Hnefatafl, also known as The Viking Game, The King’s Table or simply Tafl, is one of the rare breed of games with two unequal sides.

The defending side comprises twelve soldiers and a king, who start the game in a cross formation in the center of the board. Their objective is for the king to escape by reaching any of the four corner squares. The attackers comprise 24 soldiers positioned in four groups of 6 around the perimeter of the board. All pieces move like the Rook in chess and pieces are taken by “sandwiching” i.e. moving your piece so that an opponent’s piece is trapped horizontally or vertically between two of yours.

There is a host of information on the Internet about Hnefatafl, including many rule variations that are worth experimenting with. The Hnefatafl set published in the UK by History Craft has beautiful imitation ebony and ivory pieces reminiscent of the famous Isle of Lewis chess men and the “board” is printed on woven textile, giving a nice medieval feel to the set.

It was mentioned in several of the Norse Sagas. Some of these saga references have contributed to controversy over the possible use of dice in playing Hnefatafl.¬† It is not known for sure how the game was played but we don’t think it was used with dices rather based on turn movements.

During a turbulent time full of conflicts at the end of the 8th Century til 1000 C.E. at the peak of Viking age, Hnefatafl was really popular. In the Viking country of “Gardarike” various historical records have been collected about the game¬† but archaeologists have found editions in different viking places such as Ireland and Ukraine.

Hnefatafl literally translates to “fist table,” from the Old Icelandic (equivalently in modern Icelandic) hnef, ‘fist’, and tafl, ‘table’.

The study of medieval manuscripts and examination of pieces and boards has allowed researchers to figure out how the game was probably played. It was last recorded to have been played in Wales during 1587 and Lapland in 1723.

Some more Info here.

Strategy and Further Info