Hnefatafl: the Game of the Vikings

Capturing the Enemy

Some examples of capturing moves
Some examples of capturing moves

Enemies are usually captured by surrounding them on two opposite sides with your own pieces; this is called custodianship. The piece trapped between the aggressors is removed from the board. It is usually acceptable to place a piece deliberately between two enemies without harm; capture must be a deliberate act.

There is often a special rule of capture for the king, called enclosure, where he must be surrounded on all four sides to capture him. In some games this applies only when the king is on his central square, in others it may affect him anywhere on the board, making the king a very powerful piece.

In most games, the king can help to make captures like any other piece. There are some in which he can't, however. These are usually games in which he would otherwise be too strong: games where he wins on reaching an edge, and requires four attackers to capture him.

Special rules cater for situations where a piece would be otherwise invincible; a king sitting next to his central square can be captured by surrounding him on the other three sides, and a piece next to a restricted corner square may be captured as if that corner square had one of your own men sat upon it.

Next: Gaining the Victory

Comments

Hi - I have a query regarding capture. I understand the "sandwich" concept but I can find no reference to HOW MANY can be captured at once. Is it only one ( as in xox ) or could it be more ( as in xoox or xooox etc ). I was bought a game and the rules only go so far!!! Every reference I have found says "a piece can be captured" but never "only one can be captured".

This has particular importance if black were to put two pieces either side of each corner...

Many thanks!! :o)

Tim - 11:43, 12/10/2013

Only one piece can be captured between two, i.e. XOX. But there is a way that multiple pieces can be captured: if the layout is XO-OX, and a third X moves into the middle, both Os are captured. It's possible to capture three at once this way (but never four; one side of the - has to be open to allow the piece to get there). The only game I know that explicitly forbids this type of multiple capture is Imperial Contest.

Damian Walker - 18:56, 14/10/2013

Hi! I have a question about the capturing rules. Can a defender be captured between an oposite pieze and the central square? Does matter if the king is in this square or it is empty? Thanks!

Víctor Diego Gutiérrez - 11:04, 13/02/2015

Good question, Victor! I've moved your comment here from the links page. It depends on the version of the game as to whether you can capture against the central square.

My advice, if your existing rule set leaves ambiguity, is to have capture of attackers or defenders against an empty central square on games of 9x9 squares and above, providing that the castle in that game is a special square that affects movement. If the king is there, then defenders are able to capture attackers against the king there as if he were sitting anywhere else.

Damian Walker - 11:10, 13/02/2015

Can the king assist in capturing?

Bob - 21:18, 14/03/2015

In some games he can, in others he can't. In games in which he can't, he's usually captured on four sides, and wins the game on reaching the edge. In most other combinations I know of, he can take part in capture. I've updated the page text to include this.

If you're playing with a rule set that doesn't mention it either way, I'd assume that the king can capture.

Damian Walker - 07:48, 15/03/2015

suasidal capture (ie moving between two pieces and getting captured0) is most certainly allowed in tawlbwrd rules in 1587 a writor says "if one piece is to come between two then he is captured and thrown from the game" he also goes on to say "if the king were to move to come between two and beforing moving to that space you said watch your king then he is dead but if he says I am your liege man before moving to that space then their is no harm" this clearly says that if a piece is to come ie to move as later used between two enemies then it is captured also linnaeus' text says "if one enemy were to be located between two enemies then he is dead and ejected from the bored" this also says that it is if the person moves between two now obviously I agree that one can trap one's enemy between your own pieces what I am saying is that it does not have to be connected with deliberate in fact in old references there is no connection between motion on the capturors part and capture. How ever I agree that one can move between two if one of the two is captured by said move.

ox - 19:03, 12/06/2015

four sided capture is never mentioned in the sources neither is corner escape except for brandubh just thaught I'd say it beannacht ort féin

ox - 19:05, 12/06/2015

The rules I found require the king to be surrounded on all four sides "without hope of rescue" (i.e. capturing one of the 4 men surrounding the king and therefore rescuing him) which makes it almost impossible to capture against an experienced player. I don't believe any of your rules include this "without hope of rescue" caveat, right?

