Star Trek 3D Chess

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The Author

New Member
For ages now, I have wanted a three-dimensional chess set as seen in the original Star Trek series.

There is the option of buying one, but I can think of many better ways to spend the five hundred bucks for something that's not even a replica of the screen-used prop.

So, build it is.
And while researching how to build (and later play) this variation of chess, I found this picture.
Photo 30.11.17, 09 26 32.png

This was perfect, not only did it show me the angles and everything, but it also gave a possible explanation to the legendary "Queen to queen's level three" move.

But then I noticed, doesn't that somewhat look like a globe stand?

And sure enough:
Photo 08.12.17, 18 06 48.jpg
That is a globe stand (globe off ebay, about twelve dollars), and some cardboard and tape mock-up.

The next step was to find a suitable third arm to replace the cardboard.
A visit to the store later, I have a flat aluminium profile of 15x2mm, and proceed to bend it in shape with my high-tech bending equipment.
Photo 09.12.17, 12 09 43.jpg

Mounted on the globe stand, it looks like this.
Photo 09.12.17, 16 15 11.jpg

Already looked somewhat like a three-dimensional chess set.
But who wants to play on cardboard?

So I went through my left-over parts from other projects, and dug out enough PVC foamboard to cut into the three main boards
Photo 09.12.17, 17 25 46.jpg

and five attack boards. (Yes, I know there are only four in the picture)
Photo 09.12.17, 18 59 42.jpg

So, how get the attack boards mounted on the main boards?
Personally, I use a brass pipe and those little shelf board holders that are just a 18x5mm piece of steel.
Photo 09.12.17, 17 26 43.jpg
Nice, snug fit.

Followed by the test-fitting of main board, pegs, and two attack boards.
Photo 09.12.17, 21 42 06.jpg

Here's the taped-up chess set with pieces.
Photo 10.12.17, 11 09 59.jpg

But tape will never do, and I had to remove the pieces right after taking the picture due to the boards starting to tilt.

So screws it is.
I used chicago screws to mount the boards on the aluminium, and wood screws to fix the aluminium to the plastic stand.

Photo 28.12.17, 13 12 41.jpg

And final chess set with pieces.
Photo 29.12.17, 16 05 37.jpeg

That concludes the construction period.
The chess set is usable, but painting will have to wait until weather warms up and I can use spray paint.


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Master Member
This is an ambitious project and I love that someone is going to attempt a realistic version of it. I've researched this thing to death! I think this may help you on your quest.

The platforms comes from the very first version of space checkers. If you look for them they are all over the place but beware! The box art shows transparent plastic for the stages (which is the very first version and IS correct but almost immediately they changed them to a red color which is the only version available) Though they changed the color from transparent to red, the box art remained the same. If you're looking for the Holy Grail transparent stages on line, make sure you get a picture of the pieces themselves.
Assuming you get the accurate Space checkers game (they even come pre-scribed!), you're almost home. You already have a base. Now you'll just need to fabricate the arms and you're done!
Of course now you're next headache will be to find the CLASSIC Ganine chess set. On a good day you can pick up a set for about 600.00. They only reason they cost that much is because of Star Trek enthusiasts and sellers KNOW what they have. The much more attractive set is the Ganine Gothic set which can be bought for 15-25 bucks, sadly it's not the accurate version.
I'm sure I'm giving you information you want to hear, but hey, now you can keep a look out at thrift and antique stores. That's how I found my checker set.
Good luck, man, and keep up the great work!

The Author

New Member
Oh, nice find.
Never thought that Star Trek used the space checkers platforms, but it makes a lot of sense.

I will keep an eye out, but I don't think I'll go for 100% accuracy.

My set is some three inches too small compared to the original, so the original attack platforms are probably too tall.
Same goes for the chess pieces.
Not to mention the horrendous prices for Ganine Classic.

BUT I think I will keep it in mind for the next version. This was more proof of concept, and getting a playable chess set than going for accuracy.

Another person that knows how to play it? First I have to figure out how to play it!
I have found rules online, but it's still a lot of work.

The Author

New Member
Found another interesting piece of information regarding the chess set.

The Attack Plattforms are from Space Checkers, that's nothing new.
But the main boards appear to be taken from a three-dimensional Tic-Tac-Toe variant called Qubic.
Both were available in toy stores at the time.

I always thought the Trek game to be so creative and awe-inspiring, and then it turns out they just cobbled together two maybe popular board games they got from the store.

