Thanks all, great ideas!
The other pieces (especially pawns) can be used for other games.
I've had another build idea going in the back of my head for some time, trying to figure out what to use for player pieces for that. I initially was shying away from buying a few cheap chess sets because I didn't want the mass of extra pieces... It didn't click till you said the above that I could kill two birds... Thank you!
Think I'm going to be picking up a few thrift store chess sets.