Dragon Chess Sets: Themes and Making the Right Choice

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Dragon Chess sets bring the mystery of the Orient and the fantasy of the underworld to Chess, one of the most loved board games.


Dragons play a key role in the history of Chess, starting with the Chinese culture. The Chinese have always enjoyed games of strategy such as Chess. The earliest reference to Chinese Chess sets was in A.D. 900 in the Huan Kwai Lu, the Book of Marvels. The designs of the dragons were inspired by ancient Chinese scroll paintings.

The traditional design elements of the dragon sets have varied. In some sets the two opposing forces of strength and peace are depicted by carved dragons and the Phoenix, a mythical character. Other sets depict the court of the emperor and empress with dragons used for all other pieces.

The pieces were intricately carved of ivory until recent years and are still very valuable. Today sets are constructed of cast metal, resin or plastic.

Themes of Dragon Chess Sets

There are a wide variety of design themes on the market for dragon Chess sets. Some sets follow the traditional Chinese themes with a king, queen and dragons as accent pieces. Others sets are designed to facilitate role-playing and have pieces depicting fantasy or medieval themes. These sets usually use dragons for all pieces. The rules or strategies are not affected by the theme of your Chess set.


The Chinese sets are usually made of either a metal or an ivory-colored resin which has been molded to simulate hand carving.

  • The emperor, empress and their court are featured in some sets with the dragon substituted for the horse. These sets are often found in ivory-colored resin.
  • Fantasy-driven dragon Chess sets are also available with all pieces designed as various-sized Chinese dragons.

Fantasy and Medieval

For those who are into fantasy, there are several variations of dragon-themed Chess sets which have playing pieces which include crystal balls, fairies, unicorns, wizards and swords. Some of the primary themes include:

  • Gargoyles versus dragons - The frightening shapes of the gargoyles fight the dramatic fire-breathing dragons.
  • Death dragons versus living fire dragons - The death dragons are usually skeletons and the other side are live fire dragons. The death dragons are usually painted in more somber shades of blue, white and purple. The fire dragons are dramatically-painted in shades of yellow, red and purple.
  • Dungeons and Dragons - Sets based on this theme are usually set up with Bahamut, the King of Good Dragons, and his children depicted as dragons on one side and Tiamat, the Queen of Evil Dragons, and her nasty children depicted as dragons on the other side.
  • King Arthur's court - Dragons and knights fight battles to honor their king and queen.

Selecting Quality Pieces

Whether you are putting together a dragon Chess set for display or for play, the value of the set is based on the quality of the pieces. Even if you are just a beginning Chess player, you should consider treating yourself to a set with pieces which are beautiful to look at and easy to hold. A lot of the fun of having a dragon Chess set is to be able to enjoy the look and feel of the pieces as you play or display the game.


Pewter, cast metal, resin and plastic are all common materials used in Chess sets.

  • If you like the feel of a Chess piece with weight, look for a set of pewter or cast metal. The set may be more expensive than a non-metal set, but it is durable and it is less likely to get broken.
  • If you prefer bright colorations and distinctive carving, consider a resin Chess set. Resin coloring could fade over time, so look for a set with a clear coating to protect the finish.


The knights and kings are generally viewed as the key pieces in a Chess set. Look for fine details in both of these pieces such as quality construction and finish. Metal pieces should be smooth without any rough edges or mold marks. Painted pieces should include fine details and shadowing, not just blotches of paint. Look for clear coatings on painted pieces which will protect the finish from wearing off after many games of Chess.


Some dragon-themed Chess sets come with a game board that continues the theme. For example, sets are available with boards that are designed to look like the top of a castle moat or the middle of an enchanted forest. Other sets are played on classic Chess boards.

A board can range from an inexpensive paper-based board up to expensive ebony or rosewood boards.

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Dragon Chess Sets: Themes and Making the Right Choice