Watching Star Trek, did you ever wonder how they played that 3D chess game? Or where you could get one? During high school, my parents bought one for my birthday, which was very cool, and have it setup in my apartment to this day.
It’s best to visualize the game by looking at the top. All the pieces move like they do in standard chess, with various rules on being able to use the “attack boards” and move between levels, which I won’t get into (try here or here). It took a long time to come up with a set of “official” rules, and they’ve apparently changed a bit along the way.
Unfortunately, the manual was woefully unclear. But that’s because it’s 6 pages, 2 of which were a picture of Kirk and Spock playing a game.* The manual doesn’t even show how the pieces actually move, assuming the reader knows how to play modern chess. It even ends with a cutsie “it’s believed the game is based on a primitive version enjoyed on 20th-century Earth”, as if 23rd-century people wouldn’t know chess is much older than that.
I can’t tell you whether playing the game is fun or not, because the couple games I did try were played with a complete misunderstanding of the rules.
* Based on the given rules, the position they reach is highly improbable at best. Imagine a middlegame where all the White pieces are on the Queenside and all the Black pieces are on the Kingside. In the episode Charlie X, Spock wins a chess game against an immature, horny** alien teen boy, apparently using some sort of Fool’s Mate. This is impossible based on the given rules.
The teen went on a rampage afterwards, melting the chess pieces with his mind, removing a crewwoman’s face, and performing other dastardly deeds.
** It was a beautiful female crewmember that got him hot, not Spock or chess.