Interview with Damian Walker of Cyningstan, Traditional Board Games

Im not even sure what I was looking for, but I found Damian on Twitter (I think).  My best friend is a board game fanatic, so some text about “Traditional Board Games” caught my eye.  As it turns out, I believe that I am a fan!!  There is something cool about a strategy game that was played by the Vikings, or ancient Egyptians.  Damain was kind enough to agree to an interview, and I think you will find it as fascinating as I do.  Thanks a million Damian!!  PS..  For our readers not familiar with the term “draughts” (me included), the word “Checkers” may be more familiar…  So without any more bla bla bla….  Welcome to Mr. Walker!!


Games: Left column from back to front are tablut, puluc, hnefatafl: Middle column fanorona, nyout, awithlaknanai, hare & hounds: Right-hand column: senet, seega, yoté, brandub.


1) What is your name, and what do you do?

I’m Damian Walker. I research historic board games, make and sell them, and write about them too. And when I need to pay the bills, I build web sites.

Damian Walker:  "with the nicest game I make at the moment, tablut (also known as hnefatafl)".

Damian Walker: “with the nicest game I make at the moment, tablut (also known as hnefatafl)”.

2) Tell us about yourself

I was born and grew up in Hull, a port in the English county of Yorkshire. Apart from a few short intervals in New Jersey, USA and in Manchester in north-west England, I’ve lived here all my life. I’ve been working in technology for most of my career, but recently branched out into traditional board games.

3) How did you get started?

About seven years ago I got interested in making my own games out of wood, for my friends and I to play. Since I don’t have a lot of money, I made the hobby self-financing: for any games that I enjoyed playing, I’d make a few more and put them on eBay. Eventually I built a web site, and it all grew from there.

4) Do you personally make each board game?

Yes. That’s part of what makes this fun, having complete creative control over the games that I make. I’m always trying to find time to make the process quicker, though. I stopped making my own pieces pretty early on, buying glass beads or pawns in for most of the games. And about six months ago I started buying pre-cut plywood boards, which saves time and looks a bit more professional.

5) How do you find historical games to reproduce.

I’ve been collecting good books on old board games, starting with the classic “A History of Board-Games Other Than Chess” by H. J. R. Murray, which I managed to get hold of while it was still affordable. Another good one still available is R. C. Bell’s “Board and Table Games from Many Civilizations”.

I sometimes find out about games on the world wide web, but I always try to find printed or academic sources for the games. So much on the web is made up from a mish-mash of imagination, wishful thinking and misinterpretation, and passed off as fact. I don’t want to be guilty of the same, so I tend to research these things more deeply till I can be certain the games are really historical and as accurate as possible.

I do a lot of my research from good old-fashioned books; here I have a selection open at the table.

I do a lot of my research from good old-fashioned books; here I have a selection open at the table.


6) Of all the games that you discover, how do you decide which ones to manufacture.

Since I run on a low budget, I look at whatever I can make cheaply, especially with parts that I order regularly. Until recently I’d only make games that would work with glass beads as pieces (i.e. no stacking), and they’d be restricted by the width of the wooden planks I can pick up locally.

I’m still picking games from a list defined by the leaflets I wrote over the past eight or nine years, the free “Traditional Board Game Series” that you can pick up from my web site ( There are sixty leaflets, and the advantage of me sticking with that list, for now, is that I’ve already done the work of researching the rules and setting out the leaflets.

7) What was the first game that got you interested?

I was intrigued by the ancient Egyptian game, senet, at an exhibition in a Manchester museum back in about 2000. A couple of years later I found the game in a library book back in Hull (J. Botermans, The World of Games), so I checked out the book and was hooked. Because senet died out in A.D. 400, the rules were lost, but there are clues in religious and other texts, and tomb paintings. All of this gives the game an air of mystery.

8) What is your favorite?

My favourite has to be hnefatafl. I like the four-way symmetry of the board. Though it’s described as an asymmeetrical game because the two sides are different, they’re arranged in a very symmetrical manner around the centre of the board, which looks fantastic as an ornament.

It was more than its looks that got me addicted to it, though. The rules are usually quite simple, closer to draughts than to chess. But because all the pieces have long moves (like the rook in chess), the choices you have at any given time are usually more numerous even than chess. This makes the game very deep.


9) Do the historical games have anything in common with currently available board games?

Both groups are extremely varied, so there are many things in common between them. Socially they occupy similar roles in life, as a sociable entertainment. Some historic games rise a little higher than this, like chess and go, but some modern games have their serious championship competitions: Scrabble is an example I can think of.

