Hnefatafl: the Game of the Vikings

Tafl from Legend Board Games

Tafl from Legend Board Games
Tafl from Legend Board Games
© Legend Board Games 2016

Saturday, 1st October 2016

This week my collection of hnefatafl sets was increased by a new acquisition: a Tafl set from Legend Board Games. Only recently set up, Legend manufactures a very nice looking hnefatafl set in collaboration with Thomas Jacquin of Canada. Legend's set is marketed through a Facebook page, with publicity in both English and Romanian.

The game itself is one of the more polished products available to hnefatafl fans. It is laser-cut and laser etched, and though monochrome, the laser-etching process allows it to be highly decorative. The board, pieces and the box they come in are all made from the same plywood material.

The box is decorated with Viking motifs and features some well-engineered latches and hinges. One has to take care when storing the game, as the latches and hinges both protrude above the box lid, so this game needs to be stored at the top of any pile. Within the box is a tray containing the board and pieces.

The board is the popular 11x11 pattern, with the starting positions of the pieces marked with the same laser etching as the rest of the game.  The central castle and corner refuges are strongly indicated, the defenders' diamond formation shown. Longship drawings mark the T-shaped starting positions of the attackers.

The pieces are flat, circular plywood and are very attractive.  The king and defenders have a four different dark shield patterns: one for the king, and three different shields for the defenders. The attackers have lighter patterns, six each of four different weapons. Despite the monochromatic decoration, attacking and defending pieces are easy to tell apart at a glance.

The rules come on a colour leaflet enclosed with the game, but there is also extra strategic and historical information etched into the board and the box itself. In this game a king, who is captured mostly like other pieces, must reach a corner to win. This meld of modern hnefatafl corner-exit games with historic rules with a king captured on two sides will probably feel balanced to beginners. But as players gain more experienced I think they will become imbalanced in favour of the attackers (see this article for the reasons why). This doesn't matter: you can find a number of good balanced rule sets to play on this board.

My only complaint with this new arrival was the packaging. The game was very well padded, but the tiny polystyrene balls used get everywhere: they stick to the box, the game, your clothes and your hands, making a vaccuum cleaner a necessary tool when opening the package. Radu says he'll be looking further at the issue of packaging.

I'm very glad that I added this game to my collection. It's nice to see more and more people making and selling hnefatafl sets and I with Legend Board Games the best of luck in this venture.


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