Rasmus Holbroe vikings
Artist: Copyright © Rasmus Holbroe (Jan. 2016).

Rules of Copenhagen Hnefatafl 11x11.

Short overview:
King armed, captured from 4 sides.
Exit fort. Shieldwall rule.

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.
Copenhagen Hnefatafl 11x11 board
Initial set-up.

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

3.   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.

4a. 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.

4b.   The shieldwall rule for capturing a row of pieces on the board edge: A row of two or more taflmen along the board edge may be captured together, by bracketing the whole group at both ends, as long as every member of the row has an enemy taflman directly in front of him. A corner square may stand in for one of the bracketing pieces at one end of the row.
   The king may take part in the capture, either as part of the shieldwall or as a bracketing piece. If the king plus one or more defenders are attacked with a shieldwall, the attack will capture the defenders but not the king.
tafl shieldwall capture tafl shieldwall capture
Shieldwall captures.
See also Doctor Crustus explains shieldwalls (Tim Millar).

5. 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.

6a. 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.

6b.   Exit forts: The defenders also win if the king has contact with the board edge, is able to move, and it is impossible for the attackers to break the fort.
tafl defenders win tafl defenders win
Exit forts.

7a. Attackers win
The attackers win if they can capture 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.

The king cannot be captured on the board edge.
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.

7b.   If the attackers surround the king and ALL remaining defenders, then they win, as they have prevented the king from escaping.
tafl attackers win
The attackers win by encircling all defenders.

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

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

10.   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 Copenhagen rules were outlined 2012 by Aage Nielsen (Denmark), Adam Bartley (Norway) and Tim Millar (UK).
English text and diagrams: Adam Bartley (Norway).

Updated 14.2.2024
Copyright © 1998-2024 Aage Nielsen, All Rights Reserved;