Back in 2019, there was an interesting Kickstarter campaign run by LEGO fan Matthew Asanuma. You might recognize the last name, as Matthew’s older sister, Mariann Asanuma is a well-known professional LEGO artist, LEGO model designer, and published author of several LEGO books. (You can learn more about Mariann via her website, ModelBuildingSecrets.com.) Matthew himself has been a lifelong LEGO fan, along with professional 3D design and practical prototyping experience. His Kickstarter campaign was to get funding for his LEGO compatible chess pieces that are equally suitable for display, actually playing chess, for using as building elements.
The Kickstarter campaign was very successful, raising just about $17,000, which was well over the initial $7,500 goal. The idea was to have the chess pieces ready and shipped to backers by the end of 2019, but due to some delays in creating the moulds, manufacturing, and the additional problems caused by the global pandemic, there were some delays. However, the chess pieces – along with some other custom LEGO compatible items – were finally shipped out to backers recently, and they are now also available directly through Matthew’s new website, BrickMini.com.
The website offers the chess pieces in several colors so you can mix and match they as you like. The available colors are black, white, brown, tan, dark-tan, dark-gray, light-gray, dark-red, dark-blue, dark-purple, dark-green, olive-green, and green. Great care has been taken to match the colors and style with LEGO’s own elements, so the chess pieces will blend right in. In addition, if you want to build your own chessboard and you don’t have enough plates or tiles, you can also pick those up through BrickMini.com. And besides the chess pieces, you can also get similarly sized generic playing pieces for board games (called meeples), as well as a set of tiny army men in the same variety of colors as the chess pieces.
I was very excited when the website went live, and immediately ordered a set of white chess pieces, a set of black chess pieces, and a set of green army men. Each chess set contains 18 pieces total: 8 Pawns, 2 Rooks, 2 Knights, 2 Bishops, 2 Queens, 2 Kings.
The army men sets contain 11 pieces in total: a leader figure with binoculars, a standing figure aiming a rifle, a kneeling figure aiming a rifle, a walking figure carrying a rifle down low, a walking figure carrying a rifle up high, a kneeling figure aiming a bazooka, a figure holding a sub-machine gun and throwing a grenade, a scout figure with a pistol, a tank driver half-figure (upper torso and head), an open tank hatch (fits around the base of the tank driver), and a closed tank hatch (fits on a single stud).
I’m super impressed with the quality of all the pieces. The are beautifully designed, the colors are a perfect match to LEGO, the finish on the figures is nice and shiny, there are no prominently visible seams or sprue marks, and all the pieces seamlessly connect with LEGO elements in a variety of ways.
Let’s talk about the connection points, because this is where the fun really begins. Matthew shared that he didn’t really design the chess pieces just to play chess. He wanted them to be versatile building elements that could be incorporated into other builds via several connection points. Obviously, all the chess pieces fit on LEGO studs. But there is more. All the pieces except for the Rooks and the Pawns can be grabbed by minifigs as the middle sections of all the pieces are the size of a standard LEGO bar. This also means that they are compatible with various clips. Although minifigs can’t grab the Pawns “by the neck” they can grab them by the head, which, although round, is also the size of a standard LEGO bar.
The Rooks have some very interesting features. They have a thicker body with a bar-sized hole going all the way through, so they can be attached to any LEGO bar. Also the jagged top sections of the Rooks can securely attach to each other to create some cool shapes and patterns. The Knights are also interesting. Although their neck appears to be wider, they can still be grabbed by minifigs or clips. And the hollow of the neck can hold a bar horizontally.
With all the attachment points and the versatile connectivity options with LEGO parts, the chess pieces can be used as decorative and architectural elements in a wide variety of applications. Think architectural details on buildings, decorative lamp posts, rails, fences, various weapons, greebling elements for spaceships and mechs, and a myriad of other uses. They are also very useful for micro-building. In the Kickstarter campaign video (included below), you can see how these attachments work.
A long time ago, I built a mini chess set with storage compartments for all the playing pieces underneath. It was based on a wooden mini chess set my dad had. I originally used small LEGO parts to build the chess pieces, but now I updated them with these custom pieces. I’m super happy with the upgrade. Picture below.
I haven’t played with the nano army men yet, but there are some fun suggestions on the website, building them a little tank.
In summary, I’m very happy with the design, quality, and usability of both the chess pieces and the army men. I’m particularly excited about using the chess pieces as decorative elements. And I think I will give the tiny army men for my minifigs to play with. If you would like to get your own, visit BrickMini.com. Also continue checking the site in the future, as Matthew is planning to add other items. You can also follow BrickMini on Facebook for updates.
What do you think? How do you like the custom mini chess pieces, army men, and playing pieces? Are you planning to get some? How would you use them? Feel free to share and discuss in the comment section below!
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