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Raumschach: the Thoroddsen board

Arni Thoroddsen (email removed contact us for address) .is from Iceland has designed a compact board for Raumschach, the three dimensional chess variant on a 5 by 5 by 5 board.

Below, you can read what he describes of his design, and see a picture of it.

I have just built myself a 5x5x5 Raumschach board and am looking for some people who would be interested in playing a game by correspondence over the net. My preference is however to call the "unicorn" the "spy" and I would prefer to have it in the form of a bishops body with the head of a Pyramid.

By the way my board design was very compact and simple to make and did not cost me too much. It folds into a 2d space that does not take much more space than orthodox chess.

It took quite awhile for me to design the board. I went through many designs that turned out to be flawed. Finally I came up with the idea of making two free standing supports for the five planar tables. These planar supports are then placed opposite each other, but allow the players to manipulate the pieces without bumping into the supports as long as they are right handed.

I went to a company in Iceland that does acryl plastic stuff and gave them rough drawings of the simple design. They cut out the plastic components and glued the support parts together. The whole thing cost me only 40 dollars, but I suspect that the guy at the company was so impressed by my design that he probly gave me a discount. He had mentioned 80 US dollars when I originally asked him about it.

I also discovered that the supports can probably be used as a carrying case for the pieces with a neat little trick but I havent tried this out yet.

I then printed 5x5x5 overheads with chess boards that I had printed and made in clarisworks on the Mac. I then glued them on the five planar boards with superglue.

The whole thing probably cost 45 dollars and 2 - 3 hours of work on my part.

Above, you see a picture, that contains a 3D rendering of my Raumschach board design. Also in the picture I have included a clearer picture of one of the 2 supports to show the design better.

All the components are made of transparent acrylic plastic which can be glued together with superglue. It's texture is similar to glass, but with a very slightly bluish hue (my 3D rendering exagerate the bluish hue). You can of course get this plastic in other colours if you wish.

The two supporting pillars are 5 x 5 cm 90 degree V shapes that have been extruded to a height of 55 cm high and a 7 x 7 cm triangle is glued to them at 13 cm intervals. The square base of the pillars is 10 x 10 cm. The thickness of all of these support components is 0.5 cm.

The boards themselves are 30 x 30 x 0.3 cm. The playing board area is made up of 5 x 5 cm squares. The playing board area should be inclosed in a square of lines so that the exterior boarder of the white squares is clearly demarcated.

These measurements need not be strictly adhered to as long as one is consistent.

I think that the best idea for printing the boards is to print them on an overhead transparancy with the help of a computer. In this case it is best to use a diagonal striped pattern for the black squares, and simply leave the white squares unprinted (as I have done in the 3D rendering). Of course it is essential in this case to include an exterior square to complete the border of the white squares.

You then cut the transparencies into a square shape and glue them on the planar boards with the printed surface facing down so that the pieces will never smudge it when you are playing.

In this way you can see the position of all the pieces all the time since the transparent gray squares to not obstruct the line of sight to them.

When you place the planar surfaces on the pillars, you will find that they are fairly stable, but if you want to make this structure more rigid, several simple ideas have occurred to me:

  1. You can of course glue the planar boards to the pillars with superglue. This however has the disadvantage that the Thoroddsen board is no longer compact for transport, and you may have difficulty in finding storage room for this, apart from the difficulty of transporting it in a car.
  2. One of the strengths of the unglued design is how compact it is when you disassemble the board. In fact it is more compact than a chess board when disassembled. The pillars can be clasped together with two elastic bands.

    It only takes about 20 to 30 seconds to reassemble or disassemble the board.

  3. You can place elastic bands around the triangle shapes that grip the corners of the planar boards when in place.
  4. One could use paper clips or plastic clips to lodge the boards in place. The clips would be slipped around the V to resist movement of the boards.
  5. One could place a few layers of tape around the end of the V just above the triangle. In this way a grove is formed the the boards would slide into.
  6. One could also superglue a strip of plastic to form the same kind of grove that are formed by the tape in 4. The corners of the board would slide into this.
  7. But actually I prefer the boards in their pure form although they might be unsteady for players that like to slam the pieces down on the board.

I think that the cost of making the board should be about 50 US dollars and perhaps about an a hour or two making the transparancies and gluing them on to the 5 planar boards. But it is all fairly easy to do assuming that you have someone professional to cut and glue the plastic component pieces.

Anyone who wants to make this kind of board is of course free to print out the picture to show when they are buying plastic components for the board.


Actually, it is very probably then someone who is handy can make such a board for less money using (much?) more time. Thoroddsen is looking for opponents to play this game with: email (email removed contact us for address) .is.

Written by Arni Thoroddsen, with modifications, introduction and final comment by Hans Bodlaender.
WWW page created: June 13, 1997. Last modified: June 26, 1997.