Hnefatafl: the Game of the Vikings
While most of the world knows how to play the ancient games of backgammon, chess and draughts, there is an almost forgotten game, comparatively ancient, which hangs like a spectre over a large part of northern Europe. This game is hnefatafl, also known in its various forms as tafl, brandubh, tawlbwrdd, alea evangelii and tablut, and less certainly by some as gwyddbwyll and ficheall. It is a game of skill in which a king tries to escape, with the help of his men, from a numerous besieging army.
Hnefatafl Mailing List
A regular newsletter about the goings on in the Hnefatafl world. Here tournaments will be announced, both face-to-face and on-line, and afterwards the results will be posted where available. The ... (read more & subscribe...).
On this web site I will take you on a tour of the game, starting with its history from the earliest times, through its travels with the Viking settlers, on to the time of its decline and finally to its modern revival. Then I will explain the rules, taking in the large number of variations that have existed through the ages. After that I will give an outline of the game's strategy. Finally, you can play the game against the computer or a friend using a virtual board.
I have provided at the end of each page a link to the next section of our tour. So if you would like to join me, our tour will start with the game's history.
Next: The History of Hnefatafl
Hi, Swedish guy in Stockholm. We have plans for an Hnefatafl tourney in Stockhlm this year. Advice is always good :-)
Can we get contacts?
Best regards Benkt
Benkt Steentoft - 07:01, 31/01/2015
Thanks for getting in touch, Benkt! I'd be very interested to hear about the tournament. There's an email link at the bottom of every page - please send me details and I'll be happy to publicise it! I can also help to put you in touch with others who have organised tournaments before.
Damian Walker - 08:34, 31/01/2015
Hi I am the organiser of Lytham Arts Festival 2015 and on Saturday 11th July we are hosting the Lancashire Museum of Gaming who will be exhibiting Hnefatafl amongst other games. You would be very welcome to join us!
The venue is The Lytham Assembly Rooms in the centre of Lytham, Lancashire. 10am - 5pm
Richard Marshall - 08:19, 01/04/2015
List of Tafl variants: http://l-lists.com/en/lists/wsk3ce.html
D - 13:17, 06/04/2015
What is the goal
sophia - 18:44, 13/05/2016
Hello Sophia, and apologies for the length of time it's taken me to reply! The goal is for the king to escape from the board, or for the attackers to capture the king. The full details are in the "Rules" section of the site.
Damian Walker - 07:54, 06/08/2016
I am in a reanactment group that covers 1066 till about 1720. Currently, I am hosting an event that is called "Its all fun and games.."
In this event, we will be researching games that were created durring those times, we are creating them and entering them for prizes. I have been looking for information on various games to share with the other members. Is there other sites available that would help us?
aka ben seyr Alistrina Lannoon Amragosso
Donna - 21:54, 02/02/2017
There is a sister site to this one, www.cyningstan.com, that deals with a number of games from 3000 B.C. to A.D. 1900. You'll doubtless find a lot of interesting information on there.
Damian Walker - 22:26, 02/02/2017
I just wanted to add my voice to the chorus of thanks for putting together this very excellent website. It's always good to know that there is a community out there trying to keep some of the old ways alive!
Philip Piercey - 13:36, 21/03/2017
WOW, thanks so very much! I have pased along the info and have many happy members!!!! Have a great day!
Donna - 14:54, 21/03/2017
COWBOY - 15:11, 04/04/2017
oh WOW!!! Thanks so much for the link. That site was perfect and assisted me in creating a Alquerque board!
Donna - 16:10, 05/04/2017
Jocly is a Web library that can be used in any site or in some applications (search for "joclyboard" on github.com).
mig - 09:35, 18/05/2017
I just discovered the game(s) and this site, wonderful, thank you. I found out about the game in reading an old scholarly article on the Lewis Set in Medieval Archeology 53. Never too late for an old man to learn something new (I soon turn 75). I have made chess boards before, but this was a new challenge. I did a 9x9 with two inch porcelain tiles which my replica Lewis set just barely fits. Because I have four warders for each side I can use the pieces to play Hnefatafl. Anyone wanting photos let me know.
