Hnefatafl Board

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Project by Pete posted 02-22-2014 05:23 AM 4228 views 9 times favorited 12 comments Add to Favorites Watch

This project has been a wonderful experience for me. My son and I haven’t had a lot in common in the past few years, but we have both been looking for something. I would love to say that this project was that something. But the project itself wasn’t. I did it alone. I’m ok with that. Because the final project fits the bill.

This is a game board for an ancient Viking game called Hnefatafl. I won’t get into the specifics, but if you’d like to learn about it, you can find information here.

The project took me a while I suppose. Just over a month. But, it’s also a huge leap forward in my progression as a woodworker. Many firsts for me here: first time using walnut; first time using maple; first time inlaying; first time using a biscuit jointer; the list goes on, but you get the idea.

Brief over view of the process:
- glue the boards together
- square up the project
- cut the grooves for the square boarders (table saw)
- cut the walnut strips to inlay
- inlay the walnut (and again, and again, and again…)
- build the support frame
- glue in the corner splints
- attach board to frame (slid in perfectly. quite a relief there)
- cut groove for edge inlay (probably should have done that before gluing up the support frame…)
- glue in the edge inlay
- cut the legs
- drill holes for legs to sit in
- sand, finish, sand, polyurethane
Viola! Thanks for reading!

-- Measure with a micrometer, mark with a crayon, cut it with a chainsaw.

12 comments so far

View Woodknack's profile


13584 posts in 3619 days

#1 posted 02-22-2014 06:01 AM

Looks really nice. Are you going to make the men?

I made a couple Brandub boards and really enjoyed the game but I was the only one, my wife and kids couldn’t get into it. Didn’t help that the rules are murky and unbalanced, we tried balancing out game play but a minor change tends to give one side or the other a tremendous advantage, usually the King. Hnefatafl may not have that problem being a larger game board. After you’ve played a bit, I’d be curious how it works out.

-- Rick M,

View oldnovice's profile


7753 posts in 4606 days

#2 posted 02-22-2014 06:52 AM

Not only does that board look interesting so does the game itself. That is a beautiful looking board!

It appears to have some variations/characteristics of Chinese checkers. I used to play a lot of Chess, when I was still working, and this looks as if it could be just as strategic.

-- "Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored." -- Aldous Huxley

View Ivan's profile


17000 posts in 4106 days

#3 posted 02-22-2014 07:34 AM

Nice board and presentation.

-- Ivan, Croatia, Wooddicted

View Ryan's profile


238 posts in 4168 days

#4 posted 02-22-2014 02:09 PM

Good story with your family.
It looks like Go table…
I think Go table is 19-line square.

View Woodknack's profile


13584 posts in 3619 days

#5 posted 02-22-2014 04:26 PM

Hnefatafl and Brandub are two examples of Tafl. They are more similar to but also very different than, chess. Basically one side plays the King with bodyguards while the other side are bandits, rebels, whatever type of enemy you imagine them to be; the goal is to get the King to a corner square. The King is outnumbered but has move advantages. The Brandub (Irish version of Tafl) board is much smaller and the King wins almost every time. Hnefatafl is the Viking version of Tafl and is played on a larger board. The official rules were never recorded so all modern variants are just educated guesses.

Sorry, not trying to hijack the thread. I’m just fascinated with the game. Here is a Brandub board I made, it’s a painted tile, not nearly as nice as Airfieldman’s.

-- Rick M,

View helluvawreck's profile


32122 posts in 4105 days

#6 posted 02-22-2014 05:38 PM

I don’t know anything about the game but you sure did exhibit a lot of skill and craftsmanship in the making of that board.

helluvawreck aka Charles

-- helluvawreck aka Charles,

View leafherder's profile


1986 posts in 3191 days

#7 posted 02-22-2014 11:49 PM

Great job on the game board! Sounds like a fascinating game. I hope it brings you and your son many hours of enjoyment and becomes something the future generations enjoy and cherish.

-- Leafherder

View JoeinGa's profile


7741 posts in 3245 days

#8 posted 02-22-2014 11:53 PM

Gee, I thought that “Hnefatafl” was the beer company that Laverne and Shirley worked for! :-)

-- Perform A Random Act Of Kindness Today ... Pay It Forward

View Pete's profile


188 posts in 5049 days

#9 posted 02-23-2014 12:25 AM

Thanks for the compliments everyone.
Rick, you’re description of the games was well said. It is the concept of unequal oppositions that intrigues me. For game peices I first thought I’de buy something. Then I found some walnut and birch dowels. I’m going to cut the men out of them, with the king being slightly taller. Maybe with a groove around the top to make him easier to identify.
Also, on your board you made the throne and the corners prominent. I struggled with a method to do this too. In the end I decided my skills wouldn’t provide me the capability to do it justice so I just left them blank.

-- Measure with a micrometer, mark with a crayon, cut it with a chainsaw.

View Woodknack's profile


13584 posts in 3619 days

#10 posted 02-23-2014 03:21 AM

That’s why I ended up painting a tile rather than making a wood board. I had the same idea of cutting grooves and filling with walnut, then routing out the corners and center and inlaying more walnut, but wanted to test the game first. We ended up using checkers, a double for the king, for our playing pieces.

What I like about the game, it is simple and fairly fast. If you try to play like chess you’ll lose because it isn’t about capturing pieces. We’ve had many games where all the King’s men were captured and the King still won. I’m curious to hear your impression with the larger board once you get a few games in.

-- Rick M,

View Philip's profile


1277 posts in 3777 days

#11 posted 02-23-2014 03:54 AM

Turned out fantastic. Great job.

-- I never finish anyth

View DavidIN's profile


81 posts in 3227 days

#12 posted 02-23-2014 07:23 PM

very nice

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