Monday, June 08, 2009

The Viking Game

This is a game that I have been playing around with for several years. No pun intended. Any way here are the rules.


The King piece was called Hnefi ("King", Old English has Cyningstan "King-Stone"); the pieces Hunns ("knobs"), Tæflor ("table-men") or Tæfelstanas (Old English "table-men").

The Lapps call their Tablut pieces "Swedes" and "Muscovites" (they were very similar to modern stylized chessmen, the Swedish King resembling a King, the Swedish Hunns pawns and the Muscovites bent rooks). They sometimes had pegged bottoms that fit in holes drilled in the board. The King was bigger and more ornate.

With the larger boards (e.g. Alea Evangelii), the King's pieces were sometimes differentiated, with a small, elite "King's Guard" of uncapturable pieces.

There are many finds of board games and gaming pieces from Scandinavia and from the British Isles. Gaming pieces were often hemispherical and made of antler, amber, bone, clay, glass, horn, stone, jet, wood or even horses' teeth [10]. Finds of several light and several dark pieces together have been made sometimes with a single piece being a different shape, like a sea urchin, in the same area.

For 9x9 boards, sixteen dark pieces surrounded eight light pieces with an additional King. Boards with more squares typically had twelve light pieces and a King facing twenty-four dark pieces. The colors were often switched.


The King (large white piece) goes on the central square (Throne -Konakis in Finnish), surrounded by his men (other white pieces). The enemy (black) pieces are set up around the edges of the board. Black moves first -except in the case of Alea Evangelii, where White moves first.


Turns alternate between the players.

All pieces move in the same way, like modern rooks at Chess. That is, on his turn, a player may slide a single piece of his color any number of squares in either orthogonal direction (up-down or left-right, no diagonal moves) as long as it doesn't jump over another piece of either color. The Throne and the four corner squares are off-limits to all pieces except the King. With the smaller board variants, pieces of either color may pass over the Throne; with the larger board variants, only the King may do so.

The White player is trying to have his King escape his assailants by reaching a corner square. If the White player moves so that his King ends up with a clear path to any of the four corner squares, he must announce that he has an escape route open. The Lapps use the word Raichi ("Check") to announce a single route and Tuichi ("Checkmate") to announce a double route. On his next turn, if he can still do so, the King may be moved to a corner square and escape. White then wins.

If the Black player inadvertently opens an escape route for the King, the White player may take advantage of it immediately!

If the moved piece ends up sandwiching an opposing piece between itself and another piece of the moving color or a corner square, the sandwiched piece is removed from the board. This is called custodial capture. It is possible to capture several pieces in a single move.

White captures both black pieces

The King must be sandwiched along both axes to be captured. The Throne, corners and edges count as Black pieces for purposes of sandwiching the King, so Black needs only three pieces to capture the King on the edge of the board or if he is right beside his Throne, two if the King is right beside a corner square. When the King is in danger of being captured on Black's next move, he must announce "Watch your King" to the White player (this is reminiscent of Chess' prohibition against moving one's King into check). Black wins by capturing the King. The King can also be captured if he and no more than one defender are surrounded on all sides and incapable of moving.

In all cases Black captures the King and wins

A piece may safely move to place itself in sandwich between two opposing pieces (or a corner square).

White can safely move in between the black pieces


The winner is the White player if he manages to reach a corner square with his King, the Black player if he manages to capture the King. Because the game is uneven, it is good etiquette to play two games, switching sides. Each player keeps track of how many pieces he lost or took from his opponent and this score is used to determine the ultimate winner.

I have just started making a new board. The old one that I have is worn and has been around too long. First though I am going to make a board for my minster's son. They are being moved and he has played this game with me from time to time while they have been here. So I want him to be able to take one of the these games with him.

Be safe out there and keep your stick on the ice.

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