As I discussed last week, I was pretty excited about seeing some 8th Century board games.  The more I researched into what the games might be, the more intrigued I became and so I decided to make a replica of that Tafl game (I assume it is Tablut) so that I can play it and complete the circle, so to speak.

If we look back at that artifact, we have these simple rounded pieces that were legitimate and some replica board.  It’s hard to say how well the curators did on the replica of that board since there weren’t any images of the original.

While I’d like to replicate exactly what I saw, I realize that I also want to be practical and so for the board, I’m going to go a different route and make it a traveling game, so the board I make will be flexible and easily transportable.

I thought about making a board but then found some nice options on Etsy, in particular this version from The Merry Merchant:

image from The Merry Merchant’s Etsy listing

That is perfect for what I’m going for so I ordered one and it will arrive in a few weeks or so.

With the board out of the way, I started working on the pieces.  The semi-round pieces from the museum item looked approximately like spheres with a flat side cut out.  Not wanting to have to cut 25 of these out myself, I looked around and found that they are approximately the same as wooden drawer knobs.  I found a set of 1 inch wooden knobs pretty cheap at my local hobby/craft store so I picked up enough to experiment on.  The 1.25″ knobs are closer to the museum item’s size but seem a bit unwieldy for a travel game. I could also have gone smaller at 3/4th inch knobs but I think the flat surface would be small enough that the pieces would tend to roll around a lot.

The knobs are perfect for another reason.  They have a very handy hole in the bottom and I can mount them on craft sticks to make it easy to stain.

For the staining of the main “king” or “Swedes” pieces I wanted to go a bit dark so I stained them in a 2-in1 polyurethane blend in dark walnut.  I tried two approaches, one where I run a light coat over and let it dry and the other where I dip the knob completely, let it soak, then wipe the excess stain off. I ended up preferring the darker coat/dry approach so I finished out the required nine pieces in this style.

I needed a way to distinguish the “king” piece so I tried two options with gold spray paint. The first one was to make the entire piece gold and leave a cross symbol in the original wood stain

The second option was to emphasize the wood stain and accent with a golden cross.

I printed out a quick board to lay the pieces out and decide which one I liked better.  The printout was just a mock up as the true board size will need to be 9 inches x 9 inches, which won’t work on standard Letter-sized paper.

I’m more partial to the less glitzy, gold cross accented piece so I’ll go with it. Traditionally, the outside pieces (“Muscovites”) are dark so I’ll likely go real dark with a black stain.  I ran out of time for that so it’ll wait for when I have the board in hand.