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Re: Alea Evangelii 19x19

Posted: Sun Oct 11, 2015 10:09 am
by cyningstan
Hagbard wrote:Possibly, with the 8 defenders placed in the attackers' circle, the game can work even without special duxes.
Tim Millar and I tried this some time ago. We didn't get round to finishing the game, but as far as we went the layout worked much better than the usual one devised by H. J. R. Murray. I've adopted the rules (without duxes) for my page here. I haven't yet updated the leaflet or the print-and-play but they're on my to-do list.

Re: Alea Evangelii 19x19

Posted: Sat Jan 30, 2016 10:33 am
by Adam
29/1/2014 Adam wrote:

I'll have a think about the number of officers. It seemed natural to up the numbers as Alea has 25 white pieces and 48 black, double the 11x11 berserk. Also, I think white needs strong forces on the outside of the black inner ring, and as those are limited to just 8 men, I think it could be good to give white half as many officers as black, with half on the outside. This may be overkill, but there is a logic to it.

To clarify what the document does and doesnt tell us:

the 'variagated men' is its name for the four squares that look to me like extra kings squares. In other alea constructions those squares are turned into mobile men. I think a helpful synonym for variagated is 'multicoloured'.

The 'primary man' is referring to just the one soldier, presumed attacker, on square E13.

Beyond that my reasoning for including this number of officers are:

1.) the reference in the text to 'counts and dukes, defenders and attackers' suggests we should have at least some.

2. ) 16 soldiers have been singled out for special attention with large roman numerals and crosses or other notation. In the the text these are used to indicate the positions of the various biblical canons (not the military kind alas!). It has occurred to me that some or all may therefore be special pieces.

There are 12 pieces marked with a ? and a large roman numeral. There is also the 'primary man' at E13, plus the king in the centre.

If we use the ones marked with a ? as officers, that neatly makes 8 black and 4 white commanders. Our 'primary man' on E13 can become the black knight (python fans may laugh at this point). The figure marked with a IX at C1 ought probably to have a ?, perhaps a slip up by the scribe? This would allow us our extra white officer, our white knight.

I freely admit to being mystified as to why the scribe has decided not to show which pieces are white and which black. Presumably it got in the way of his long winded biblical allegory. Nevertheless, if the diagram purports to be something near to a starting position, some of the pieces on the outside really have to be white soldiers planted behind enemy lines. Also, I love the idea that the cross among the ranks of the attackers are infiltrated white units which spring into action at the start of the game. Whether these should be the commanders or not would no doubt be solved with a play test.

Re: Alea Evangelii 19x19

Posted: Tue Jun 28, 2016 11:59 pm
by Hagbard

The Unst Alea Evangelii 19x19 was tournament tested and found heavily unbalanced in favour of the attackers. And this in spite of the fact that the defenders are set up very strong, with a strong king (captured from 4 sides) assisted by four strong hirdmen (captured from 3 sides), who together with four more defenders are placed in advanced positions.

So the Alea Evangelii continues to be a mystery.

Re: Alea Evangelii 19x19

Posted: Thu Jun 30, 2016 5:49 am
by Fishbreath
Something I would like to test some day is alea evangelii with some Berserk-style pieces—though jump-captures are blatantly ahistorical, the layout in alea evangelii so heavily favors the attackers that they may be necessary to balance the game.

Re: Alea Evangelii 19x19

Posted: Wed Dec 28, 2016 9:29 am
by Hagbard
The religious tafl game Alea Evangelii is still a mystery. We've tried everything and anything and nothing worked.

On the occasion of Christmas time I'll make another attempt at giving this game some thoughts.

Having seen how impossible this game is with conventional rules, perhaps we should travel even further away from original tafl and try to imagine, how would medieval munks think, and what says the Bible?
Alea Evangelii is a religious game and could perhaps be tafl merged with a rule set written in the Bible.

Adam has proposed to see the game as a game of conversion. A captured black piece is not killed but converted into a white piece, and reverse.
If we for simplicity assume that normally roughly the same number of white and black pieces are captured, this would leave the board as it is, crowded with 24 white (defenders) and 48 black (attackers) pieces throughout the game; and we've seen how next to impossible it is for white to win even when captured pieces are removed from the board.

Here's a try at merging tafl with the rules of the Bible:

The game is a battle between the Good Forces (white) and the Evil Forces (black).

On the board is 5 special squares (that is, the corner "squares" are of size 2x2). Those are Heaven. Rest of the board is Earth.

