The Viking Game, “Hnefatafl”

Hnefatafl is a game that originated in medieval Scandinavia and surprisingly enough World Championships of this game are still held even to this day, mainly in Europe. With Vikings living such a violent and barbaric lifestyle, it would only make sense for their games to represent much of the same. Much like the rook in chess, pieces can move as many open spaces as they want in any one direction. While Hnefatafl is an obvious predecessor to chess, unlike many other board games the two sides have different objectives. The black pieces have the task of attempting to capture the king, which can be done by surrounding him on all four sides. On the other hand, the white pieces are supposed to protect the king while simultaneously attempting to move the king to a corner of the game board, which results in victory. Each piece can move as many open spaces as you want in a straight line. Bryant and I decided on Hnefatafl for our session report because it is a game that we have both thoroughly enjoyed learning to play. We played two rounds of the game, one from each side, in order to compare the different approaches we took to the game. For the first round I played as the white pieces attempting to escape with the king to the edge of the board.


Before making the first move I thought it would be nice to see how the board is layed out, and what the game board looks like set.


For my first few moves I began trying to spread out my pieces to try and make a path for my king to escape.

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After spreading out my pieces I had begun to create an open path for my king to escape while also putting black in a very difficult position.

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As an opening to the edge of the board became noticeable, the black pieces attempted to block me but a few were captured but after another move or two of black trying to defend the corner I was able to make it to the edge of the board to set myself up to win the game.

We played through two rounds, but it was the round as the white where I developed a strategy and emerged victorious. As the defending team I attempted to set up a defense in each corner with my pieces, unfortunately I was unable to win that round.

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After playing from both perspectives I truly believe that playing as the King and trying to escape is the easier objective, despite having more pieces to work with as the black team. Hnefatafl is a game that I really enjoyed playing especially due to its obvious relation to chess. I would definitely play it again or recommend it to others.

Hunter Owens