a tasteful array of "aztec" sets

These little terrors do look sporty all lined up like this - the red ones are particularly festive. The sets I usually come across tend to have an army surplus look about them, one side being in some indefinite color somewhere in the "brown" family, and the other in a vague approximation to olive drab.

These sets are annoying to use, because

  • They're ugly.
  • It's difficult to tell which pieces are supposed to be which.
  • They're ugly.
  • The back sides are flat, with no carving at all. since half the pieces are facing away from you during a game, that makes a lot of nothing to look at.
  • They're ugly.

  • sizes - The pictured sets cover quite a range, with kings varying from around 2" tall to 6" or more.

    materials - so, just what are these little lumps made of? It's usually called "onyx." but does that really tell us much?

    Onyx can mean a stalagmitic (as in, formed in stalagmites and found in caves) calcite. Calcite is calcium carbonate, CaCO3, in a hexagonal crystalline structure (CaCO3 is found in an orthorhombic crystalline form as well, but then it's aragonite, not calcite). Or ....

    Onyx can mean a variety of agate, which is a variety of chalcedony, which is in turn a variety of quartz. Quartz is crystalline silicon oxide, SiO2. So ....

    Onyx is either a crystalline lump of calcium, carbon and oxygen, or a crystalline lump of silicon and oxygen.

    [Well,  that certainly clears things up]

    Occasionally one of these sets is described as being made of obsidian (a glass of volcanic origin, usually black). So we have another player... a slightly different lump of silicon and oxygen, but not crystalline (if it's crystalline, it's not a glass).

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