Fetlar Hnefatafl

Tafl rules
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Re: Fetlar Hnefatafl

Post by Adam » Thu Sep 22, 2011 11:36 pm

The draw fort is a possible consequence of the Fetlar rules as they stand. How black decides to respond to the threat of a draw is entirely personal, but in a tournament situation, the loss of a win point could make all the difference for Black. Creating a need to win, and not get a draw, leading to the risk being worthwhile. As a draw in the game may lead to a loss in the tournament. Knowing this from the start ups the stakes, and makes draw positions capable of leverage.

Can black force a draw? They can certainly cause them, but I've looked carefully at your reasoning Warder, and I think you are right, black cannot be said to be the one forcing the draw, though they can accept the draw if they see they cannot capture the king. I think that's ok in a game where each side has entirely different goals. And I think all tafl players agree that a complete game is two games played once as white, and once as black.

Of course that argument could also be used to institute absurdly unbalanced games as viable variations, so I see I am on very thin ice here. However, myself and others enjoy these draw threats so much that I can't help defending them. Also, our tournament results were as close to 50% black white wins as makes no odds. And not so many of those were draws (though they made their presence felt)

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Re: hnefatafl and the quest for balance

Post by Kratzer » Fri Nov 04, 2011 3:48 pm

I'm really looking forward to try out the berserk variant (my berserker rage is already growing *gr*), although the ability to "jump over" seems to be a bit strange at first sight.

Another idea about the balance matter (yet far away from a historical view on the rules): If the tournament variant (fetlar) isn't completely balanced (I hope that at least we come to a point where we can say something like that), there are some modifications to try out. I might not be the first one to mention it in this forum, but what about the passing of the throne. What if, i. e., only one color can pass the throne, what if none or only the king? Could a slight disbalance (until maybe 5 %) be corrected that way?

Greetings guys!

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Re: hnefatafl and the quest for balance

Post by Adam » Sun Nov 06, 2011 6:13 pm

Roderich wrote:what about the passing of the throne
Greeting Roderich! Nice to hear you are back.

It seems to me that all rule adjustments are essentially about dialing in king strength. A throne square blocking black pieces for example would certainly add frustration to that sides attempts in king blocking. If its needed. Personally I find Fetlar works beautifully as it is. Though lets keep an eye on the statistics and strategy arms races between white and black.

I have been completely tied up this last few months with testing claims that 9x9 rachuneck is a well balanced and superior game to Fetlar. My conclusions after playing as 'xonn' on dragonheelslair and brainking, are that it does indeed seem like an elegant and well balanced game. As for its superiority over fetlar, after about 40+ games I have to admit I don't particularly enjoy it, while I still love playing Fetlar after 20 years. I find rachuneck plays like demanding but not particularly rewarding puzzle. As Hagbard has pointed out in conversation, the pieces have no character. The pieces don't really come alive like they do in Fetlar, where patterns on the board effortlessly bring to mind vivid images of attack, counter attack, ruse, subterfuge, noble and foolhardy sacrifice, and with a slippery king whose power makes the attackers tremble. Conversely the weaponless king and 9x9 board edge escape feels to me like playing a tricky game of naughts and crosses. And tricky it is. There are a couple of high rated players I am having real trouble beating, so by no means have I fully understood the game's dynamic. But I don't enjoy playing it even when I win. Whereas I enjoy fetlar from start to finish even when I lose. I look forward to returning to the fetlar fold.

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Re: About the draw concept

Post by Hagbard » Sun Jan 22, 2012 8:53 pm

In my opinion the draw-fort is an intriguing phase of the 11x11 Hnefatafl game; this goes for the Fetlar variant and also for the Scandinavian Museums game where the draw-forts option is even more needed, as the king's side is very weak in this variant.

Also in my opinion it's important to keep the threat of any draw-fort, both center, edge and anywhere-else. After a serious attempt by the defenders to reach the corners, the defenders are often so scattered on the board, that precisely the center fort formation turns out to be a struggling race between defenders and obstructing attackers. In other situations, the threat of a center fort lure or force a number of attackers away from their carefully chosen positions near corners and edges - far away to the center - which can very quickly turn the situation into a new and greater threat to black to simply loose the game. So the center fort is important.

