The game is one of pure strategy, played on a square board. A king and a small force of defenders occupy the centre of the board. A larger force of attackers, twice as numerous as the defenders, occupy positions around the edge of the board. The objective of the king is to escape to the periphery of the board, while the objective of the attackers is to capture the king, preventing his escape. The pieces move orthogonally, like rooks in chess, and capture is by surrounding a piece on two opposite sides.
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Tafl games pronounced [tavl] , also known as hnefatafl games are a family of ancient Nordic and Celtic strategy board games played on a checkered or latticed gameboard with two armies of uneven numbers. Most probably they are based upon the Roman game Ludus latrunculorum. The rules for tablut were written down by the Swedish naturalist Linnaeus in , and these were translated from Latin to English in All modern tafl games are based on the translation, which had many errors.
New rules were added to amend the issues resulting from these errors, leading to the creation of a modern family of tafl games. In addition, tablut is now also played in accordance with its original rules, which have been retranslated. The precise etymology is not entirely certain  but hnefi certainly referred to the king-piece,  and several sources [ who?
Several games may be confused with tafl games, due to the inclusion of the word tafl in their names or other similarities. Halatafl is the Old Norse name for Fox and Geese , a game dating from at least the 14th century. It is still known and played in Europe. Kvatrutafl is the Old Norse name for Tables the medieval forerunner of Backgammon.
The Welsh equivalent was Gwyddbwyll and the Breton equivalent Gwezboell ; all terms mean "wood-sense". As for the medieval game, no complete, unambiguous description of the rules exists,  but the king's objective was to escape to variously the board's periphery or corners, while the greater force's objective was to capture him.
There is some controversy over whether some tafl games i. Hnefatafl and Tawlbwrdd may have employed dice. Alea evangelii , which means "game of the gospels",  was described, with a drawing, in the 12th-century Corpus Christi College, Oxford manuscript , from Anglo-Saxon England. The manuscript describes the layout of the board as a religious allegory , but it is clear that this was a game in the Tafl family. This is the least documented of the known tafl variants.
Brandubh or brandub Irish : bran dubh was the Irish form of tafl. Original rules were not found, but using these 7x7 boards, the text of the two poems and the Tablut rules as a basis, the World Tafl Federation was able to reconstruct balanced rules validated by a several tests. Despite its small size board and the speed of the games, Brandubh offers an undeniable tactical and strategic exercise where the first mistake very often leads to defeat. The small number of pieces means that each of them must often simultaneously defend and attack: it is therefore easy to forget one of these tasks if one focuses too much on the other.
As in the great games of Tafl, sacrifices are useful, especially for the defenders, but with only four pieces, it is important not to weaken the king too early in the game. Hnefatafl sometimes now referred to as Viking Chess  was a popular game in medieval Scandinavia and was mentioned in several of the Norse Sagas. Some of these saga references have contributed to controversy over the possible use of dice in playing hnefatafl.
If dice were in fact used, nothing has been recorded about how they were employed. E , a turbulent time full of conflicts. When chess became a popular game during the Middle Ages, the rules of Hnefatafl were forgotten over time. Hnefatafl was particularly popular in Nordic countries and followed the Viking civilization to other parts of Europe, primarily to the British Isles and the Viking country of Gardarike in what is now part of Russia.
The game developed differently at different locations. Archaeologists have found editions in places such as Ireland and Ukraine. Hnefatafl literally translates to "fist table," from the Old Norse equivalently in modern Icelandic hnef , 'fist', and tafl , 'table'. The rules for tablut had been written down in the s, and translated from Latin to English in the s see "Tablut" on this page.
Unfortunately, the rules were poorly translated from Latin and gave unbalanced gameplay , mainly due to the mistaken idea that the king must be surrounded on four sides to be captured — instead of two. Today, many different versions of modern hnefatafl are in play — both online and on physical boards that are sold commercially. One variant used in tournaments is Copenhagen Hnefatafl, which also features a "shield wall" mechanism to capture several soldiers at once, and an "exit fort" rule that enables the king to escape on the edge while otherwise being limited to escape in the corners.
It may also have survived into the late 19th century — P. Linnaeus likely misunderstood the word describing the general activity as the name of the game. However, tablut has been established as its modern name, since no other name for it is known. Linneaus does not describe the pieces as being differently colored, but his drawing shows that one side's pieces are distinguished by being notched the Muscovites.
The central mistake in Troilius' translation is that four attackers are always needed to capture the king, whereas the original rules only demand two, except in special cases. The following rules are based on the modern translations of John C.
Ashton , Nicolas Cartier and Olli Salmi : . Robert ap Ifan documented it with a drawing in a manuscript dated His passage states: . The above tawlbwrdd should be played with a king in the centre and twelve men in the places next to him, and twenty-four men seek to capture him.
These are placed, six in the centre of each side of the board and in the six central positions. And two move the men in the game, and if one [piece] belonging to the king comes between the attackers, he is dead and is thrown out of the game, and the same if one of the attackers comes between two of the king's men in the same manner. And if the king himself comes between two of the attackers, and if you say 'Watch your king' before he moves to that space, and he is unable to escape, you capture him.
If the other says 'I am your liegeman' and goes between two, there is no harm. If the king can go along the [illegible] line, that side wins the game. Certain modern board games not generally referred to as "tafl", "tablut" or "hnefatafl" have nevertheless been based on tablut rules, or the rules of other tafl games reconstructed on the basis of tablut.
