Hnefatafl: the Game of the Vikings

Tawlbwrdd According to Robert ap Ifan

Reproduction of tawlbwrdd illustration
Reproduction of tawlbwrdd illustration

The 16th century description of tawlbwrdd does not provide a full set of rules. The following translation of Robert ap Ifan's passage on the subject is reproduced by H. J. R. Murray (A History of Board-Games Other Than Chess, p.63):

"The above board must be played with a king in the centre and twelve men in the places next to him, and twenty-four lie in wait to capture him. These are placed, six in the centre of every end of the board and in the six central places. Two players move the pieces, and if one belonging to the king comes between the attackers, he is dead and is thrown out of the play; and if one of the attackers comes between two of the king's men, the same. If the king himself comes between two of the attackers and if you say 'watch your king' before he moves into that place, and he is unable to escape, you catch him. If the other says gwrheill and goes between two, there is no harm. If the king can go along the line that side wins the game."

R. C. Bell (Board and Table Games from Many Civilizations, vol. 2, p. 44) comments on the above passage, and supposed that the "six central spaces" should actually read "four central spaces", on the basis that to take the passage literally would give a total in excess of twenty-four pieces.


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