Hnefatafl - the Viking Game

Hnefatafl - rules

Article text

1: Board: 11 x 11 squares with the central square and four corner squares marked.

2: Pieces: Black: 24 warriors
White: 12 warriors and one King

3: Starting position: as shown in picture. Black has first move.

4: Aim of the game: Black: Capture the white King by surrounding on all four sides.
White: Get the King safely from centre square (“throne”) to any one of the four corner squares (“corner refuge squares”).

5: How the pieces move: Warriors and King move the same way: in a straight line forwards, backwards, left or right, any number of squares. No piece may move diagonally, or jump over another piece. No more than one piece may occupy a square. Only the King may stand on the central Throne square, though any warrior may pass through it without stopping. No warrior may stand on any of the four corner refuges.

6: Capturing enemy pieces: There are two ways of doing this:

a) You can capture an enemy warrior by sandwiching him between two of your pieces. The captured warrior is immediately removed from the board. A piece may safely move into a gap between two enemy pieces without being captured. It is possible to capture two or even three warriors at the same time, though not if they are standing together in a row. The King can also capture enemy warriors, but can only be captured by being surrounded on all four sides, which makes him the most powerful piece on the board.

b) You can also capture an enemy warrior by sandwiching him between one of your pieces and a refuge square or the throne square. However, when the King is occupying the throne square, a single white warrior next to the throne square cannot be captured in this way. The King may be captured by three black warriors if he occupies the square next to the throne.

7: Draws: The game is declared a draw if:

a) either player is unable to make a move, for instance, if all your pieces are blocked in and no move is therefore possible

b) the same move or sequence of moves is repeated three times

c) the players agree that no progress is being made in the game by either side, for instance if black controls the corners but has not enough warriors to move in towards the centre.