the Game of the Vikings

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Brandubh by Floyd and O'Flaherty

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.

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: History.

Latest News & Blog:
New Board Game Book Features Tablut

8 Nov: Tablut, the Sami version of hnefatafl, is featured in a new book by Damian Walker, entitled "A Book of Historic Board Games". The 234-page book takes a look at ... (read more...)

Last Page Added:
Reconstructing Hnefatafl

Reconstructing Hnefatafl is Damian Walker's book on our favourite game. It leaves modern innovations to game designers, and instead concentrates on those versions of hnefatafl that have been mentioned ... (read more...)

Daily Article:
Why does the king always seem to win?

People new to the game tend to find that the king has an easier time in their first few plays. But this doesn't last. If both players persevere with ... (read more...)


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