Also, when you say that the king can capture, do you mean as the active or passive-only piece during the capture? The active piece would be the one that is moved in to surround an enemy piece and capture it.

Thanks!

Mike R - 19:36, 19/08/2015

I've not seen the "without hope of rescue" clause before. In all the rules I know of, the king loses the game on being surrounded (whether by two or by four according to which rules I consult).

In all the popular rules I know of that allow the king to capture, the king can do so actively or passively. I've seen the distinction discussed (often called "hammer" and "anvil"), but never implemented in an on-line or physical game.

Damian Walker - 08:19, 21/08/2015

Thanks for the reply. I wonder if the king is given more power in the variation I play because that version is based on points: you get 6 points for winning (attackers capture king or defenders escape with king to one of the corners) and one point for each piece that you capture. You then play a tournament of several games and the person with the most points in the end is the winner. So since the attacker has so many more pieces and can therefore do more damage against the defenders pieces, the king is given more power. I don't believe I've seen this point-based rules variation on your site.

Mike R - 01:22, 22/08/2015

The points system sounds interesting. I've not come across it before. Where are these rules? Are they publicly available on a web page, or do they come with a physical set or app?

I've heard of similar oddities before: a system of bidding to set a move limit for the king's escape, and a system of mobile app-style achievements like first capture. But I'd like to see what rules the point system works with.

Damian Walker - 14:33, 23/08/2015

Sorry for taking so long to answer your question. These rules came with the tafl set sold by Neversummer Chalet: http://www.amazon.com/Neversummer-Chalet-Hnefatafl-Tournament-Set/dp/B00LZUIQW8/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1442525091&sr=8-1&keywords=hnefatafl

Mike R - 22:25, 17/09/2015

Damian - Really enjoyed your book! Saw the questions regarding the Neversummer Chalet variant. I added the points with the thought it would be a good feature for school Hnefatafl tournaments so each match could be have a time limit and the winner determined by points then move on to the next level in the tournament. Having a feature like that gives the tournament planner a very good idea how much time would be require for the event. Being an abstract strategy game similar to Chess but easier to learn - it would be nice to use Hnefatafl Clubs in schools so young people might get all the benefits of playing a game of this type and have the benefit of a fast learning curve. Another question came up concerning the king capture with the "no hope of rescue" rule - I added that to make him more difficult to capture and level the field more between the attackers and defenders freeing the defender to play more aggressive and attacker to carefully think the capture process through. Incidentally - I do have the web link for the Fetlar rules listed in the Neversummer Chalet rule booklet and recommend players experience it. One of the strengths of Hnefatafl has always been the flexibility and all the regional variants - I bet the best one is being played in someones rec room right now and no one knows about it yet.

Vern Phillips - 22:23, 08/11/2015

Can the king be captured by surrounding him with 3 pieces and an edge?

Daniel Andrew Ainsworth - 16:28, 08/03/2016

Thanks for your query Daniel. Some versions of hnefatafl allow this, and also allow the king to be captured against the edge and a corner with two attackers. But most of the more popular versions (like Fetlar and Copenhagen hnefatafl) don't. In those versions the king needs to be forced from the edge.

Damian Walker - 20:22, 08/03/2016

QUESTION on capturing,

..................X

say O------->

.................X

O is safe for the format I play, So how would "X" go about capturing a simple "O" defender (not the king)

...............X

...............OX<--------

...............X

Would this be a capture or would you haft to surrpound the piece with "x" being the attacker?

HELP!

Dustin Pace - 21:58, 09/10/2016

Hi Dustin,

In your example, the third X wouldn't make a capture. Instead you'd have to do one of two things:

  1. Move one of the first two Xs away and back again to make the capture.
  2. Add the third X where you suggest, and move a fourth to capture the O from the left-hand side. This wouldn't be a four-sided capture; it would be a two-sided capture from the left and right, in which the Xs above and below the enemy O are irrelevant.

Damian Walker - 14:24, 10/10/2016

Got this for Christmas . What is to stop the nonking side to put two counters on every side of the corner squaresvand blocking them from the king. He can't get to the corner and the pieces can't get captured as they can't be flanked unless the edge counts as one side of a flank. Thanks.

Mark - 12:45, 26/12/2016

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