Hnefatafl

Hnefataefl (or tafl) is an ancient Scandinavian board game played on a checkered board with two teams of uneven strength. It has been mentioned in the Sagas and has ties to a Saami game, "Tablut", from Lapland. In some scholars' opinion, hnefataefl has been known in regions where Vikings had influence and not just Scandinavia exclusively.

Rules

The two-player game is played on a checkered board. The size or material of the board is irrelevant, but horizontal and vertical grating should be set up as odd pairs, ie. 9x9, 15x15, 19x19 etc, so that there is a central square. The most common setting is 9x9, where the attacking side has 16 pieces and the defender has 8 pieces plus one king in the middle square. All pieces can move any number of squares in a row. The king's side wins if the king manages to escape to any of the four corners which are reserved for the king alone; the attacker's side wins if king is cornered on three or four sides so that it can't move. The king can move between two or three enemy pieces safely.

Starting layout
Attacking pieces in black,
defending pieces in white.

A piece can be removed from the board when it is trapped between two enemy pieces from either adjacent vertical or horizontal squares. However, if a piece voluntarily goes in between then it is safe. The middle square, (King's Castle), cannot be accessed by any other piece than king itself. The four corners are reserved for the king alone too. The attackers base's are also non-accessible to them, once left.

Initial board setup

The pieces are set up with the king in the middle; the next two adjacent horizontal and vertical squares are the king's guards' bases, arranged in a cruciform. The attackers pieces are set up in four groups on the board so that they make a tau-cross form (see diagram).

The tempo of game is usually quick and old legends tell that Vikings even killed their opponents in fury after a loss. The game can be very addictive, maybe because of the easy rules and sudden change of nature of the game.

External Links


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