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:
Viking Game a Hit at Local Arts Festival

26 Aug: Hnefatafl, the Game of the Vikings, proved popular at the Princes Avenue Festival held in Hull on Saturday. The stall was kept busy all afternoon, with festival visitors discussing, ... (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:
Open Serif Cross 13x13 Layout

A common layout for 13x13 adopts the same 37 pieces of the smaller 11x11 board, arranging them in the form of a serif-cross, leaving a gap between attackers and ... (read more...)


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