Nonetheless, this enabled me to get the correct dimensions for the boards, which seems to be about six and a half inches, while my boards are 4.7 inches.
That's what happens when you take the measurements off the chessboard that came with the figures used.
So I got myself plexiglass in 0.16 inch thickness (tad too thick, but I had to make do with my crappy store), and will experiment with the correct board width.

I could have gotten Qubic (3D Tic Tac Toe) on Amazon, but where's the fun in that?

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The Author

New Member
And progress pictures!

Cardboard dummies with accuarte-ish dimensions (Maybe off by half an inch or so, had to convert to metric):
Photo 02.01.18, 14 36 30.jpg
Yeah, I think that looks better together. Not as empty.

The freshly cut plexiglass boards. Used a fine wood saw for that. Result: my wrist hurts.
Photo 02.01.18, 17 21 51.jpg

White level mounted.
Photo 02.01.18, 21 11 56.jpg
The reinforced middle arm looks odd in this picture. Needs adjusting.

Main boards mounted. Black level is too far in front. Measuring error, it seems.
Photo 02.01.18, 23 52 30.jpg
But I'm quite happy with the revised middle arm, even though it's only attached via cable binder at the moment.

All that's left is drilling holes in and for the attack boards, and then I can paint the sucker.
But the attack boards go so far in the corner...
I use 4mm polystyrol (I think that's called polystyrene in the US, but I could be wrong), and I am deathly afraid that the corners will shatter with the attack board holes.
Anybody got any tips?

The Author

New Member
That's an awesome build.
And I kept making a list of the tools he used that I don't have.
I don't even have the technical manual as a template.

But I managed to find a suitable drilling spot in the corners that leaves enough room and doesn't shatter the plexiglass.
Photo 03.01.18, 14 38 30.jpg
Proof of concept using a piece of scrap plexiglass left over from cutting.

would sit around here, and seems okay.
Photo 03.01.18, 14 39 14.jpg

Drilled three of the holes in the lower board by hand using a wood drill. Then I switched to a power drill and kept the RPM low.
Photo 04.01.18, 16 25 35.jpg
And of course, the holes made with the power drill are not straight in. I hate not having a stationary drill.
But i think I can fix this with some filing and super glue.
Worst case, I have to cut two new boards. And I do not have a table saw, only a handheld, fine wood saw. So that is really the last resort.

For some reason, the top board keeps looking like it's crooked, but it is on straight in real life. But considering that the original prop was quite crooked itself, well...


Sr Member
don't forget to sand the edges of the boards before painting, that will help cover up the saw marks.

The Author

New Member
Oh, I will. Just kept it away until I get all the drilling and fitting done.
I'd really hate to sand everything smooth, and then break the whole board just because I was drilling like an idiot.
But once I got the holes fixed, I'll whip out the sandpaper and make it shiny.

Speaking of paint, I was thinking of leaving the stand black and aluminium instead of painting it uniform silver-ish.
Might be the lazy option, but I kind of like the contrast.

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The Author

New Member
Finally got some building done.

Forgot to take a picture, but the cable binder holding the support for the second arm got replaced with chicago screws.

Followed by painting the stand silver.
Photo 13.01.18, 14 53 41.jpg

And the boards red (after masking of course).
Photo 13.01.18, 14 53 48.jpg

Letting the paint dry, I reassembled it.
Photo 13.01.18, 16 58 52.jpg
Photo 13.01.18, 16 59 18.jpg

It's a bit wobbly, it's scuffed, none of the attack boards are on straight, but it is mine.

The Author

New Member
Got new pieces in the mail.
I knew I couldn't get Ganine Classics (last one I found on ebay was eight thousand dollars), and the Ganine Gothic some people use are just creepy.

So I searched on ebay and etsy for pieces that a) fit under my boards (mostly), and b) do NOT look like average-Joey every-day chess pieces.

And behold:
NewPieces.jpg NewPiecesCloseUp.jpg

These pieces have lovely wide bases.
King and queen just fit into the squares, but leave enough room for the attack platforms in the corners.
Unlike the Ganine pieces, though, the smaller pieces have a smaller base than the king and queen.

Still, all pieces have wider than average bases for their heights, and felt bottoms. They're also nice to pick up and move.
Not to mention, unlike my old wooden pieces, they're straight and uniform.

And, as my possibly last line for this build, may I just say
"Queen to queen's level three."

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