Rules of Berserk Hnefatafl 11x11.

1.   Two players may participate. One player plays the king's side, with a king and his defenders, and the other player plays the attackers. There are twelve defenders, one of the defenders being the king's knight, and twenty-four attackers, four of them being viking commanders.

2.   The game is played on a board with 11x11 squares and with initial set-up as shown:
Berserk Hnefatafl 11x11 board
Initial set-up.

3.   The central square, called the throne, and the four squares in the corners are restricted and may only be occupied by the king. It is allowed for the king to re-enter the throne, and all pieces may pass through the throne when it is empty. The four corner squares are hostile to all pieces, which means that 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.
restricted tafl squares
Five restricted squares.

4.   Movement:

The attackers' side moves first, and the game then proceeds by alternate moves. All pieces move any number of vacant squares along a row or a column, like a rook in chess.
move a tafl piece
Moving a piece.

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. 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.

5.   Capture:

All pieces except the king are captured if they are sandwiched between two enemy pieces, or between an enemy piece and a hostile square, along a column or a row. The two enemy pieces should either be on the square above and below or on the square to the left and to the right of the attacked piece. A piece is only captured if the trap is closed by a move of the opponent, and it is, therefore, allowed to move in between two enemy pieces. A captured piece is removed from the board and is no longer active in the game. The king may take part in captures.
berserk hnefatafl piece captured berserk hnefatafl piece captured berserk hnefatafl piece captured berserk hnefatafl piece captured berserk hnefatafl piece captured
Capture of pieces.
berserk hnefatafl piece not captured berserk hnefatafl 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.

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.

Capturing The King:

The attackers win if they can capture the king before he escapes. The king is captured when the attackers surround him in all four cardinal points.

When the king is on a square next to the throne, the attackers must occupy all surrounding squares in the four points of the compass except the throne.
berserk hnefatafl attackers win berserk hnefatafl attackers win berserk hnefatafl attackers win
The king is captured.
berserk hnefatafl king not captured berserk hnefatafl king not captured
The king is not captured.

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 objective for the king's side is to move the king to any of the four corner squares. In that case, the king has escaped and his side wins.
berserk hnefatafl defenders win
The king's side wins.

7.   Perpetual repetitions are forbidden. A player who maintains a board repetition ("the aggressive player") must find another move to break the repetition, or he loses the game.

"The aggressive player" is the player who continually side steps with a piece in order to find an open path to break through. The other player continually brings his piece in line with the aggressive piece in order to block the open path. In other words, "the aggressive player" is the one who has some choice in whether to repeat the pattern or not.

If a board position is repeated for the third time, "the aggressive player" loses the game.

8.   If a player cannot move, he loses the game.
berserk hnefatafl player cannot move
The defenders cannot move and lose.


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.

Part of the text reuses formulations from Sten Helmfrid's text on the Skalk variant. Also formulations borrowed from Bell.
Delray Curtis ("jrton80") helped further formulate the rules in proper and understandable English.

Try out the game at aagenielsen.dk


Updated 22.9.2018
Copyright © 1998-2018 Aage Nielsen, All Rights Reserved;