the Game of the Vikings

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Hnefatafl from the York Archaeological Trust

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:
Print and Play in Colour!

24 Jan: For those regular visitors who haven't noticed the change, there are now print-and-play hnefatafl games available in colour. These are an experiment I started at the end of last ... (read more...)

Featured Page:
Rules Leaflets

These leaflets each have the rules for a particular variant of hnefatafl, along with a bit of history. The rules for most of the variants are available as web ... (read more...)

Daily Article:
Tablut: the King Must Escape

In this puzzle, it is the king's turn, and he can be certain of escape in four moves. After his third move, though, the attackers will have no hope ... (read more...)


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