It’s the most popular game in the world. It’s also one of the hardest games to master. And finally, someone has tapped into the inherent story element I have loved since reading Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll. Whether you are brand new to the game or looking for a way to up your game, Story Time Chess is a perfect fit on any family gaming shelf. Even if it spends more time being played than up on the shelf.
What is Story Time Chess?
What we have here are two games brought together in one neat package. There is a collection of mini-games to teach the main board game: Chess. Each piece has its own character and background story, creating a cute narrative to help remember the moves. There are six (6) different Chess pieces, each with its own moves. Some children really struggle with remembering all of the details simultaneously. The secret weapon for Story Time Chess is creating something unique and memorable for each piece. You then attach the cartoon image to the Chess piece, and kids are able to associate the moves correctly!
All of the usual components of a Chess set are included, but there are three (3) primary features that really make this box worthy:
- The Story Book
- The large book features the rules of the game AND the mini-stories for each character AND the mini-games to practice the moves.
- The glossy pages include bright pictures with fun cartoonish imagery and solid font for easy reading.
- A double-sided Chessboard
- One side has a Chessboard for standard play.
- The other side has a ‘Story side’ set for learning to play with the characters. It includes faces to show where each piece starts at the beginning of the game, as well as colors to match the stories in the book.
- The Chess pieces themselves
- There are 32 custom Chess pieces and 32 corresponding character cutouts
- Each Chess piece is made from durable plastic with a small plastic slot for the matching cardboard cutout. The cardboard cutouts match the same cartoon graphics used in the storybook and provide a very clear identification for each piece.
- The cardboard cutouts are easy to place and remove, allowing you to use the games as a standard Chess set when the kids are more familiar with each piece.
The set also comes with two storage bags for the Chess pieces, as well as a collection of mini-game tokens to use with the stories.
All cardboard cutouts are made with very durable cardboard, including the Chessboard. I am impressed with the quality of both the production and the printing, especially since this is designed for kids and designed for repetitive use.
How To Play
There are eight (8) different stories introducing the White King, the Black King, the Pawns, the Bishops, the Knights, the Rooks, the White Queen, and the Black Queen. The stories are aimed at very young children: sweet, silly, and simple. For example, the first story is for the White King. He can only move one square at a time because he eats 30 pizzas every night and has such a full belly.
Each story also has a collection of mini-games to practice moving the piece. The first game is super basic: move one square at a time and make sure you remove your hand completely from the piece to indicate the end of the turn (Side note: I love how they include this as part of the learning process).
To be fair, you don’t have to play every game because the first game of each story is likely to be TOO simple for older kids. And that’s why there are multiple mini-games. Some of the mini-games encourage players to think about their future steps before taking the current step. For example, using the Queen to chase Pawns around the Chessboard. As the mini-games progress, you start to add more pieces to the storyboard side until, eventually, you are playing a real game of Chess.
One of my favorite features in the mini-stories is the rule for the Knights. Clip and Clop have a special dance to help them move: Gallop, gallop, step to the side. After only two games, I have already seen EG Zaltu’s confidence grow as she recites this little rule. It’s a lot more fun playing Chess when you remember how each piece moves and have more confidence in your options.
What’s Great About Story Time Chess
For young children, it can often feel like they are dumped in the deep end with all of the different rules coming at once. Then you sort of plateau before you can truly start to master the game. Story Time Chess breaks up the rules into easy bite-size pieces, allowing young players to make a connection with each piece. That in itself is pretty awesome, but Story Time Chess takes it up another level by attaching recognizable cartoon images with the pieces. I consider this to be a power move.
Using narrative development is a great way to include Story Time Chess with your gameschooling. Naturally, it helps with learning one of the most well-known tabletop games in the world. It is also useful to encourage creative writing with students and logic strategy with step-by-step movements.
The other great thing about Story Time Chess is the double use of the Chess set. This isn’t a game designed only for learning how to play Chess. All of the components can be used in either story form OR original game format. This means you now have a durable starter Chess set designed for kids to play with over and over again. The pieces are a great size for kids’ hands, they are made with durable plastic and solid cardboard, and it packs neatly into the box provided. Of course, this doesn’t stop you from collecting fancier Chess sets in the future (our family has five different sets, and no, we do not have a problem). It simply means we have a great starter kit for quick set-up and easy learning with young guests.
Once your kids have an understanding of the basics, you can also purchase the expansion, Story Time Chess: Level 2. It includes a strategy book with nine (9) Chess stories that teach different openings, game planning, castling, and pawn promotion. I haven’t seen this expansion set yet, but I’m eager to share it with my older kids.
Score: 5 out of 5 Checkmate moves
RRP $49.99 – Check out the official website here for more details.
Thanks to VR Distribution (Australia) for providing a copy of Story Time Chess for review purposes. No money changed hands for this review.
For more ideas on how to bring more Chess to your family, check out our Make / Play / Read / Watch article for Chess here.