As for the mechanics of play, things have diversified a bit nowadays and the parallels are less marked. So many modern board games have a strong theme to them, being set in a particular time or place. And the new abstract games strive to make themselves different from the old, with new and interesting but sometimes complicated or tortuous rules for moving the pieces around.

10) Is there regional similarities in games?

Some games have their local following, if you can use the word “local” to talk about an entire continent. Mancala games in Africa is a good example, as are the many four-player race games in India (pachisi, thaayam and chaupur, for instance). And in historic times hnefatafl was a European thing. Some games did spread from one place to another and develop variants in their new home; chess, draughts and backgammon have all gone through this process and have had their own regional variations.

Of course nowadays there are fewer barriers, especially with the rise of the world wide web. Go is played all over the world, and I’ve even heard about hnefatafl being played by kids in the streets of Swaziland.

11) Are most of the games strategy, or just entertainment?

There’s a combination of both, probably equal. On the one hand you’ve got chess and draughts, which are strategic enough to warrant tournaments. But there are also games like the Mayan puluc and the renaissance Game of the Goose, which are pure luck and give the player no decisions to make; these games are just there to pass the time. And there’s a third type of game too, snakes & ladders, which originated in India as a game of moral teaching, with the ups and downs representing rewards and punishments.

12) How long have you been researching, creating, and selling historical board games.

Since about 2002, when I spotted that Botermans book in the local library.
Being broke at the time, I was attracted to the idea of “making my own entertainment” with bits and pieces easily picked up anywhere, and the book was full of that sort of thing. The fact that these games were hundreds or thousands of years old added to the attraction, as I’m generally interested in history and our links with the past.

I spent the first few years researching the games, writing about them and also writing software versions of them in Java, before starting to make and sell them in about 2007.

13) Where do you see your board game activities going in the future?

Currently I’m running two web sites on historic board games. One is “Hnefatafl: the Game of the Vikings” (, dedicated to just that one game. It’s mainly informational, but has a little shop. The other is “Cyningstan: Traditional Board Games” ( which covers a wider range of games, and was relaunched in March. I’m still in the process of building that site up, so some games have more coverage than others.



14) By the way, why two sites? Why not have everything in one place?

My interest and research into hnefatafl goes very deep, and I’ve got a lot of information on the game. If I put it together with the other games, hnefatafl would dominate: a bit like have a sports site that was 80% hockey with everything else crammed into the remaining 20%. I thought it more sensible to keep hnefatafl on its own site.

15) Parting words for our readers?

If you haven’t played much other than chess or draughts, have a look at some of the other games from around the world. You’ll probably find them being played at a Renaissance Fair or other re-enactment event, or on special days at a museum. But beware: you may get as addicted to them as I am!



Thanks a million Damian!!  I think that I am going to order my own hnefatafl!!  Hope that you ship to the States!!!!

Introducing the International Historical and Fantasy Faire Association (IHFFA)

During a recent interview with Mr. Joe Hamburger, we discovered that he was on a quest much like we are here at RenFestExperience.  He wants to help this industry (Festivals) grow and become more prominent, and in his attempt to do so, he has created the International Historical and Fantasy Faire Association (IHFFA).  So we have put together another interview with him about this new endeavor….  If you provide goods, entertain or do just about anything pertaining to festivals, you should pay attention to this one!!

Thanks for joining us again Joe.  so tell us about the IHFFA

IHFFA Founding Members Left to Right Ron McCall,  James Martin, Courtney Scarbourgh,  Jessica Heflin, and Joe Hamburger.  Not pictured is Elizabeth Baker.

IHFFA Founding Members Left to Right
Ron McCall, James Martin, Courtney Scarbourgh, Jessica Heflin, and Joe Hamburger.  Not pictured is Elizabeth Baker.

1)  What does IHFFA stand for?

The letters stand for the International Historical and Fantasy Faire Association.

2)  What is IHFFA?

IHFFA is the launch of a trade association designed to help people in this industry connect, learn, and grow their businesses. It will also be a support tool and members will have the ability to save money on items like health insurance, auto insurance, gas, lodging, etc. The support aspect comes from its establishments as a non-profit association so that excess dues from operations and promotions can be utilized to establish funds that area available for members to request for medical needs, growth needs, for fairs to have a resource to approach in times of catastrophic events. This aspect came about from two things that happened with the faire I am a part of. Three years ago a tornado blew down the front gate of our fair, and there has not been the funds available to repair it completely. So it has been a long slow process. The other was first hearing stories of so many traveling performers who don’t carry health insurance, right down to a couple of the knights that ride with our team who can’t afford and don’t have health insurance at all. Then we lost a member of our community due to complications of diabetes last year. This was the catalyst that pushed this aspect of the plan.

