Hnefatafl: the Game of the Vikings

Hnefatafl Puzzles

You may have seen chess problems in the newspapers. Here's the hnefatafl equivalent. Each puzzle has a set goal, for example, "king to move, and to escape in three moves". So it's the king's turn, and a certain combinations of three moves will have him winning.

Usually in these puzzles, the opponent's moves will be forced, or sub-optimal moves will bring about the end even more quickly. It's assumed that the opponent will therefore, given a choice, make the best move to stave off defeat as long as possible. Some puzzles may have more than one solution, or may make some of the opponent's moves irrelevant.

Please try these out, and get in touch if you think you've found the solution to one of them!

Tablut: the King Must Escape

Tablut: the King Must Escape
In this puzzle, it is the king's turn, and he can be certain of escape in four moves. After his third move, though, the attackers will have no hope of blocking him and will resign.

What moves will guarantee the king's escape in four turns, and what would the attackers' responses be? Feel free to send in solutions by e-mail or to discuss the puzzle in the comments.

You can read the rules for tablut at

Brandub: Escape in Three

Brandub: Escape in Three
In this brandub puzzle, it's the king's turn to move. He is guaranteed a victory on his third move. What should be the first move for him or one of his men? The king is in a strong position here, but as far as I know, only one will guarantee a win in three moves.

In brandub, all pieces move as far as desired along a row or column, with only the king able to rest on the marked squares. All pieces are captured on two sides, and the king must reach the corner to win. The corners are hostile, so a piece sat beside one is in danger.

Feel free to have a guess in the comments, on social media or by email. You can read the rules to brandub in full at

Brandub: Doomed or Not?

Brandub: Doomed or Not?
Here is another easy brandub puzzle, this one taken from a real game. It is white's turn to move. Black is threatening to capture the king. Can the king escape the immediate threat? And if so, how?

In brandub, the king is captured on two sides like other pieces, and he is allowed to return to his central square if he wants. Pieces are captured against the marked corners but not against the central square.

Feel free to have a guess in the comments, on social media or by email. The rules for this puzzle are those from the Traditional Board Game Series of leaflets.

Tablut: In for the Kill

Tablut: In for the Kill
In this puzzle it's the turn of the attackers. They are obviously in a strong position, and are certain to capture the king sooner or later. But should their next move be for the quickest victory?

In tablut, the king is usually captured by two attackers on opposite sides of him. He can participate in making captures, and he will win the game if he reaches any square on the edge of the board. The central castle is closed to all pieces, and if the king is beside it, then it provides him protection and he must be surrounded on the remaining three sides. The full rules for tablut are at

Next: The Hnefatafl Shop


In looking at the end of a game I recently played with a friend of mine, I thought of this post. (I thought the Fetlar game we'd played might yield a puzzle, but some closer analysis shows that it wouldn't.) We've been playing a lot of brandub, since it's quick, and we can easily fit a two-game match in our weekly teatime, so I had another look at the brandub puzzles.

In the first brandub puzzle, the key move is b7-e7, which prevents black from making the capture before the king can escape two moves later (f6-f7, f7-g7).

In the second brandub puzzle, I don't think the king has much of a chance, but I haven't played it out in my head all that far along, and I could be wrong.

Jay Slater - 20:12, 02/12/2015

Brandub: Doomed or Not?


yakasasura - 13:18, 05/03/2017

Brandub: Escape in Three

I was thinking:




But black could do D1-F1 and F1-F7 without getting captured right?

Pieces only get captured by a move of the opponent, not by their own move?

Adriaan - 01:57, 27/05/2018

Tablut: the King Must Escape

I would love to hear if this is the solution you have in mind:

w: D4-B4

b: must block B9 with a piece from line 6, 7, 8 or 9 

w: A4-A5

b: cannot block A4 nor capture the king

w: B4-A4 WINS!

Adriaan - 02:06, 27/05/2018

Brandub: Escape in Three

I have a solution in 4 moves I think:

w: F6-B6 (caps B5)

b: can't block C7 nor capture anything

w: B7-C7

b: can't block B7 nor capture anything

w: B6-B7

b: looks at the board, horrified

w: B7-A7 WINS!

I would love to hear your solution in 3 moves!?

Adriaan - 02:32, 27/05/2018

In Tablut: The King Must Escape I can see one way in 3 moves IF the opponent makes a mistake. 

White A4-A5 (cap A6)

b E3-E4 (cap F4)... oops!

w King D4-A4

B cannot block

w King A4-A1

However this can be blocked if: 

White A4-A5 (cap A6)

B C7-C4... and then I couldn't work it out from there.

My Brandub: Escape in 3 was the same as a previous...

w B7-E7

Black can't do anything useful for the next 2 moves as w King F6-F7 and then F7-G7 out.

Rhiannon - 00:50, 31/05/2018

Tablut: the King Must Escape

If it is the kings move he can escape in 3 moves.

1. king to D2.

2. black can only block 1 side. and king moves then to either A2 or I2 which ever is not blocked

3. King moves into corner - win.

Mark Whorlow - 05:20, 16/07/2018

Brandub: Escape in Three

If the king canbe taken easy like the other pieces then 

1. B7 to E 7

2. King to f7

3. king wins

Mark - 05:24, 16/07/2018

Regarding solution for Tablut The King Must Escape by @Rhiannon:

In Tablut the king can escape at any edge square, not only in the corners. And after your suggested first move D4-D2 the king can be captured by either C3-D3 or E3-D3

Adriaan - 23:42, 26/08/2018

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