the Game of the Vikings

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Deluxe 25-piece Hnefatafl Game (no background)

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:
Teaching a Computer to Play Hnefatafl

11 Sep: Today's blog post is mainly of interest to people who want to write a computer program to play hnefatafl. So please take this as a warning of technical content ... (read more...)

Last Page Added:
A Glossary of Hnefatafl Terms

This is a glossary of terms that have been used in discussion of hnefatafl games. It is a work in progress, taken from some old research. Over the coming ... (read more...)

Daily Article:
Coppergate, York: Wooden Board

A fragment of a gaming board was found in 1976 in Coppergate, York, England. The board dates from the period AD 950-1025, and consists of three rows of sixteen ... (read more...)


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