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Lasse Laegteskov
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Copenhagen
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I have played this game for a while now and must say that I'm impressed that the vikings so long ago actually made such a good game.

The game was played in the nordic countries about 500 years before chess came to europe. Chess having more depth replaced Hnefatafl and it was forgotten until mid 17-century where the Swedish scientist Carl von Linné discovered the game in Finland in another form called Tablut.

The game is different from other abstract games being an asymmetrical one. The two strungling sides each have different goals, number of pieces and different setup unlike e.g. Chess or Checkers.

There are many different rules for playing this game because the game in its original form wasn't documented and recreated from different text and books. Some of the rules tend to imbalance the game toward each one of the sides.

I have made a version on the game engine "Zillions of Games" (www.zillionsofgames.com) which I think works well and don't differ much from the original Tafl game.

The game is played on a 11x11 size board. The setup can be seen on the pictures here on BGG. In the middle you see the King and defenders in his castle and around are the attackers sorrounding the castle.

All pieces moves like the rook in Chess but captures an enemy piece by sandwiching it along a column or a row.

The goal for the attackers is to capture the King before he reach any of the four corners. Only the King may enter central square or the corners but all pieces may slide over the central square. The corner and central squares acts as friendly pieces and can be used in a capture. The central square can also be used as a friendly piece if the King has left it. If the King is placed on the central square it takes 4 attacking pieces to capture him and placed next to the center square it requires 3 attacking pieces surrounding him, using the central square as a friendly piece. In the "field"

It's allowed to place a piece between two enemy pieces and when doing this the player declares it by saying gwrheill, so that the opponent at a later stage may not claim that the piece was captured.

Like in chess it is forbidden to move the king to a position where he can be captured in the next move. If the king's side attempts to make such a move the opponent must warn him by saying watch your king. When the king has one free way to the edge of the board the defending player must warn his opponent by saying raicki. When the king has two free ways, he must say tuicku, which is the equivalent of checkmate.

I mentioned that this game doesn't have quite the same depth as Chess, but it is definitely worth a go and are a lot more amusing than e.g. checkers and similary games. It takes a great deal of play to master both sides. Perhaps it is still a bit unbalanced if played between two very experienced players (I'm not at all at that level yet).

I have search the internet for ancient games a bit more complex than e.g. the Egyptian game of Senet, checkers and nine mens morris and found that Hnefatafl lies between these and the depth you will find in Chess and Go.
 
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