On the other hand, to avoid "The Monstrosity" two-moves-game black has to occupy the d5 square after the white opening move e5e4. It would be a forced move (if black doesn't do this, the game has ended), and I think that it's a rather unnatural start for any board game that already the second move of one side is a forced move; it limits the variety of game openings.
crust wrote:... if we begin to find that early draws happen a lot, though actually at the moment they're pretty rare. I would say most players at some stage discover this possibility of an early draw, try it out, and quickly realise it spoils the game, so they stop doing it.
This is also my experience. "The Monstrosity" two-moves-game is foul play, neither fun nor interesting for neither defenders nor attackers. It's the equivalent of a ball game where one player first thing and on purpose kicks the ball off the field out of sight never to be found again. If an opponent would do this against myself too often, he wouldn't easily find me at the board a next time ("axe in the head"!).

To ensure that tricks like this bring no reward at tournaments, 0-0 points should always be given for the draws.

Outside of a tournament situation, (e.g. when playing a single game) there's no reason for spoiling a game like that. If it were a problem (which I experience it isn't), ratings calculations could be altered so that draws result in no change of rating. However, in serious games, a fort is often achieved only after a hard and cunning struggle, plenty earning the rating reward. On this site a beginner against an experienced player can earn as much as 16 rating points on a draw.

This is just my opinion.

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About the draw concept

Post by conanlibrarian » Wed Jan 25, 2012 10:37 pm

Ah, draws - my least favorite feature. I am no chess player (I prefer backgammon) so for me the concept is pretty alien, and I assume the same was true for historical players of Tafl games. A situation like perpetual threats, or a draw fort, would simply mean that the game has not yet ended, and an opponent forcing such a situation to continue would be accused of "game avoidance". I believe that the draw is a modern feature that has been imported from chess, without reflecting on if it is a good fit to the game.

It is my understanding that corner Tafl requires the threat of draws (at least on 11*11) since otherwise it is too easy for the attackers to block all corners. But i believe that all sizes of edge Tafl are playable without draws; this is in my opinion yet a reason to assume that edge Tafl represent the historical game.

Here are some thoughts on how to formulate rules on how to handle game avoidance situations:

Since it at first glance seems that only the the defender side can perform game avoidance, one idea would be to simply reformulate the winning conditions: The defenders win if the king reach the edge, in all other situations (i.e. Encircled draw fort, repeated threats that is repeatedly blocked, etc.) the attackers win. But, for edge Tafl with two sided king capture in the following situation (illustrated below on a 6x6 board) the attackers can make perpetual threats by moving D3D4 and D4D3 repeatedly. Without the two defenders on F3 and F4, the moves are even forced for both players!

Code: Select all

Attackers: x
Defenders: o
King:      @
Defender to move

 A B C D E F
6   x         6
5 x           5
4 x         o 4
3 x @   x   o 3
2 x           2
1   x         1
 A B C D E F
So, my suggested rules to avoid most draws would be:
  • 1. It is not allowed to agree to draw a game.
    2. If one side has no legal move, he forfeits his turn, and the other side plays again.
    3a. If a series of moves is repeated three times, the offensive player (i.e. the one performing a threat) must find an alternative move. (from Cartier)
    3b. If no offensive player can be determined (due to mutual symmetric threats, or that no direct threats are made), the game is a draw at the forth repetition.
    4. If the position of the pieces of one player is repeated three times, and that player have not captured any opponents in this time, the player must find an alternative move. (forbids "draw forts")
My guess is that with rules such as these, the number of draws would be very low. Regarding rules 3a and 3b, the question is if threats should only include direct game ending threats, or if threat of piece loss should also be counted. It would have to be tested to see what works best in practice. I think that something like these rules would be very playable for edge Tafl. For corner tafl, all bets are off...

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About the draw concept

Post by crust » Sun Jan 29, 2012 1:05 pm

Thanks Hagbard and conanlibrarian for your interesting responses!