3)  How did you decide to start this?

The concept came really from a funny dream a friend of mine had where we went to Vegas to a convention for fair owners and management. That got me thinking that we don’t have a trade organization and that a convention might be a good idea. That grew into the realization that it could be done on line. When I watched our owner trying to find more vendors and acts for the fair I realized just how disconnected we really are. Then as I looked to for clothing for the coming season I realized how under marketed so many craft people are. So many in our industry are excellent crafters, skilled tailors, and true artisans. Performers who excel at their trade, but very few are great promoters, website designers, detail people when it comes to posting products etc. And most, most would not say they are skilled business people. This is where the true power of the association comes into play. There are educational pieces for people to be able to learn, a centralized location where faire owners can find pools of vendors and entertainers who want to expand their businesses. A storefront and classified section for people to be able to promote their products to a greater public base, to be able to find more outlets than the groups we find main stream. There is nothing wrong at all with Medieval Collectibles, Arms Street, Pearson, or any of the other companies. But there are so many more skilled people who could be promoted and found with a little bit of exposure.

4)  What is the core or defining principles you are looking to have in IHFFA?

The core of what we want to do is the following:

Connection: Meaning a place where vendors and performers can find new outlets for sales. From online promotions and presence, to marketing to other members, for faire owners to find new acts and new vendors, and patrons of these fairs to find new venues to attend.

Promotions: We want to create a centralized push to get more people to want to come to fairs, to promote fairs, to promote vendors and handmade crafts as an industry. To educate the general public about fairs that are in their area, and to promote other fairs around the country to patron and playtrons who might travel to them. In general boost the attendance and pool of people who love these kinds of faires.

Education: To allow people to learn from business professionals, industry leaders, on good marketing, promotions, and business techniques that will help them improve their bottom line, protect themselves from law suits, provide safer environments for their guests, etc. So many people have come into a business from a trade or artisan stand point and lack some of the knowledge or skills associated with making a business extremely successful. From my time in the industry and my years working with small businesses as a consultant.

5)  How does the site work?

We are still building the site, but right now it is essentially a platform that will have the following bits of functionality to it. A member will have their own profile page which will allow them to talk about themselves, post updates, have albums of pictures, videos, blogs if they want it. Other members will be able to search members by name, trade, products, entertainment etc. This is that ability to connect, to send emails, to find people. The site will also host groups, discussion boards, blogs, and webinars for learning and sharing information. There will also be a storefront and classified section where people can post items for sale etc. There will be a needs page, where people can post items or things they need. There will be calendar where people can find out what faires are when, and link to those fairs. When joust tournaments are etc. Finally there will be the support section where members can link to discounts offered to our membership for all kinds of items. The site will act as a centralized hub for information. Facebook has been used as this for many years, this is taking it a step further with a specific focus on the needs of our industry.

6)  Who will make up your membership?

It isn’t just vendors and entertainers, or owner who will make up the membership. It will be suppliers, playtrons, and patrons who will be members as well. The site will have lots of useful information for industry people, but it will be more useful as a tool for patrons and playtrons to more easily access entertainers and vendors to find their wares, or to find new fairs and events to attend. It is the ability to more easily bring these people together.

7)  Is this just about renaissance fairs?

Obviously I have a very Ren Faire focus or background, but we can see this platform being useful for people who do civil war reenactment, or cosplay people, comicon promoters etc. Anyone who puts on a festival or a fair runs into the same issues we do in terms of finding people, vendors, entertainers etc. This can be a platform for those groups as well.

8)  What does a membership cost?

I wondered how long it would take to ask this question. Membership always comes with a cost. To gain access to the website, to set up a membership it will be free to do that. At that point functionality will be limited, and without a paid membership there is no saving benefits. You will be able to search for people, you will be able to send a limited number of emails, and look at items for sale, etc. To gain functionality will be at different levels of membership. The lowest cost membership will be $5.00 we don’t have final names for them yet. We are still throwing around a few ideas on which direction we want to go with that. But we know the next step up will be $9.00 and the top level will be $15.00 to have complete and total functionality. The membership due allow us to cover the cost of maintaining and operating the web-site, general overhead, and start to put money into pools for support of members of the community. Because this is a Non-profit we are keeping the dues affordable for people, but high-enough for us to be able to implement the programs we want and to be able to do the things we want to grow the community, the industry, and to help our members make more money and save more of the money the make.

9)  What is your ultimate goal with this?

