Introduction: Thud (Travel Edition)

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I'm a big fan of the Discworld books, and rather enjoy the odd occasions when the books cross over into Roundworld.

One of the better cross-overs, that you can enjoy even if you are not a Pratchett fan is the game of Thud!

The game supposedly represents, in table-top form, the Battle of Koom Valley, the only battle in history in which both sides managed to ambush the other.

I have a proper boxed set of Thud!, but it is heavy to carry around, thanks to the very solid nature of the pieces. This is a pain, since my family are most likely to play board games on holiday. So, I decided to make a smaller, more portable version that can be carried easily in a messenger bag or suitcase, and which will preserve the state of play if you need to move between, as it were, moves.

It's ideal for playing outside, in the car, in fact, anywhere you travel.

Step 1: Design

There are plenty of reference images of the board online - it is basically a 15x15 grid, with a triangle of five strips removed from each corner.

In my opinion, a proper travel game stops the pieces sliding about whilst on the move (so it can be played in the car or on the train), and holds the pieces safe between games.

I achieved these by using a layered approach, four layers in all.

The back layer is just that, the back.

The next layer forms a frame around each square of the board, stopping the pieces sliding around.

The playing pieces themselves are twice as high as the framework, so that they can be picked up and placed easily.

The third layer of the board provides space for the top halves of the playing pieces to fit whilst on the move, and the fourth layer is the front of the game.

I drew the design in Inkscape, and have attached all formats of the file here, so that you can make your own board if you want.

Step 2: Cutting

When you set your laser cutter up, the order in which you cut the parts is important.

Cut in all the decorative work first - the faces of the trolls & dwarves, the decorative outlines, the logo - then the playing pieces, then the squares of the board, then the board itself.

If you don't do this, playing pieces can get flipped by your laser's air supply before their design is in place.

Step 3: Gluing the Board

The parts of the board glue together in pairs.

I have a philosophy on gluing - look after the edges, and the rest will look after themselves.

Unfortunately, this game is almost entirely made of edges! To get the gluing done quickly, I mixed some PVA glue with a little water so that it was liquid enough to paint onto the wood, and applied it to the pieces with the holes cut out.

After gluing, the board was left under a really heavy book to dry.

Step 4: Gluing the Playing Pieces

The playing pieces need to be twice as thick as the wood from which they are cut.

To achieve this, I cut the decorated pieces (eight trolls, thirty two dwarves and a single Thud stone), plus another set of blanks.

The blank and decorated parts were glued together to make the finished pieces.

The easiest way to glue the pieces together turned out to be to pick up a decorated piece in my fingernails, dip it in the glue, scrape off the excess and then press it to a blank.

The pieces were laid under a spare piece of plywood and weighted with the glue bottle.

Step 5: Binding

The board is both hinged and held tightly together by a length of thick elastic cord (about 20p worth from our local knitting and sewing shop).

Step 6: Playing the Game (original Rules)

Details of the original rules, and the fast-play game rules that were released after I bought my board are available from the Discworld Wiki page, but I also present them here for the sake of completeness, as well as a PDF version to print & keep with your own set:


The diagram shows the game's initial positions. "d" represents the dwarfs, "T" represents the trolls, and "X" represents the Thudstone.

The octagonal playing area consists of a 15 by 15 square board from which a triangle of 15 squares in each corner has been removed. The Thudstone is placed on the centre square of the board, where it remains for the entire game and may not be moved onto or through. The eight trolls are placed onto the eight squares adjacent to the Thudstone and the thirty-two dwarfs are placed so as to occupy all the perimeter spaces except for the four in the same horizontal or vertical line as the Thudstone.

One player takes control of the dwarfs, the other controls the trolls. The dwarfs move first.

