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Medieval Board games

Posted: Tue Nov 29, 2011 11:49 am
by Clarenceboy
Hoping to pick people brains on this.

I'm looking at projects to have a go at over the winter months and having got a soldering iron to mess around with making pins I thought I would have a go at some game boards. Scorched and dyed on leather is the route I'm taking but I wondered if anyone knows of any games that I may have missed.

So far I have designs for:

3, 5, 6, 7 or 9 man's Morris
Quirkat
Fox and Geese
Fox and hounds
Tafl, English, Irish, Scottish or Welsh variants
Tables (backgammon)

I believe they are all period for wars of the roses but I'm happy to be put right if folk know better than me.

I know there are also various chess type games but I don’t have the skill to make the pieces (I stop at punching leather discs really)

So if anyone knows of any I may have missed I really appreciate a nudge in the right direction for them

Re: Medieval Board games

Posted: Tue Nov 29, 2011 6:37 pm
by gregory23b
Merely a question, was scorched leather/wood a method used for such things?

Re: Medieval Board games

Posted: Tue Nov 29, 2011 7:02 pm
by uksimes
Gothic green (I think) sell a wide range of medieval games.

Re: Medieval Board games

Posted: Wed Nov 30, 2011 10:35 am
by Clarenceboy
There is certainly evidence of leather game boards surviving from the roman period and a lot of the games themselves (types and rules) survive unaltered through to the medieval period but with a quick look through the York finds book i can only see evidence of gaming pieces so may have to do a more detailed search of sources to be sure

Re: Medieval Board games

Posted: Wed Nov 30, 2011 4:27 pm
by Medicus Matt
There's good evidence that parts of some roman gameboards were made from leather, backed with wood (see the finds from Stanway and King Harry Lane) and I think they've got a leather board for playing 'Duodecim Scriptorum' (a fore-runner to backgammon) in the National Museum of Wales that came from a soldier's grave in Holt...second century I think.

Re: Medieval Board games

Posted: Wed Nov 30, 2011 5:02 pm
by gregory23b
How about the scorched part?

Re: Medieval Board games

Posted: Thu Dec 01, 2011 9:32 am
by Medicus Matt
gregory23b wrote:How about the scorched part?



What, like pyrography?
No.

Re: Medieval Board games

Posted: Thu Dec 01, 2011 9:52 am
by Clarenceboy
Is that no, you don't know of any evidence or no you don't believe scorching the board is correct?

Re: Medieval Board games

Posted: Thu Dec 01, 2011 10:42 am
by Medicus Matt
Clarenceboy wrote:Is that no, you don't know of any evidence or no you don't believe scorching the board is correct?



Well...no to the first one, which makes the second one a given really in my periods of interest (although the sample of surviving evidence is so ridiculously small that it's not much of a foundation to base any conclusions on). There's much more evidence to suggest that playing boards were just drawn/carved/scratched into any convenient surface....but then stone lasts better than leather.

I've got a couple of 'roll up' leather boards for playing merrils and tafl games, but I just carved them.

If you're making them for a period in which there's surviving evidence for pyrographic/pokerwork decoration then I don't suppose it's an issue. I know the Chinese have been doing it for centuries.

Re: Medieval Board games

Posted: Thu Dec 01, 2011 12:23 pm
by Clarenceboy
Having just done some very quick looking on the net into the history of Pyrography in the medieval period there is plenty of evidence for it being practiced on wood for decorative or marking reasons, from alter pieces to chests and harps, however it doesnt explicitly mention its use on leather or the niche area of leather board games.
However having said that I can't find any direct sources for leather board games at all, painted, scorched, tooled or anything else, now obviously leather is a lot less durable than stone or wood (especially if its in the form of a pew like the game boards found in a number of churches) so I'd expect a lot less to have been uncovered in the way of finds, additionally I would say its very hard to identify a game board in an image with regards to if it's wooden or leather or leather backed on to wood.
I may have to keep looking into this as a friend has a book on medieval games so think my next step is to stick my nose in that and see what I find there.

All very interesting and all good research

Re: Medieval Board games

Posted: Thu Dec 01, 2011 7:05 pm
by gregory23b
"Having just done some very quick looking on the net into the history of Pyrography in the medieval period there is plenty of evidence for it being practiced on wood for decorative or marking reasons, from alter pieces to chests and harps, however it doesnt explicitly mention its use on leather or the niche area of leather board games. "

Could you please post a link. It is one decorative area that I have no written information on, I have sculpture, engraving, woodcut, stamps etc.