The Evil pieces are ordinary tafl pieces.

The Good pieces are also ordinary tafl pieces, except for 6 of them. In the center square is God (Unity). Then there's Jesus (primary man). And 4 evangelists (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John).

Ordinary pieces cannot stop on special squares, but they can pass through. Ordinary pieces are removed from the board when they're killed.

God can travel freely on all board, also on special squares. God is immortal and cannot be killed.

Jesus is mortal, and like ordinary pieces he cannot stop on special squares. Jesus can be killed but is not removed from the board, instead he goes to the vacant special square closest to God (to Heaven sitting at God's right hand). There he must stay until white's turn the third time, where white must move Jesus from the special square to an ordinary square (risen from the dead on the third day).

White wins if anyone of the evangelists reaches an edge square (walk through the world and turn all peoples into mine).
Black wins if all evangelists are killed.

You cannot lose God, you cannot really lose Jesus, but you can lose the evangelists.

The game would be, perhaps heavily, unbalanced in favour of white. Black would win only against a rather lousy white player, and it would be an embarrassment when white loses.
If white happens to lose, you must always play another game until white wins.

- The Devil should also be on the board. Black, immortal, and excluded from special squares.

Re: Alea Evangelii 19x19

Posted: Fri Jan 13, 2017 1:17 pm
by Adam
I like this conversion idea. I hadn't actually thought of all the pieces being reversible like Othello pieces, but that could be an interesting experiment. I meant just the four pieces marked as variable.

I'd still like to try my version, just because I've loaded in as much fire power and special moves as Berserk allows, and all in arguable agreement with the manuscript text and image. The berserk moves are A historical in as much as they don't come from the tafl sources, but as they are based on best guesses at one of hnefatafl's ancestor games (ludus latruncolrum) it has the right feel about it, and was inspired as a direct response to an archological find with some unusual pieces indicating special moves.

I really want Alea to work, it looks like such a great game. But having played a fair bit of it now in various forms, Its obvious to me it needs something to shake it up now and again to avoid stagnations. Berserk taking and jumping knights could be a direct way to get things moving along, given enough of these special pieces on the board.

The 4 reversible pieces would be great if the games balance stands finely on a knife edge. If this set up doesn't have the required pep, the variagated pieces could be knighted, making their conversion a heavy price and valuable prize.

The idea of the god piece being invincible is interesting too. Could lead to some interesting blocking and driving strategies.


Re: Alea Evangelii 19x19

Posted: Wed Jan 25, 2017 10:46 am
by Hagbard
Adam wrote:its obvious to me it needs something to shake it up now and again to avoid stagnations. Berserk taking and jumping knights could be a direct way to get things moving along, given enough of these special pieces on the board.
The Adam Bartley setup of Alea 19x19 was tried out in a couple of test games.

All the previous attempts to play tafl on the 19x19 board have failed, because in all the tested setups, white turned out to be blocked from the very beginning and all the way through the game and inevitably lost.

Adam's setup, however, seems to be very different in this. The game appeared not to be blocked anymore. The game balance is still unknown, but the setup gave a lot of real fighting all the way through the game, which is promising and a prerequisite for a well working setup.

I suppose that such a berserk setup is not a likely setup for the medieval munks to come up with for their religious Alea Evangelii 19x19 game. But one could perhaps dream a bit that it could be something like the tafl game, which the munks based their religious game upon. We'll never know about that.

Re: Alea Evangelii 19x19

Posted: Sun Mar 26, 2017 11:28 pm
by Hagbard
Adam wrote:some images where Ive overlayed tafl boards onto a viking trelleborg.
For information: 2014 a fifth Viking ring castle was found in Denmark. The Viking ring castles are a Danish speciality and will perhaps some day be included as Unesco world heritage.

Re: Alea Evangelii 19x19

Posted: Tue Apr 11, 2017 7:09 pm
by Adam
So. Alea berserk. It made for a playable game. I am keen to hear any feedback regarding its playability. I must admit the black opening ring still feels a bit like a brick wall, but I think that's probably the point of the game, breaking the blockade. I suspect this to be a tactical problem and not a rules or set up problem.

Going by the manuscript, one would expect various pieces with varying abilities. The berserk move is probably nothing like how they played though, but it surely makes the game a lot of fun. Removing the beserk moves would be like putting square wheels on an already slow car.

So, give it a try, I'll accept any berserk game challenges I notice as it needs more testing.