They bear significant resemblance to the other tafl games, but with some important differences. Around , Milton Bradley published Swords and Shields , which was essentially Tablut as recorded by Linnaeus and erroneously translated by Troilius, but with the Swedes transformed into shields with a king shield and the Muscovites transformed into swords.
Breakthru was developed in the s as part of the 3M bookshelf game series. It features tafl-like symmetry,  but with twelve defenders plus one "flagship" cf. Breakthru also features a distinctive double move, whereas no evidence points to such a move in any of the historical games. Thud , a modern game inspired by a series of fantasy novels by Terry Pratchett which in turn were inspired by the historical tafl games , also features the general symmetry of tafl games, although it is played on an octagonal board with only eight defenders pitted against thirty-two attackers.
Thud also features a "Thudstone" cf. There are also important differences in the moves and attacks in Thud. There have long been controversies concerning imbalance of the game, as rules for certain modern tafl games strongly favor the defenders. Newer translations of Linnaeus' tablut rules reveal a balanced game. There are several rule modifications that have been made to produce more balanced play than in the mistranslation of the tablut rules.
These include a weaponless king the king cannot participate in captures , escape to the corners rather than to the edges , or hostile attacker camps the king and defenders may be captured against a vacant attacker camp square.
One such solution is by bidding: Players take turns bidding on how many moves it will take them to win the game. The lowest bidder gets the king.
If the king escapes both rounds, the winner is the player whose king escaped in the fewest turns. These three period treatments of Hnefatafl offer some important clues about the game, while numerous other incidental references to Hnefatafl or Tafl exist in saga literature.
The fact that the sagas mention board games indicates this use because the sagas are read and understood by a very large audience. Another of Gestumblindi's riddles asks, "What is that beast all girded with iron, which kills the flocks? He has eight horns but no head, and runs as he pleases.
He has the name of a bear and escapes when he is attacked. There have been many archeological discoveries of tafl games and gaming pieces found in various Warrior Burials. One example was a wooden board and a single gaming piece made of horn found in a ship burial at Gokstad in southeastern Norway. Another example was twenty-two gaming pieces made of whalebone found in the Orkneys. Some finds have occurred in religious sites. A gaming board dated to the 8th century or earlier, was dug up in at the site of the later Scottish Monastery of Deer.
The piece was blue in colour, with swirls etched into the glass, and was topped with small white glass droplets, thought to symbolise a crown. The piece, thought to be a gaming piece for Hnefatafl or a related game, came from a trench that has been dated to the eighth to ninth centuries. The material used to make both the board game and the gaming pieces has varied: from walrus ivory to bone to amber to wood. In some boat burials there have been wooden board games found.
There have been very few actual boards found in these burials, implying that having these board games included was extremely rare. However, this is believed to be due to wood readily being destroyed by cremation fires or decaying over time. The first major attempt to revitalize tafl was the publication of "The Viking Game" in The latter was done in order to compensate for the imbalanced gameplay resulting from the notion that the king must be surrounded on all four sides.
This game did much to spark the interest in tafl games, and also began the modern evolution of the game as players attempted to remedy the game which was still unbalanced in the king's favor. The term "quickplay" refers to the time limit of ten seconds per move, marked by the sounding of a gong. After the rules for tablut were retranslated and published online — , this historical game has also gained in popularity.
A tournament was held in England in Tafl games can be played online on sites similar to Chess. Variants of tafl playable online today include Copenhagen Hnefatafl, Tablut, and many others.
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. A group of asymmetric boardgames. For the King of Leinster, see Brandub mac Echach. Hnefatafl — the Game of the Vikings. The pronunciation of f as [v] is included in the table on p. Altnordische Grammatik. Helmfrid, Bell, and Hervarar Saga all agree on this point. Also, Bayless , p.
Hnefatafl Game Rules
Tafl games pronounced [tavl] , also known as hnefatafl games are a family of ancient Nordic and Celtic strategy board games played on a checkered or latticed gameboard with two armies of uneven numbers. Most probably they are based upon the Roman game Ludus latrunculorum. The rules for tablut were written down by the Swedish naturalist Linnaeus in , and these were translated from Latin to English in All modern tafl games are based on the translation, which had many errors. New rules were added to amend the issues resulting from these errors, leading to the creation of a modern family of tafl games. In addition, tablut is now also played in accordance with its original rules, which have been retranslated. The precise etymology is not entirely certain  but hnefi certainly referred to the king-piece,  and several sources [ who?
The dark pieces lay seige, their goal, to capture the king. The light pieces must break the seige and get their king to safety. There are two players, the king's side vs attackers. There are twice as many attackers as defenders. The attackers' side moves first, the players then take turns. All pieces move any number of vacant squares along a row or a column, just like a rook in chess. All pieces except the king are captured if sandwiched between two enemy pieces, or between an enemy piece and a restricted square.
Its peculiarities are the shieldwall capture where pieces along the edge can be captured by depriving them of breathing space, like go stones , and a rule declaring the king's cause lost when all of his forces are surrounded. The game is played by two players on a board of 11x11 squares, one player taking control of the king and twelve defenders, the other taking control of twenty-four attackers. In his turn a player can move a single piece any number of spaces along a row or column; this piece may not jump over nor land on another of either colour. The five marked squares in the centre and corners of the board are special, and only the king may land on them. Other pieces may pass over the central square in the course of their move, as long as they do not land there.