hist-games: Re: hist-games digest, Vol 1 #13 - 1 msg

Cristopher Jolliff madmyrddin at hotmail.com
Sat Feb 23 14:33:20 PST 2002

Fortunately there is a wealth of knowledge available to you, since many
historical game enthusiasts are also reenactment enthusiasts...
The simplest form of a board would be scratching the lines in earth. Poorer
players might make the effort to find/buy adequate pieces, but doubtfully
could afford to make/buy a board. Poor players probably used stones found
near or in water that had been polished.
Since you want something more portable--and, presumably, more classy--with a
bit of skill you could take a nice board-end and rub it with sand (cheat and
*hand* sand with a semi-fine grit paper) until it is relatively smooth. The
lines could easily be produced by burning or carving, assuming you had a
knife or other sharp object that would serve. Even a chipped flint or
obsidian knife could carve relatively hard wood, if sharp enough (again, I
recommend you cheat, and use modern carving tools, or a burning pencil).
Differentiating the king's square, and any other spaces, could have been
done with fruit or vegetable dies on light-colored wood--or even with
egg-white based tints on darker ones--prior to treating the wood with oils.
I believe (please correct me if I am wrong), that staining was not a
technique that was available until much later than the height of tafl play.
Then treat it with animal fat or some other natural oil to "preserve" the
wood (Neet's foot oil is great for this kind of application...spread very
thin and wait long between treatments).
Pine and spruce are both very common woods for any Nordic Regions. Harder
wood from more temperate regions would be rare, and boards from those woods
would probably be reserved for building important structures such as ships
and piers, unless your patron's persona is of a wealthy individual. Period
would have less to do with it than expense, it seems to me.
As to artistic flourish, I would recommend any Nordic Mythos
artwork...perhaps surrounding the board edges with the likeness of the
Midgard Serpent. If your carving skills are truly superior, you could
fashion the king into an Odin-like figure, and carve the defender's pawns as
towers, and the attacker's pawns as ships. Of course this also depends
largely on the amount of time and money your patron is willing to invest in
to have a game made.

I'm not sure of the etiquette of shameless plugs of one's own business
within this mailing list. Please don't lambast me, a simple warning will do
if this is inappropriate...
I've got a very inexpensive reproduction of the Hnefatafl game for sale that
features a painted board on the lid of a box that holds the pieces. I retail
it for $25.00, and if you're interested, you can view it at
http://www.pastymegames.com/tabletop.html .

C. Jolliff
Pastyme Games

> I have the sources that tell me what the extant boards (and fragments)
> *look* like, but there are a couple of open questions that I haven't yet
> found the answers to, relating to the construction details. Most
> importantly: does anyone know how the board would most likely have been
> *drawn*? Would it be painted? Carved? Burned? Also, any ideas what sort
> of wood would be most appropriate for the period?
> Any info would be appreciated. While I know a good deal about games, my
> knowledge of period crafts is a good deal more limited...
> -- Justin
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