{DIY} Make your own Hnefatafl game set

October 31, 2014


It’s been a while since the last edition of Museum Craft Corner, but I promise you it’s been worth the wait as this time I have something extra special for you. Ever since visiting the Viking exhibition and Night of the Vikings event in Edinburgh last year, I’ve been wanting to make my own hnefatafl Viking game set. The much anticipated Viking exhibition here in Berlin, which I shared with you on Monday, seemed like the perfect excuse! There are different sizes and versions of hnefatafl. I decided to base mine on the 11 x 11 squared board sold in the National Museum of Scotland gift shop.

hnefetafl - materials

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 38 wooden blocks – these ones are 2cm cubes
  • wood glue
  • red and white paint suitable for wood
  • a paint brush
  • a piece of plain white or off-white cotton material – the size depends on the size of your blocks; for the 2cm blocks I made my material 40cm x 40cm plus seam allowance
  • needle and thread or a sewing machine (not pictured)
  • a ruler
  • a black textile marker pen

hnefetafl - glued blocks

Step 1: Glue two of the blocks together (see above) – this is the king!

hnefetafl - painting the blocks

Step 2: Paint 24 of the blocks red (the attackers) , and the others – including the double block you just glued – white (the defenders).

hnefetafl - painted blocks

hnefetafl - sewing the board

Step 3: Hem the edges of your piece of material – this will become the ‘board’ for your game. The size depends on the size of your blocks. The board itself is 11 x 11 squares. For the 2cm blocks I decided to go with 3cm squares, giving me a playing area 33cm x 33cm, so I decided to make the board 40cm x 40cm so it would have a border (+ seam allowance). You’ll need to adjust the sizes according to the size of your blocks/playing pieces.

hnefetafl - board markings

Step 4: With your ruler and textile marker, mark out a grid of 11 x 11 squares. Careful not to press down too firmly with the pen, as the material can soak up the ink very quickly and make it look splodgy. Best thing would be to practice first on a piece of scrap material so you can figure out how to best hold the pen to keep the lines nice and light.

Step 5: Add some Celtic-like patterns to the four corner squares (the ‘refuge squares’) and the middle square (the king’s square). Feel free to copy mine – again, I was using the one from the National Museum of Scotland as guidance – or make up your own. Next, add different markings to the fields which will be the starting positions for your playing pieces, as per the photo above. I decided to just go with simple spirals, but you can be more creative if you like.

hnefetafl - finished board game

Step 6: Line up your playing pieces – white in the middle, red around the outsides – and you’re ready to go! The aim of the attackers (red) is to capture the king. The aim of the defenders (white) is to help get the king to a refuge square. You can find a full set of hnefatafl rules for an 11 x 11 board online here: Hnefatafl – The Fetlar Rules.


  1. Christmas Gift Guide 2014 | Museum Diary - December 12, 2014

    […] And, finally, if you enjoy a bit of DIY, why not make a gift instead of buying one. This hnefatafl games set is easy to make and folds up small so is great for travelling too, e.g. if you’re going away […]

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