Hnefatafl

I just noticed a hnefatafl game… and it sounds interesting. For those who do not know, hnefatafl is an old Norse game, which focuses on a small number of units from the centre of a board trying to break out against a greater number of surrounding units. It is definitely an interesting concept, and one on which games such as Thud are based on now. However, as the interesting bit, contrary to a modern game called Thud, hnefatafl rules are slightly uncertain. We do not know how it was played, and all we do have is our guess — even though the basics are what we are fairly certain in.

If you, the reader, have tried Thud, you will know that games of this kind are fairly interesting and gripping. Though, in comparison to Thud, hnefatafl as all pieces equal to other pieces (excepting the King of the defenders) which means that everyone moves the same way. The King is the key — it is interesting to think of this game as a breakout. The King has to escape to the border of the map, and hope for freedom, while the attackers (the surrounding team) needs to capture the King.

Apparently, this game fell out of use due to chess though… and when I think of chess, the equality of the sides is sometimes infuriating. By which I mean that there is less of the positional advantage to begin with and more when you go into the game. But, if one is interested in such a game, why not go with go which is far superior on many other levels…

As a sidenote, looking into chess, it is interesting to consider the Persian variation, which is considerably slower than the European one. In the Persian game (shatranj), the Queen moves by one diagonal only and the Bishop by two diagonals only. Naturally, I have used the Europeanised names; the Persians called them the Ferz and the Pīl.

In any case, chess is so different the games are of a different league — but if this small extract has sparked your interest, take a look here and here. I will get back at some point if I do end up going with hnefatafl.

Note : It is wrong to take the above as me being anti-chess. I am simply of the opinion that more strategic board games is the better option to have, and chess is up there in the top of them, with hnefatafl. Go rules supreme!

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