Tamarlane Chess: working project

The Astronomical Tables board was inspiring, so I’m working on Tamarlane chess.

about the game

Emir Timur, known by Europeans as Tamarlane (1336-1405) was a brilliant tactician and patron of the arts, and is traditionally credited with the development of this game. Played in Persia, but is based on Chaturanga, an Indian strategy game believed to be the common ancestor of all chess variants.

The board is 10×11, with unchecked spaces and two citadels, located at the player’s right in rows 2 and 9. This space can only be occupied by the opponent’s king, and doing so brings the game to a draw. The other 110 are necessary to accommodate the two massive armies each consisting of the following:

1 king
1 general
1 vizier
2 giraffes
2 pickets/bishops
2 knights
2 rooks
2 elephants
2 camels
2 war engines
11 pawns, each representing a type of piece (pawn of kings, pawn of knights, pawn of pawns, etc.)

That’s 56 pieces, and none of them number more than four. Methinks there has never been a “pocket” version of this game…

my board

Making a historically accurate set would be a rather pricey and time consuming undertaking, and one that’s going to have to wait until I have a little more space to work with. In the meantime, I want the play to be as smooth as possible, allowing for players to have as good of an experience as they choose to. It is my hope to create a set that will enhance the experience, and not disrupt the flow of the play.

mundane note: I have PTSD, and do not sit comfortably with competitive gaming at this time. I do, however, love to watch. 😉

Like the Astronomical Tables, I have picked out a nice piece of canvas, just big enough to be a small tablecloth. I penciled out a grid,  about 21″x 25″, and painted over with a textured fabric paint.

20140826_173637[1]I have plenty of time to embellish before War, so I have been researching Timurid era art.

Timur identified as both Mongol and Turkish, allowing for both influences in art. Turquoise and gold knot work it is.

Next step is gesso. This will act as both a paint primer and a fabric stiffener. The tube paint underneath, having been edited for errors (it joined me for a soapy shower, and I scraped off the rhythm-induced mistakes), the fabric paint will retain the board design, as well as a tactile border for each space.


a layer of gesso is added

I picked up some wooden bits from the craft store, just to get an idea of how big the pieces should be. These will likely go through some transformations.


Basic pieces. these will be embellished…

(more to come…)








  I have painted base colors on the canvas, resulting in a playable, if not very aesthetic board. Projects like this can get put on the back burner for months, sometimes even years. I have moved four times in as many years, and mostly by circumstances out of my control (like a flood). Projects get separated from their supplies, and next thing I know, I’m reluctant to pick it up again, resenting how many steps have to be restarted.
I like to encapsulate each element of the project.  As a result, I can embellish as opportunity arises, and yet, if someone wants to use it, I can say “Why yes, you can play with it, just tell me what you think would help make a better finished product.”


Basic Tamarlane chess board. Note that the workspace seen here is the largest area I have available.



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