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Scott A. Roush

Games...

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I've recently started teaching my son to play chess.. and with the way my mind works I'm now obsessed with ancient board games. So I'm now captivated by the chess pieces of Lewis Isle. I've been subconsciously aware of these for a long time.. but I never really paid them a lot of attention. But on closer look.. I love these things! Their shapes and facial expressions.

 

ps342892_l.jpg

 

I love the berserker with his teeth on the shield.

 

So now I'm wanting a set very badly.. but very expensive to buy! I've started carving some from soapstone.. but then I found that you can buy latex molds for casting. So.. I did this. And I will be casting my first 'hydrostone' versions this weekend. And I will use these for sand casting in bronze. Will show pictures as this progresses.

 

And then I discovered all the tafl type games and I'm now in the midst of making a bronze hnefatafl board. Right now I'm using some glass stones my wife had laying around for the pieces.. but I will make some from soapstone or maybe make some glass ones in the forge. If you aren't familiar with this game you can learn a lot online.. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tafl_games but some folks call it 'Viking Chess'.

 

Anyway... I'm curious if others here have made their own game boards and pieces or have any other bits about old games.

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The thought have entered my mind...

But no game pieces as of yet.

The Bishop(s) of the set have this expression in the(ir) face(s). I find it menacing, world weary and sinister in a very disconcerting way. Or it is just me in the looking glass?

Anyhow, I was inspired by these chess pieces when I made some preliminary sketches to go with a sword that was found in the moat outside a bishops castle.

 

Bishop1.jpg

 

Bishop2.jpg

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Lovely sketches Peter. They seem like stand alone pieces of art...

 

As to the expressions... For me it's hard to tell if the sinister (and comical) look is purposeful.. or simply a lack of control of the maker. But.. the perfect capture of insanity in the berserker lends value to the skills of this person...

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I have had a chess set in my mind for years, but rather than on of the historical models, I have been contemplating materials. A Damascus and mono-steel set in a Staunton style. A board of Damascus and mono-steel squares and pieces the same, perhaps with gem stone, ivory, or exotic wood bases.

 

In the historical mode is Nine Men's Morris, which is more of what we used to call a Beer-and-Pretzel game.

 

Geoff

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Geoff.. a damascus set is a great idea. Nice way to use those end cut offs too!

 

Thanks for the info on another historical game. I love the thought of these things.. it really gives me a sense of connectedness to people who lived so long ago... with the thought that they shared similar past times and recreation.

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Those old chess pieces are great! I love old board games like chess, mancala, and go (especially go since I'm halfway decent at it). I have made some chess pieces from twisted copper wire, nothing representational but still fun. The board was made by a friend and excellent woodworker from school.

 

twistedchess1sm.jpg

 

twistedchess2sm.jpg

 

This post has got me thinking board games again, which is something I'm really interested in but don't really have time for :( . I've had the idea of making a chess set with pieces that move mechanically when picked up by the force of an internal weight that falls when the piece is lifted from the board.

 

Those Tafl games are really intriguing. It's a shame there isn't a definite set of rules still around. I will have to look into these games in the future.

 

~Josh

 

Edited by Joshua Snead

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Very cool Joshua. You make regular old copper wire look beautiful! I'd love to see these mechanical pieces. That would be a great idea for a Steampunk set.

 

I will post some pictures tomorrow but I've had the best time with my kids today casting the Isle of Lewis pieces. The detail is so remarkable.. I wonder if my latex molds were taken directly from originals.. or least from something that was...

 

When you say there are no definite rules to the tafl games.. I suppose you mean no direct historical reference? As .. at least for hnefatafl.. all the rules I've seen are pretty much the same. A king's army that maintains the center and an attacking army at the periphery with the goal of capturing/killing the king.

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For winning more games , the pieces need to very close in resemblance to one another so its harder for your opponent to focus :)

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For winning more games , the pieces need to very close in resemblance to one another so its harder for your opponent to focus :)

That makes a lot of sense. But.. for myself... I'm not that competitive. I just like the spirit of the games and the boards and pieces as a potential artist's pallet. But... if both opponents have the same pieces.. doesn't the advantage become a wash?

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Here is a very interesting article on the Lewis berserker: http://www.artwrit.com/article/tactile-vision-in-the-lewis-chessmen/

 

I'm disappointed to find out that my set of moulds does not have the shield biting berserker! So may have to carve my own. Which would be good for me.

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The anecdotal story about discovering the Lewis chess set is that the farmer who found it was digging a hole and they were in a little rock space and thus still sitting on the board as if set up for play. He assumed he had uncovered a court of the little people, and had turned them into stone by exposing them to sunlight. Returning home distraught, his wife eventually asked him what was wrong, and when he explained it she yelled at him for being a fool and made him go back and collect the pieces. I love it!

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That is hilarious but also wonderful. I haven't heard that part of the story...

 

I have found a mold for the 'shield biter'... so I will be able to complete my collection. Although I still want to use that as a practice piece for my own carving.

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Very cool Joshua. You make regular old copper wire look beautiful! I'd love to see these mechanical pieces. That would be a great idea for a Steampunk set.

 

I will post some pictures tomorrow but I've had the best time with my kids today casting the Isle of Lewis pieces. The detail is so remarkable.. I wonder if my latex molds were taken directly from originals.. or least from something that was...

 

When you say there are no definite rules to the tafl games.. I suppose you mean no direct historical reference? As .. at least for hnefatafl.. all the rules I've seen are pretty much the same. A king's army that maintains the center and an attacking army at the periphery with the goal of capturing/killing the king.

 

Thanks Scott,

 

I made a pair of steampunk welding goggles last year which inspired a number of odd ideas like mechanical chess. And yes I was referring to the lack of a complete historical reference to the rules, there appear to be plenty of interesting modern variations though. Thanks for that game site, and interesting article too.

 

Concerning your castings, it seems like those pieces would be difficult to mold in sand with all the undercuts and detail. Do you have a way of making that work without damaging the sand upon removing the model? Would your latex molds work for pouring wax models? I've made natural rubber molds before into which wax is injected to form the model for the lost wax process. I think lost wax in investment would produce better detail than sand.

 

I look forward to seeing your pieces!

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Joshua...

 

Okay.... I was hoping that the 'modern' rules had some basis in history... but I haven't looked into it enough. I do know there seems to be some confusion as to whether or not dice were used in the game.

 

So far I've just been casting them with a gypsum based plastery cement. I haven't tried wax yet because I assumed that I wouldn't be able to get it to work without injection.. and I don't have the equipment for that. Yet.

 

As to sand casting... I was thinking I could lay them on their backs in a two part flask and pack sand down on top of the other half. It seems like most of them could be cast that way... but I'm still short on experience with this kind of casting. If nothing else... I now have nice 3-D models in which to use for carving. I wish I could afford that much walrus ivory? Although.. I do have enough 'cut-offs' to do small pawns. But the gypsum pieces really no look nice. I just have to shape and clean up the bases and they will be done. Try to get pictures soon...

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