we break out the Play-Doh.  That turned out to be an inspired idea – a runaway hit that lasted both girls for over an hour.

This was Lucy’s first experience with Play-Doh, but she was spell-bound right from the start.  She set about with a large blue blob and proceeded to stuff it into every mold we had.  Katherine started playing with a small “salon” where you can cut and style Play-Doh hair (You remember those pieces, right?  Where clay enemas can become this year’s latest styles?).  Her play quickly turned into a no-holds-barred stylist, dealing with the most rebellious teenagers who equated haircuts with torture.

CJ surfaced just before dinner, and spelled me for a few minutes so I could tend to a few things.  Lucy was still happily making owls and violins out of the molds, but Katherine had taken things to a whole new level.  I walked back into the room to the sound of “Your hair smells like a highway filled with old cars!”

That made me stop in my tracks.  CJ burst into laughter.  Katherine quickly followed it up with “No!  Don’t cut my hair!   No!  Don’t bring those scissors near me!  *snip* *snip*  Ah!!  I’m bald!”

Katherine-as-Stylist: “Oh settle down you.  Your hair needs to be washed and dried next.” 

*wash* *wash* *scrub* *scrub*  *brrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr*

Katherine-as-Teenage-Boy: “Ah!!! What have you done?!?”

Katherine-as-Stylist: “Next!”

Fluffy

My wife was actually upset (well, ok, not really, but for the purposes of this post just go with it) when I had to tell her “No.  No I do not have a freeze ray that can stop time, nor an Internet-munching three-headed dog named Fluffy.”

Did I mention it was the end of the semester?  I think the grading is getting to her.

Superheros and Vacuums

With some frequency, I will wake up in the morning or come home from work, and find sticky notes attached to our microwave.  The microwave sits on a shelf at eye level, and since we all have to pass through the kitchen to do anything in the morning or evening, it’s a perfect spot for reminders.  For example,

Buy X

Because we’re down to the last box/bottle/jar/can/dumpster of X, and if we don’t restock soon the household will come to a screeching, whining halt.  Or,

Katherine/Lucy/CJ Appointment for Y

My appointments never rate the front of the microwave.  Now that I think about it, they don’t even rate the sides.

Bury Z

Kidding.  I’ve never actually seen this one.  We don’t keep pets (we’re blessed with free-range allergies, instead), so thankfully I’ve never had to come home to, “Hi honey, the cat left you another present.  He did manage to keep it contained to a single room this time.”

This evening, however, I walked in the door to find a bright yellow sticky note on the microwave door.  I remembered seeing a similar one when I left this morning, so my first instinct was that this was the same one.  When I walked closer, though, I saw a different message:

What kind of a superhero would he be without a vacuum?

I had to read it three additional times to make sure I was making out all of the words correctly.  Something must have happened today involving superheros and vacuums, and this was obviously the philosophical extension of that event.

It felt like one of those story-starters that you’d find in a creative writing class: “Look at this picture, and write what happens 5 minutes after the picture was taken.”  “Here’s a crowd scene in a movie – make up a story about one of the people you see and explain why they’re there.”  “Create a superhero that uses a vacuum, then take it away to see how he fares.”

As it turns out, there was a cartoon that CJ and the girls watched today where the protagonist found a small vacuum cleaner, and dreamt of becoming a superhero, helping people all over the city by using his vacuum cleaner.  CJ didn’t want to forget to tell me about it because it was so funny, so the note on the microwave was meant to get me to ask her about it.  Believe me, it worked.

I just hope the dude was smart enough NOT to wear a cape, given that his source of power was a vacuum cleaner.  Did you ever see “The Incredibles”?

“No capes!”

Spousal Spoonerism

This evening, CJ tried to say “Lego Harry Potter”, a video game that we are fond of, but it unfortunately came out as “Larry Hego Potter”.  Larry is, of course, Harry’s next door neighbor, and is of no relation to Harry.

Larry’s name and proximity to the “Chosen One” causes regular confusion, however, and he is frequently redirecting owls and the occasional Death Eater to 4 Privet Drive.

It’s a rough life.