Berserk Hnefatafl rules | The Viking Game | Viking Chess | Kings table | Nefatavl

Rules of Berserk Hnefatafl 11x11.

Short overview:
King armed, captured from 4 sides.
Knight, commanders, berserk moves.

Objective
The dark pieces (attackers) lay seige, their goal, to capture the king. The light pieces (defenders) must break the seige and get their king to safety.

1.   Two players, the king's side vs attackers. There are twice as many attackers as defenders. One of the defenders is the king's knight, and four of the attackers are viking commanders.
Berserk Hnefatafl 11x11 board
Initial set-up.

2.   The attackers' side moves first, the players then take turns.

3a.   Movement
All pieces move any number of vacant squares along a row or a column, like a rook in chess.
move tafl piece
Moving a piece.

3b.   Jumping
Besides the ordinary way of moving, the king, the knight and the commanders may also make a short orthogonal jump over an ordinary enemy piece, landing on an empty square beyond. The king and commanders do not capture by this maneuver, unless they trap an enemy piece between themselves and one of their own men or a restricted square. It is not allowed to jump over the king, the knight or the commanders, and the king can only jump over an ordinary enemy soldier from and to restricted squares.
berserk hnefatafl commander jump berserk hnefatafl king jump
Commander and king jumping.

4.   Capture
All pieces except the king are captured if sandwiched between two enemy pieces, or between an enemy piece and a restricted square. The two enemy pieces should be on the square above and below or on the squares left and right of the attacked piece, i.e. not diagonally.

A piece is only captured if the trap is closed by the aggressor's move, it is therefore permitted to move in between two enemy pieces. The king may take part in captures.
captured tafl piece captured tafl piece captured tafl piece captured tafl piece captured tafl piece
Capture of pieces.
tafl piece not captured tafl piece not captured
The piece is not captured.

The knight can capture an enemy piece by short-jumping over it, as well as by the ordinary way of capture.
berserk hnefatafl knight jump
The knight jumping.

5a.   Capture of the king
The king is captured when the attackers surround him on all four cardinal points, except when he is next to the throne.

If on a square next to the throne, the attackers must occupy the three remaining squares around him.
tafl attackers win tafl attackers win tafl attackers win
The king is captured.
tafl king not captured tafl king not captured
The king is not captured.

5b.   When the king is not on or next to the throne, two viking commanders can sandwich and capture the king, and one commander can capture the king against one of the four restricted corner squares.
berserk hnefatafl attackers win berserk hnefatafl attackers win
Commanders capture the king.

6.   The Berserk Rule
When a piece makes a capture, the player may continue to move the same piece as long as he makes captures with it.
The king may finish a berserk run with a winning move to a corner square.
berserk hnefatafl berserk move
Berserk move.

7.   Restricted squares
Restricted squares may only be occupied by the king. The central restricted square is called the throne. It is allowed for the king to re-enter the throne, and all pieces may pass through the throne when it is empty.

Restricted squares are hostile, which means they can replace one of the two pieces taking part in a capture. The throne is always hostile to the attackers, but only hostile to the defenders when it is empty.
The four corner squares are also restricted and hostile, just like the throne.
The board edge is NOT hostile.
restricted tafl squares
Five restricted squares.

8.   King's side win
If the king reaches any corner square, the king has escaped and his side wins.
tafl defenders win
The king's side wins.

9.   Attackers win
The attackers win if they can capture the king.

10.   Perpetual repetitions are forbidden. Any perpetual repetition results in a loss for white.

11.   If a player cannot move, he loses the game.

12.   If it is not possible to end the game, fx. because both sides have too few pieces left, it is a draw.


Some examples of perpetual repetitions.

Perpetual repetition - the king must find another move:
perpetual repetition
White is confined and cannot avoid perpetual repetitions and lose:
perpetual repetition perpetual repetition perpetual repetition


The Berserk Hnefatafl game was proposed by Aage Nielsen, Denmark, October 2011.
The Berserk Hnefatafl rules are deduced only from combining the Fetlar Hnefatafl, the Saami Tablut, the R.C. Bell's reconstruction of the Roman soldiers' game Ludus Latrunculorum, the Bergen Museum set of Storhaug Hnefatafl playing pieces and the Somali descendants of Latrunculi, the games Seega and High Jump.
See more here:
The origin of the Viking board game Hnefatafl and the Berserk rules.

English text and diagrams: Adam Bartley (Norway) and Delray Curtis, "jrton80" (USA).

Try out the game at aagenielsen.dk


Updated 1.5.2021
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