Re: Alea Evangelii 19x19

Posted: Tue May 23, 2017 8:59 am
by Hagbard
22.5.2017 "Tuireann" and "Fishbreath" has an interesting discussion about Alea Evangelii 19x19 on the Play Tafl Online forum (, the full discussion copied here:
So, I don't think Alea Evangelli is a tafl game anymore at all. I have been doing some translations of MS 122 and eventually it occured to me to look into what the name of the game means in latin... Alea means a game involving dice or gambling...

like... Gospel Gambling

I dont think this is a tafl game at all... just radial symmetry on a diagram and wishful thinking...

Certainly, the manuscript is more an allegory than a description of rules, but I would wager heavily on a pre-existing large tafl board underpinning it.

Too, 'a game of chance' is the most straightforward definition of alea, but misses some nuance. ... try%3Dalea

well theres the backup of it being written in insular script in the 12th centure which places it in ireland

and then there are sources which define alea as tabula in irish glossaries in that time

i have to imagine that between isidore of sevilles manuscript which covered alea

and those sources

plus if the game was invented by a frank and israel the grammarion which i found some compelling theories he was a breton or at least mainland european i dunno why he would create anything with a tafl game

i just think its coincidence

its like the 400AD thing thats been claimed about tafls origins... i think its looking at something which resembles tafl and then thinking wishfully

theres a pretty good analysis of the latin in a book i actually found the entire portions of the tafl sections on google books

i cant link to the exact page ... &q&f=false

if you search tafl in there they have a huge section at the end of the tafl chapter about comparing the terminology with other sources

also latin + latin sigla + insular script = awful nightmare

a language where every word has 20 meanings and every author has their own style of writing in a script with hundreds of shorthand versions of words that are not well defined... and we have someone referencing a manuscript from over a century prior...

i really think its a game that a frank and some other mainland european monk made from tables (backgammon precursor)

it really is a shame that so little is known about tafl

aw wtf cant link this because the link is longer than the message max
i need to bump that up a bit

pg 371 IX. that alea means dice in such a way that he has to distinguish it from tabula really makes me think any monk who created a game and named it effectively Gospel Dice had to know, its not like Isidore was unknown

if we had the Dub Innse manuscript that the git who wrote 122 was referencing we would just know

stupid books... getting lost...

also i have high res pictures of MS 122 if anyone wants them

True that, but I think the alea in alea evangelii is probably used more metaphorically—not to mean dice or a dice game, but a venture of uncertain outcome

Makes more sense with the theme/historically.

i dunno man, etymologically it just seems shaky

Alea with that connotation is very well attested historically.

what? dice?

i also have a lack of trust in murray since he has several other instances of confirmation bias in his section on tafl games

No, a risky venture (a metaphorical gamble)

At any rate, I don't think the name of alea evangelii is important in evaluating whether it's based on a real tafl game.


i think the name is a pretty big component of the pieces we have since we have so little

It's clearly an allegory based on something pre-existing. The name is for the allegory, not for the game.

i mean its possible the latin is poorly translated when someone looked at the text but it does seem to imply the name of the game as given in the referenced manuscript is alea evangelii
I reckon that Tuireann might have a point in this discussion.

At the Board Game Studies Colloquium XX in Copenhagen May 20th, a professor from the University of Lisboa gave a lecture on the theme
"What makes some abstract board games better than others".
One factor is game length, not too long, not too short. Too long games are boring, too short games lack substance, so the professor pointed out.

A 19x19 tafl board was never found archaeologically. The only instance is one drawing in a medieval manuscript in a religious context.
Actual boards found are 15x15 at the largest.
The question is, why would historical board gamers play extremely lengthy games on a 19x19 board, when the 11x11 board (Welsh Tawlbwrdd) and even the 9x9 board (Saami Tablut) work so well?

If an average thinking time of 45 seconds per move is assumed, then from our experience the games lengths in moves (geometrical average) and in time are -
Saami Tablut 9x9: 27 moves, 20 minutes
Welsh Tawlbwrdd 11x11: 35 moves, 26 minutes.
Alea Evangelii 19x19: 78 moves, 59 minutes.

That said, even in the case that a 19x19 tafl game never existed historically, I reckon that Adam Bartley invented a way to play tafl on this board (Alea Berserk 19x19 with variegated men).
Adam's new idea of making the "variegated men" commanders instead of common warriors could increase the drama (another of the professor's factors) of the game further and should be tested also.