On the dwarfs' turn, they may either move or hurl one dwarf:

  • Move: any one dwarf is moved like a chess queen, any number of squares in any orthogonal or diagonal direction, but not onto or through any other piece, whether Thudstone, dwarf, or troll; or
  • Hurl: anywhere there is a straight (orthogonal or diagonal) line of adjacent dwarfs on the board, they may hurl the front dwarf in the direction continuing the line, as long as the space between the lead dwarf and the troll is less than the number of dwarfs in the line. This is different from a normal move in that the dwarf is permitted to land on a square containing a troll, in which case the troll is removed from the board and the dwarf takes his place. This may only be done if the endmost dwarf can land on a troll by moving in the direction of the line at most as many spaces as there are dwarfs in the line. Since a single dwarf is a line of one in any direction, a dwarf may always move one space to capture a troll on an immediately adjacent square.

On the trolls' turn, they may either move or shove one troll:

  • Move: one troll is moved like a chess king, one square in any orthogonal or diagonal direction onto an empty square. After the troll has been moved, only a single dwarf on the eight squares adjacent to the moved troll may optionally be immediately captured and removed from the board, at the troll player's discretion; or
  • Shove: anywhere there is a straight (orthogonal or diagonal) line of adjacent trolls on the board, they may shove the endmost troll in the direction continuing the line, up to as many spaces as there are trolls in the line. As in a normal move, the troll may not land on an occupied square, and any (all) dwarfs in the eight squares adjacent to its final position may immediately be captured. Trolls may only make a shove if by doing so they capture at least one dwarf.

The battle is over when both players agree that no more captures can be made by continuing to play, or when one player has no more valid moves to make. At this point the players count score: the dwarfs score 1 point for each surviving dwarf, and the trolls score 4 for each remaining troll, with the difference being the 'final' score. The players should then swap sides to play another round, and the sum of their final scores for the two battles determines the overall victor.

The basic overall strategy for the dwarfs to form a large group and for the trolls to try and stop them. It is normally better for the trolls to be widely spaced.

A dwarf's strategy does widely depend on how the trolls are advancing on the dwarf block. A good tactic therefore is to be prepared to sacrifice a few dwarfs to get in the way and slow down any trolls that are advancing into dangerous positions.

A troll's strategy can also vary but at the start of a match getting into shoving lines is regarded as the best tactic.

Step 7: Playing the Game (Koom Valley Rules)

This more recent set of rules has a different initial set-up and objectives, but is played with the same board and pieces.

For the dwarfs to win they must move the rock to the far side of the valley - onto any of the five squares on the opposite side of the board against which the dwarf commander is sitting. For the trolls to win they must capture the rock by placing three trolls adjacent to it (in any direction including diagonally). If neither side can achieve their objective the game is drawn.


Movement is the same as Classic Thud except that Trolls may now move up to 3 spaces in any direction (horizontal, vertical or diagonal).

Dwarfs may move the Rock instead of moving a dwarf piece. It may move only one square in any direction. To be moved it must be next to a dwarf and it must also be next to a dwarf at the end of its move.


A troll captures a dwarf by trampling over it. It moves in a straight line from a square next to the dwarf, through the square the dwarf is on and lands on the empty square immediately beyond. The trampled dwarf is removed from the board.

Several captures may be made in one move and a change of direction is allowed between captures.

Dwarfs capture a troll by moving a dwarf so that the troll is trapped between two dwarfs in any straight line (including diagonally). The three pieces, two dwarfs and a troll, must all be in line.

If the dwarf that has been moved also traps another troll between itself and another dwarf, that troll is also captured

Captures are only made when the capturing side moves a piece. The rock may be moved and come to rest next to three trolls. It can only be captured when a troll is moved.

Step 8: Legal Stuff

This game, and the rules, are copyrighted by a bunch of different people who are not me. You, dear reader, must not use this instructable to attempt to create any kind of revenue stream.

However, there is a long tradition of fan-made Discworld items made without lawyers stomping all over the place - after all, Discworld is a product of human beings, not Disney Corporation, and the source materials for this version of Thud are readily available for free all over the internet. That all makes me think I'm fine to make this board without (currently) any plans to commercialise this version.

If you are a lawyer for the Pratchett estate, and don't think that I'm doing the right thing, then please drop me a line and we can sort things out.

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