Re: Medieval Board games

Posted: Thu Dec 01, 2011 9:53 pm
by Clarenceboy
Hopefully this works, downloaded to my phone and uploaded from it so fingers crossed

Apparently it doesn't work :-( POP in a Google search for "pyrography - art" and have a look at the document with the address starting with www.florilegium.org/files/.../Pyrography-art

Re: Medieval Board games

Posted: Fri Dec 02, 2011 2:01 pm
by Alan E
Clarenceboy wrote:Hopefully this works, downloaded to my phone and uploaded from it so fingers crossed

Apparently it doesn't work :-( POP in a Google search for "pyrography - art" and have a look at the document with the address starting with http://www.florilegium.org/files/.../Pyrography-art

Google search 'pyrography - art (site: florilegium.org)' gives
http://www.florilegium.org/?http%3A//ww ... y-art.html

Is that the one?

Re: Medieval Board games

Posted: Fri Dec 02, 2011 5:36 pm
by gregory23b
Thanks for that CB.

I have had a good read of it and it does provide information about pyrography being used across the world at different stages and ages, it also admits to some vague and as yet unproven ideas. My concern is that for an apparently well known process, very little is actually around. The medievals were very good at recording not only the processes (various treatises attest to the main art areas and some related ones such as dyeing and ceramics) but a widespread one would also tend to show up more often. While I take the point that wooden items might not have survived, other wooden ones do, panels, some bowls, building components etc. Fabric painting, whilst an ephemeral art form, arguably more so than wooden items is well recorded, despite the paucity of surviving painted textiles.

I am in the main skeptical regarding the widespread use of pyrography in say the late medieval period, I would like to see proper reconstructions of existing medieval patterns than modern versions of the same, so I will have a gander at the links provided on the florilegium site, regarding the history of pyrography. An interesting area to research perhaps for the budding wood charrer ;-)

Re: Medieval Board games

Posted: Wed Jan 04, 2012 3:58 pm
by bilbobaglin
Clarenceboy wrote:So far I have designs for:

3, 5, 6, 7 or 9 man's Morris
Quirkat
Fox and Geese
Fox and hounds
Tafl, English, Irish, Scottish or Welsh variants
Tables (backgammon)


All your games are very cerebral. How about an action game? I'm hoping to make a shove-groat board before the end of the month (our first get together). :idea:

Re: Medieval Board games

Posted: Wed Jan 11, 2012 6:42 pm
by House of De Clifford
go to
http://www.gothicgreenoak.co.uk/
these guys are the experts on board and other type games for many periods
Dave

Re: Medieval Board games

Posted: Thu Jan 12, 2012 2:38 pm
by Clarenceboy
@bilbobaglin

there is indeed the medieval version of shove hapenny and another dice game called gluckhaus which I guess you could call more "action" but I don't have the tools to make the board for shove hapenny as it has to be in wood or at least not leather as the jetton has to slide on the surface, and regarding gluckhaus I may give it a go but my artistic ability is fairly much limited to geometric designs :-)

However as Dave says Gothic Green Oak is a fine source of all things gambling and games related

Re: Medieval Board games

Posted: Thu Apr 19, 2012 9:54 pm
by bilbobaglin
@ Clarenceboy

Still haven't finished the shove groat board, had a baby since we last spoke but I have bought a slate floor tile from Topps (£6). Not overly polished and gives good travel, as you can see from this test film http://youtu.be/FiZajNwLmnM just needs some lines scored and a backstop. Job done. Now if you'll excuse me I have to change a nappy.

Re: Medieval Board games

Posted: Thu Apr 26, 2012 1:12 pm
by Colin Middleton
gregory23b wrote:I am in the main skeptical regarding the widespread use of pyrography in say the late medieval period, I would like to see proper reconstructions of existing medieval patterns than modern versions of the same, so I will have a gander at the links provided on the florilegium site, regarding the history of pyrography. An interesting area to research perhaps for the budding wood charrer ;-)


I'm a bit skeptical for pyrography being popular, as it seams to be a lot of effort. Surely you can get similarly nice results with a gouge or ink, but without the 'faff' of trying to keep your polker at a consistent temprature.