Conanlibrarian's rules would get rid of draws and draw forts altogether - I think that would be too drastic. After all, draw forts are fascinating in their own right, and make hnefatafl (fetlar version) into a real siege game. When both players know about the draw fort possibilities, including how many men needed and how many edge squares or which centre squares are required, you get some really subtle and nuanced play. I'd like to preserve that, in Fetlar rules at least. It's early draws I'm worried about - in other words, centre forts formed before attempts are made on the periphery, or instead of attacking the corners. But I'm feeling re-assured now: the concept of "foul play" outlined by Hagbard should be enough of a deterrent in a friendly match, and in tournaments the zero-point draw would be an equally strong deterrent. So it should not be a major problem.

In edge tafl, draw by repetition is more common (where only one defender can stop the king,and is forced to copy the king's moves to block him) - though it does occur in Fetlar rules too. I believe that on brainking and dragonheelslair where there is a 9x9 edge tafl they have a rule that if white repeats same move 3 times, white loses the game instantly (which is the same as saying, white is forced to make an alternative move).

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About the draw concept

Post by conanlibrarian » Sun Jan 29, 2012 9:23 pm

Yes, from what I have read, draws are an accepted feature in the Fetlar rules (I guess a good enough reason for me not to play it ;)), so my suggestion was more for edge tafl. I suspect that 11x11 edge tafl is as "susceptible" as Fetlar to draw forts (any experience from 11x11 Rachunek?). It would be interesting to try 11x11 edge tafl with 2 sided king capture, preferably keeping it "draw free" from the start.

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About the draw concept

Post by Adam » Sun Jan 29, 2012 10:40 pm

Well done to conanlibrarian for figuring out a situation where the attackers are forcing a draw. I've been turning that one over in my head for some time without luck, but feeling sure it was possible! My conclusion though was that such situations would be so absurdly unlikely as not to be worth considering. Which led me to further conclude that fetlar rules, hitherto balanced in my mind, rather favour the kings side in that they can force a draw so easily. And while I sympathise with all that's been said here, I have had a number of cracking games cut short over on dragonsheels. I've adjusted my play to work harder at preventing draws, but the point is that if black plays a strong opening game white scurries back into his hole without making a serious attempt at escaping. This leads to black having to over extend in order to start picking of kings men as early as possible, which in turn leads to white gaining more escape opportunities. On the face of it, it sounds like more dynamic excitement on the tafl board. But look deeper, and what you have is the kings side gaining advantage through potential early draw threat, forcing black to play dangerously right from the start. Which is fine, if we like our draw forts (and I do), but it suggests to me black needs some help to restore the balance. Or the king needs handicapping further. This would also potentially satisfy the perpetual check problem. Again, I like the challenge as black trying to prevent these situations appearing, but as this puts such a pressure on black, some kind of king handicap might be in order.

All the talk of this not happening in tournament situations and being good sports doesn't really convince me as playing as xonn i've run into several early draws on dragonheels in tournaments perhaps because its rewarded with .5 points.

So, my feeling is we either implement a rule that forbids repetition, or we find a way of restoring the balance. I get the feeling two sided capture would be too drastic. Though many of the draw situations would evapourate.


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Re: About the draw concept

Post by Hagbard » Sat Mar 17, 2012 8:28 pm

MaC wrote:

Hello all,

I just tried to follow this thread. And it seems to be still a try ;-)

In my opinion there are now following good and practicable rules.

1. Black has to surround the king or all his peaces (That's a black win)
2. White has to reach the neutral cities (that's a white win)
3. Every thing else is a draw after 3 time repetition of a field situation

By the first rule you solved the problem of the monstrosity draw. And there only draw-forts - no win-forts.
The repetition draw is no problem because it is hard to get and it is possible to avoid.
Off course it is hard to get one white peace out of the circle but getting a full circle is hard as well.

I played Hnefatfl nearly for 20 years without any draw options. My experience is, that the advantage of one side always change with the level of the opponents.

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Re: Fetlar Hnefatafl

Post by arne64 » Fri Nov 16, 2012 10:41 pm

Hello, what do you think of this idea:
White can get only a draw if at least 3 black pieces are killed.
So in order to draw white has to do some kind of strong attack.

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