To see the industry continue to grow to thrive, to gain focus and bring more people into a higher level of success. I want to see the number of attendees at fairs double in the next three years. I want to see us come together as a professional community as an industry and grow, and I want to see us have the ability to support groups like Rennie-Rescue and others who – for years- have provided a secondary support for those in our community. I think like every industry we can do better, we can bring more people into it, but we need a better means of being connected, communicating, and working together. I truly believe in the adage “a rising tide raises all ships.” I believe IHFFA can be the catalyst to that rising tide.

10)  Is the site live and running?

No, we are in the testing phase of the site.   We are looking for as many people to be testers as we can get.  We want to make this site and this organization have the most impact and value for people from the start.   Please connect with me about being a tester.  Testers get free access and special perks if they choose to join as a member after testing.  There are some very simple requirements for testing, so please visit our facebook page or send me an email 

11)  What do you think will be the best part of this organization?

Aside from the support the association will provide industry people in need, I think it will be the search capabilities to help people find the people they need to drive their business forward. For fair owners the ability to target and find the entertainers and merchants they need to improve the quality of attractions at their faire, or the ability for faires, merchants, and entertainers to find their specific groups of patrons and consumers to market their products to. For the patrons to be able to come to one location to find the greatest collection of artisans in the industry, to get discounts and special invites to special events. That I believe will be one of the great parts of this association, the ability for people at the lowest cost possible find the people they need. Most of marketing programs are part of the membership cost.
For example, if a faire owner was having a Viking Invasion weekend at their faire, they would be able to go into the member database, and search for all patrons, who are in a 4 to 5 hour drive of the fair, who are into being Vikings. They would be able to send a message, a deal, an invite to this select group of people and bring them to there faire. The cost for this kind of targeted marketing would be ZERO, it is a free part of being a member of IHFFA. If they offered a discount to get in the gate they would see an increase in the response rate, etc. That is the power of this association, and is what we mean when we say the Power of More!

Thanks again Joe!

This sounds like a worth while organization with tons of benefits.  We at RenFestExperience are in the beginning stages of launching our ECommerce web site, and you can bet that we will be signing up!!

For more information, email Joe at: 

A Look at Some Unique and Unusual Medieval Weapons


In researching for this weeks article, Feather found a cool article about some unusual medieval weapons.  This article was posted at and was written by Will Kalif.  We added the images, so I hope Mr. Kalif would approve.  Please enjoy the read.

Author:  Will Kalif

The Middle Ages was a time of much conflict and warfare. During this time many unusual weapons were created to solve battlefield problems. Many of these weapons are familiar to us such as the sword, axe, or lance. But there were many lesser known and unusual weapons that were created during this time in history.

Not all weapons were created specifically for battle or for hand to hand combat against an armored foe and a good example of this was the Man Catcher. This unusual weapon was a long pole arm with a semi-circular pronged shape catch at the end. There was a spring-loaded trap on it and it was used to reach up, capture, and pull down someone mounted on a horse. The primary use of this weapon was to capture enemy royalty for later ransom.

Man Catcher

Man Catcher


The Sword breaker was another unique weapon developed and used during the Middle Ages. This was a long and very sturdy dagger that had slots on one side much like the teeth of a comb. This was a standard off hand weapon that was used to capture an opponent\’s sword blade. Once the blade was caught a quick twist of the sword breaker would snap the opponent\’s sword blade.

Sword Breaker

Sword Breaker


Not all weapons were hand-held and the caltrop is a good example of the ingenuity of the art of combat and the dynamics of the battlefield. The caltrop was a fabrication of metal that had four points much like a child\’s Jack. The unique thing about the caltrop was that if you threw it on the ground, because of the four pointed structure, it would always fall with one point standing straight up and this was a serious danger and deterrent to cavalry or even foot soldiers.




Some of the most unique and unusual designs in weapons were in the realm of the dagger and many different daggers came out of the Middle Ages including the Rondel which was a long conical shaped dagger. It was specifically a piercing weapon and it\’s conical shape made it look much like a long and slender ice cream cone. The Poniard was another unusual dagger because it had either a square or triangular shape. This shape was effective for piercing armor.




The Middle Ages saw a tremendous development in many types of weapons. Some of these weapons are still in use today but some of the more unique ones, because of their very specific applications, are no longer seen. Yet they remain as a testament to the nature of the medieval battlefield.

Article Source:

About the Author

To Learn more about Medieval Weapons, Armor, and Castles visit the authors website at Medieval – The Medieval Armory

Published in: Article, Combat on 2014/04/01 at11:00 Comments (0)
Tags: , , , , ,

Prince Armory Interview

Samuel Lee’s website may be called “Prince Armory”, but to many he is the King of Leather workers. One look at his intricate custom designs and you will understand why. Also the man behind “Imperial Armories,” Samuel Lee’s talent and artistry is unsurpassed in his field. And now, the interview…



1. When did you first begin working with leather?

Late teens, early 20s.


