In This Section
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.
Latest News & Blog:
Tower Defence: a Tactic in Hnefatafl
5 Sep: For at least a decade, the tactics page on this web site has contained three tactics taken from chess: the fork, the pin and the forced move. But there's ... (read more...)
The Rules section explains all the variations you might come across in hnefatafl. If you want a ready-made rule set, then you need to pick a variant and play ... (read more...)
L'Estoire des Engles
Geoffrey Gaimar's L'Estoire des Engles contains an early substitution of chess for hnefatafl in literature. Written in the twelfth century, it contains the passage "Orgar iuout a vn esches, ... (read more...)