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Make and Play Hnefatafl


Hnefetafl is a thousand year old board game that comes to us from the vikings. Its an interesting and very fun game that takes some strategizing. And, one of the things I like about it is the fact that the two players do not start out with the same pieces. One player is offense and one player is defense. Kind of cool.

Hnefetafl means "Kings Table"



This picture shows the completed board setup and ready to go. There are two teams (red and green). And you can see how spectacular the setup is. The green player has 24 pieces and the red team has 13 pieces (one of which is the king right in the middle). So, one team has twice as many players as the other.

The Hnefetafl board


The rules of the game are pretty simple although they do vary a bit. This means there are a few different ways to play it. Thats because the game is a thousand years old and there are a few different accounts of how it is played. But, no matter which way you play it you will pick up the rules very easily. And, I will show you the way I think is the best and I will explain the variations.



Can you make and play Hnefatafl? You sure can! Here is a board that Peter made. He used one inch ceramic tiles for the board (which is a great idea!) and he used finials with the bottoms cut off for the pieces! My thanks to him for sharing this great picture with us!



And here is a Hnefatafl game made by Ross.

The Object of the Game

The Object of the game is pretty simple. The king of the red team has to get to one of the four corner squares. And the green team has to stop that by capturing the king. And note that these four corners are restricted squares, they can only be occupied by the king.

Object of the game


How the pieces move

How the pieces move

All the pieces move the same as a Rooks in chess. They can move as many squares as desired in either the horizontal or vertical directions, no diagonals. Of course they can't move through other pieces or hop over pieces. And the king also moves this same way, all the pieces.

Flanking a piece

Removing an opponents piece from the board.

You do this by flanking the piece -getting a piece on opposite sides of an opposing piece. Here you see the two green pieces have flanked a red piece. The red piece is now removed from the board.

(Quick note about flanking: You cannot get yourself flanked. It is ok to move your piece between opponents pieces. You stay on the board. This isn't considered being flanked.)


flank the king

And if you flank the king the green player has won the game.


Flanking the King on the Throne

But that center square on the board is called "the Throne". To capture the king on that square it has to be flanked in all four directions as shown in this picture.



And the four corner squares can only be occupied by the king. But these squares are considered hostile squares to both teams. So, this square can be used to flank and remove a piece. The picture here shows that the green piece has been flanked by the red piece and the hostile corner. The green piece is now removed from the board.


One more rule about hostile squares and you have the complete set of rules.

The throne (the square in the exact center where the king sits) is always hostile to the attackers, but only hostile to the defenders when it is empty.


Ok, You can watch the video to see all of the tutorial on how to make the game and how to play the game. Or you can continue on to the next part of this web tutorial and see how to make the board and the pieces.


NextContinue: Make the Hnefatafl board and pieces


The Video Tutorial



Can you make and play Hnefetafl? You sure can. Here is a set made by Kyle. And my thanks go to him for sending in the pic!






Chess in Iceland and in Icelandic Literature: With Historical Notes on Other (Classic Reprint)



Kings table

King's Table

This is a variation of the the hnefatafl that I have here in this tutorial. It is a 9x9 board rather than the 11x11 board that we made.


Hnefatafl book

Petteia In Vikings Hnefatafl: Ancient Greek Board Games (Greek Edition)

There is not a single being on this earth that has not played with some game at various stages of his/her life (from infancy right up to old age). There are very simple games and complicated games which train the body, the emotions, the brain or the intellect. This research analytically present the whole structure of games and common archetypal elements that games contain in every population all over the world, which originated from the ancient Greek and European culture, specially of the ancient Greek philosophy about the way of creating of writing and games. The analysis includes the ancient board game. Scripts are in Greeks. Board games are copyrighted.


Old board games

Discovering Old Board Games (Discovering)

This book contains descriptions of sixty board games, drawn from an immense range of history - from 3000 BC through to the turn of the nineteenth century. Accounts of these games have been gleaned from archaeological reports, traveler's tales, anthropological studies and foreign-language accounts of games, translated into English for the first time. Using the detailed text and fifty-nine diagrams it is possible for the reader to construct their own boards and pieces and enjoy hours of play. Perfect for toy and game collectors, this book can also bring something different to family occasions - instead of the usual board games, why not play a number game that was once popular among the intelligentsia of the middle ages?


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