I don’t live in the past—I only visit—and so can you!

PROJECTS FOR THE PANDEMIC I: HNEFATAFL

I was able to order two hnefatafl sets, from the Jelling Dragon and one from Tillerman Beads. Although all the taflmenn had holes so they could be turned into pegged pieces, the reason I purchased two sets was that one was pegged and the other not. I bought a set based on Lindisfarne finds from Tillerman, including the rather elegant king that has been recently discovered.

Storage was a big question. The earlier, less accurate pieces were kept in bags, but that frustrated me a bit. Finally, I devised a pegged and a non-pegged storage device, and I felt like a complete prat for not thinking of it. I had two oak squares. One had holes drilled so that the pegged pieces could be set into (onto) the square. The other had pegs rising up from the board, so that the pieces could settle on them (their holes could at least). The results were very pleasing, though I can only assume that this was not done in period. It took up a lot of space! I presume that bags or pouches were used to carry and store the pieces.

The gaming boards are all hand made. I had no foldable leather “boards.” First of all, there is no existing evidence that they were used. All that remain were made of wood or stone; few are whole, since most seems to have rotted away. Second of all, I preferred a wooden board aesthetically. So I made boards.

I made four types, flat and pegged (what I called travel tafl since I can imagine the game being played on ships, and the pieces not skittering around) and straight edges and framed edges (with a raised edge around each side, like the Ballinderry and other board boards). There is still a question about whether the inside was routed out or the edges were added, and both sides can cite good reasons. I did both, and I ended with separate frames attached. The decision was made for mercenary reasons. It was faster, easier and did not result in so much wasted wood!

The squares were carved out, and because it helped communicate to others, certain squares were painted in with milk paint. I put a layer of linseed oil over the board, just to protected the colored squares.

The hnefatafl games are popular among the public as well as people buying them to personally play (I use aquarium stones as the playing pieces, since they are inexpensive and close to accurate pieces, as well as simple wooden pegs for the pegged games). A variety of rules exist, and I have modified the rules I play by. I encourage buyers to feel free to invent their own versions!

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