2. What was your first experience at a renaissance faire like?

Rather fascinating.  I hadn’t been aware of them until a friend brought me to one but it had all the sword and sorcery fantasy aspects I loved


3. What Ren Faires are you associated with?

I have a large (large being a relative term I guess) shop at the Texas Renaissance Festival and have minor involvement with Sherwood Forest Faire and Scarborough Renaissance Festival


4. When did Prince Armory come about?

In 2007 when I decided to officially go into business for myself


5. Tell us about your shop? How has it grown?

It is still a relatively new shop with 2 years under the belt but some years ago I worked out of a tent so you could say it has grown a lot.  My current shop is a permanent structure on a prominent lane. 

The shop has a large balcony and I want to say the inner dimensions are 22×40 plus staff quarters out back and upstairs.  Eventually I expect I will expand it further still.


6. Do you have employees that assist you?

Most definitely.  More and more I am able to delegate tasks.  I still handle most of the designs and detail work for now but my ideal goal is to turn over operations entirely to my crew leaving me free to kickstart new endeavors.  I leave the TRF shop itself in capable hands every season while I often stay back to work on custom work or designs.


7. Where do you get your inspiration?

I guess I just want my work to be good.   I suppose I’m easily content, but never really satisfied, I always feel like a thing can be better.  The trouble is just running out of time.


8. Other than Renaissance Faires, where can we see your leather work?

Primarily Online: website, DA Gallery, Facebook, eventually at more and more events like Comic Cons, Dragon Con, and whatever other events we can get into.  We have several events lined up and hope to add more


9. What do you feel has been your most challenging piece?

Probably an active project I am working on but am under NDA to speak about.  It is a challenge for non technical reasons though.  I suppose garment leather works are more challenging for me than the armor works, but I create new designs for everything I create so I also suppose every high end project comes with it’s own set of challenges. 


10. Have you made any armor for films?

Nothing for a feature film but the Elven Knight armor (gallery on the prince armory facebook page and some more images on dA) was featured in a commercial for Samsung. 

See the commercial below!!


11. What is the average thickness of leather that you work primarily with?

10oz is the most common.  Sometimes thinner or thicker depending on the client’s application for the armor.


12. Do you sell individual pieces as well as full suits of armor?

Through the Imperial Armories venture we sell stock items

Through Prince Armory however it is rare to accept individual pieces, save for perhaps the occasional helmet


13. How many hours do you estimate the average suit of armor entails?

I don’t even bother trying to answer this question any more.  A while.  A lifetime.  Too long. Who knows…


14. Do you make armor for women?

Certainly, some examples can be seen in the “Female Armor” album under the Deviant Art gallery


15. Where else can we see your fine leather craft?

I have fairly extensive images posted to deviant art and the prince armory facebook.  I have some images of the Imperial Armories TRF shop in the imperial armories FB page.


16. What do you enjoy most about going to Renaissance Faires?

I like the escapism it provides for patrons.  I sort of live a fantasy in a way, being able to make a living making armor (fantasy armor at that), and Ren fests are an extension of that.  Plus it is quite the desirable alternative to what some might call the mundane world, of which I’ve never amalgamated to.


17. Anything else you would like to share with Ren Fest Experience?

Some of my more appreciable works include my medieval legends lineup where I take iconic heroes or villains and reimagine them from a perspective of ‘What if this character was an armored knight in a fantasy medieval setting’  Such examples include Medieval Batman, Aquaman, Loki, and Joker thus far. (available in   To be followed by Darth Vader, Deadpool, Green Lantern, Spawn, Iron Man, and many more projects which are all already confirmed and will be made in the future.  Then of course I have many other high end creations such as the Flame Dragon, Sea Dragon, Elven Knight, and more.


18. Any parting words?

The distinction between Imperial Armories and Prince Armory is that Prince Armory is the branch specializing in custom high end works while Imperial Armories offers stock designs at more affordable prices.  Both were started by me and I have further plans for both in the future. 


One more link to view my works is to sort the dA gallery by popularity

It’s a good way to see some of the more popular works but it also hides the newer works which have had less time to gain popularity.
The following link can show you the full gallery as listed by newest first


Thank you so much Samuel for sharing your story and your art with Ren Fest Experience. Your Armor could even make my brother “Stick” look cool! Im looking forward to following your progress and seeing your new creations.

Published in: Interview on 2014/03/25 at11:00 Comments (0)
Tags: , , ,