Richard Earl - 01:33, 05/07/2017
Thanks for getting in touch, Richard! I'd love to see the photos of your set, and if you're happy for me to add them to an image gallery, to do that too. Please could you send them on using the Email link on the site's footer?
Damian Walker - 08:31, 05/07/2017
We are planning a memerioal Tournament for the late Peter Kelly who was the architect in developing the Fetlar Rules. Provsionally set for 21st October at Fetlar hall. There will be both Junior and Senior catgories as well as a Junior v senior champoin match. Finals will be played using real vikings from Shetland Up Helly Aa squads as pieces ! You can keep up to date on the latest information about the tournament at http://www.fetlar.org/hnefatafl-world-championship.
The rules used will of course be the Fetlar rules using the speed Hnefatafl format that Peter also developed, where players have to move before the strike of a gong struck at quite short intervals !
We would love to see anyone who can make it.
Robert Thomson - 13:50, 10/08/2017
Where can I buy that beautiful Brandubh game please?
Helene Cannard - 10:29, 23/02/2018
I'm a sculptor, and was recently commissioned to make the pieces for a cutome hnefatafl set. I've really enjoyed researching the project - it's amazing how many tafl artifact pieces have been discovered - and undoubtedly countless more have been found and gone unclassified as game pieces! I deeply appreciate yhour contributions on this subject - they've been very helpful to me!
Mad Dash Studio - 04:20, 16/04/2018
Thanks for this Mad Dash Studio, I'm glad the site has been useful! What style of board and pieces did you go for in the end?
Damian Walker - 14:45, 18/04/2018
God Aften !
Have you ever heard that the king is Odin sitting on Sleipnir his 8 legged horse (the 8 defenders) and is making a voyage to Hell.
There are 16 attackers bringing the total to 24 the number of runes and the 9 square rows would be the 9 Viking mythological worlds ?? !!
If you play on the small board, it is well nigh impossible to catch the knd. Of course ! He is a god.
All the best
sam - 21:35, 25/07/2018
Hern's a link to a blog post I put together!
Mad Dash Studio - 13:56, 26/08/2018
Hi! I was first introduced to Tablut in the 1980's, trough a French magazine "Jeux & Stratégie"! I'm running a blog on boardgames, and one of the segments to come is called "PAW - Playing Around the World", based on photo contibutions of readers. I would apprecite very much if you would take a look and consider participating. Any comments welcome: https://gamesinblackandwhite.blogspot.com/2018/11/paw-playing-around-world.html. Do you ship sets to Portugal? Thanks
Miguel Conceição - 13:43, 16/12/2018
Thanks for this, Miguel! It would be great to see more hnefatafl gaming sessions on here. Although I posted sets worldwide until recently, I've had to stop posting games out.
Damian Walker - 05:11, 21/12/2018
Hi, I'm brand new to playing but have read about it's history for years. Can you recommend which version is best for a beginner to learn from? Are there any books about it or just learn by playing?
Thank you for your time!!!!
Scott Pollack - 00:48, 18/04/2019
Hi I am learning hnefatafl and wondered if there are any players in #Essex England. Apparently my ancestors from Orkney played and are mentioned in the Orkneyingasaga? Tally ho Andrew
Andrew - 12:48, 08/03/2020
I ordered your Intro book from Amazon, and expect it to arrive
Saturday. But I wonder if I could ask you to modify your java
applet to work as a stand-alone program so I can practice offline?
(I mean a .jar, not a .exe, so it is portable.)
thomas - 18:50, 10/12/2020Your site is great. Very helpful. My daughter and I just started playing thanks to you. Love the game. We even made our own board and pieces.
Matt - 03:09, 16/08/2022