Introduction: Hnefatafl ( Probably the Cheapest Set Ever :p )

About: Just playing around with cheap DIY´s and restorations ;)

First of all I´m not a native english speaker, so I apologize.

Here´s a little fun project I made during quarantine. Unlike the worldwide popular Chess ( probably the most famous boardgame in the world even if the majority of people doesn´t know the rules ), Hnefatafl is not a household name ( the name itself is hard to spell), in fact is more of a niche product known and played mostly by people interested in ancient viking culture, and that makes a Hnefatafl set expensive, normally starting at 30/40 euros and 150 and up for handcrafted sets, remember a simple cheap chess/checkers set can cost as low as less than 5 euros, is readily available in any store and different models. On the other side, as Hnefatafl doesn´t require more than a squared board and 3 different types of pieces that should be only that, different, is a extremely simple game to build, even with just one piece of paper and bootle caps from 3 different drinks. I guess viking riders would manage to play it with rocks and a simple board drawed by hand in the dust.

And so I made a bet with my friend...I bet I can make a complete Hnefatafl board and pieces costing ZERO, only with spare materials I have home and some free natural ones. If I win, my friend has to accepted my board as a offer, if I lose...well, I failed and my friend keeps nothing. LOL. Yes, that´s quiet a strange bet where the loser gets the prize but a fun project and pastime. Only available materials.


A PC with DTP software
Access to a A3 printer
A wood plaque
Glue ( spray or white )
Transparent duct tape ( vinyl will be lot better )
Beach peebles that can fit a 2 cm square
Black and white spray paint
Squeegee, knife, ruler

Step 1: Drawing the Board

There are plenty of Hnefatafl boards online but I prefer to make one of my own. Personally, if it was for myself I would design something completely diferent ( would not enclose the word HNEFATAFL written with a runic fontype, but here it is, made 3 different options with same layout and my friend liked the marble surface. I enclose the template without the background in you want to use/edit in your own project. If you want to have a larger play area ( that means larger squares ) I strongly advice to remove the border.

Step 2: Print the Board

I printed the board in A3, fit to size to have the maximum size. Than cut off the white unprinted margins as no printer can print to the sheet borders. Being so, the printed image ( depending of the printer ) will be about 27cm.

Step 3: Glue the Board

I glued into a spare wood plaque of 30x30cm, is better to have a outside margin so sheet edges don´t touch the border. I used spray glue but you can use white glue instead, as you feel more confortable.

Step 4: "Laminate" the Board With Duct Tape (serious?)

Now I recognize...that´s where I failed. Because I had no transparent vinyl or varnish and besides that, matte finish didn´t fit so well and being matte or glossy the board must always have some kind of finish or it won´t last that long. I could wait one day or two to buy the supplies but that would unfit the purpose to make the set with materials not bought for it.
Therefora I had to work with the available option: transparent duct tape. It ended acceptable, air bubbles and wrinkles will always be present ( this is duct tape, not transparent vinyl ) but I can always say is on purpose for being rustic ( yeah, right ) and besides that no one is going to pay me for this :D

Step 5: Choosing the Pieces

As in modern world today, rich vikings would play with beuatifully sculptured wood/ceramic tiles/figurines while poorer people would have to work it out with stones.
I´m lucky enough to live in the beautiful sunny Algarve ( Portugal ) only 15 minutes away from the beach. So, just a walk into the most deserted areas of the beach and I can pick a lot of beach peebles that may fit inside the board squares. For the king piece I found a perfect sized peeble.
Peebles should not only have a size littler than the square but easy to pick up/ move. If you don+t have access to beachs, try with tokens of your preference.
Don´t forget to contact your local area legislation about catching peeble or stones.

Step 6: Painting the Pieces

Fast and easy: just painted with spray paint. Leave it to dry 20 minutes for a second pass. In the end a sprayed varnish for final coat.
As I don´t have a mini driller (yet) and to make the king piece more interesting, just drawed it with a traditional viking warrior image in mind ( yes, I know it looks like Dath Vader, that was not on purpose ).
Another spray varnish coat on the end. Whatever your preference ( Matte, satin or glossy ) never forget to coat your pieces in the end.

Step 7: Hope You Liked It, My Friend Surely Did :)

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