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15x15 tafl

Posted: Sat Jan 30, 2016 10:52 am
by Adam
30/1/2014 Adam wrote:

My suspicion is that when the boards get bigger, extra kings squares, perhaps impassable, will be important in generating new dynamics and strategies.

Which brings me to my other attached pics. I've trawled the norwegian musuems photo archives, and found this nice 15x15 board from oslo. The markings could suggest starting places, even different pieces again? But perhaps they are kings squares or hindrances on the board?

One thing I feel sure about is that these are not purely for decoration, which I believe any game test would confirm.


Also attached is a lovely archeologists drawing of the bergen storhaug pieces.

Re: 15x15 tafl

Posted: Sat Jan 30, 2016 10:53 am
by Hagbard
4/2/2014 Hagbard wrote:

I've taken a closer look today at the 15x15 Oslo board.

Tim has a point, comparing the rampart idea with the hostile base camp of the Ashton tablut.
The Ashton base camps are indeed constipating, and to that they also give rise to an uncontrollable Ragnarok game where all pieces die very quickly.

If the x-squares are not rampards, palisades or similar, they could merely be helping marks when setting pieces on the board.

Today I drew the 15x15 board on a piece of paper and marked in the x-squares, and I filled in game pieces on the drawing.
It was natural to firstly place white men on top of the rampards. If the x-squares are rampards, they should be manned by white. If they are helping marks, they would also be showing where to put white pieces.
And secondly it was natural to connect each rampard with the throne with a line of white men. Anything else would take too many pieces.
This way 24 white men were placed on the board.

Attackers must then be 48 in number, that is 12 men to each side.
I placed them 9 men on first row and 3 in front of them on second row.

This all looked good on the paper.

However, looking at this drawing I realized that the white ordering exactly pictured the Saami tablut game.

My theory is now, that the x-squares have no meaning to the 15x15 game. But that they merely indicate the board edges and where to place pieces, in the case that you use the same board for the smaller board game Saami tablut 9x9.

Which would confirm, that they knew well the 9x9 tafl game in Oslo, as well as a 15x15 game.

Re: 15x15 tafl

Posted: Sat Jan 30, 2016 10:54 am
by Adam
5/2/2014 Adam wrote:

I think your idea about the multiple board use is compelling, and the trondheim board can also be interpreted such, as Damien Walker has done, I think Damien uses the trondheim markings to indicate the end pieces in the cross set up. To be frank the cross set up is so simple to remember I cant imagine needing guiding marks to remind you where to put the outer pieces, though I admit any other start position seems unlikely on the Trondheim board.

So these markings may simply be ways of helping players to 'see' the smaller boards within the larger board, somewhat like Alltis lovely boards in the gallery.


My only problem is that when one compares the trondheim and the oslo boards, they are using very different rules for indicating the minor boards/starting positions. Only the saami embroidered board is clear in its intention of showing a starting position.

Attached is a simple photoshop reconstruction of the whole Oslo board with a twofold symmetry.

Re: 15x15 tafl

Posted: Sat Jan 30, 2016 10:56 am
by Hagbard
6/2/2014 Hagbard wrote:

- "So these markings may simply be ways of helping players to 'see' the smaller boards within the larger board, somewhat like Alltis lovely boards in the gallery."
- Yes, exactly.

My theory is, that the the small 9x9 part of the board was actually used most of the time. The 9x9 game is a quicker game, you can take one game or many in a row. Only when you have a long, quiet night ahead and are in the right mood, you would choose the 15x15 game.

For the purpose, the marking of the smaller board within the larger should be made so quiet, that it does not annoy the players and disturb them when playing the larger game, in which case it must be sufficiently easy to ignore the extra markings.

I think that the markings on the Oslo board are just this quiet to perfectly serve the task.

Your photoshop reconstruction is not quite correct. If you look at your first photo of the Oslo board, there are in it several lines of fracture. The pieces fit together though, except for the large horizontal fracture. In the left side of the photo, you see the full, marked square edge on the lower piece, but likewise on the upper piece. So the marked edge is double.

These two pieces don't fit together, between them is one missing row. To that you can even see an S-shaped line of fracture going through both pieces but making a discontinuing jump when passing from one piece to the other. With the missing row inserted, this line would be continued with no jump.

With the missing row inserted, you get a simple, tradtional board with one throne and quadrufold rotational symmetry as usual.

There is one single, small complication to this, in other aspects traditional board: the single square diagonally next to the throne, marked with a cross-like decoration. You can see five other neighbour squares to the throne, which are all simple and undecorated.
As if there's only this one cross-square.

Now this is pure guesswork: A king must have knight, king Arthur did, and especially a Christian king. A knight must have a shield, and a Christian knight might have a cross-like decoration on his shield. So the marking of this square could be the initial position of one special piece on the defending side, maybe a king's knight, who knows.

Like, by the way, the star decoration of the throne could be seen to look like a king's crown.

I don't know what to make of this for the 15x15 game, but because of this Oslo square I'll move the initial position of the Berserk knight to this square. And I'll be happy to do so, because it's an improvement. In the present position, the Berserk knight is vulnerable and is killed against the throne as soon as the king and the white piece in front of it move away.

Re: 15x15 tafl

Posted: Sat Jan 30, 2016 10:57 am
by Adam
6/2/2014 Adam wrote:

I have made up a board with the ordering you suggested Aage, but will send it in another email where I am pursuing the ramparts idea. I think you and Damien are probably correct with this idea of the markings indicating smaller boards, but I am still pursuing the idea of semi blocking squares. More on this in the next email.

I looked very carefully at your suggestion about the missing row 6. I am attaching the full resolution image from KHM with grid codings, so you can take a close look. I have two points. First is that there ought to be some hint of a cross at D6, but there is none. The square is admittedly very degraded, so perhaps it has been erased, but the board lines at the top of D6 are quite well preserved, so one would expect to see the cross. I think the image I sent you before was lower resolution so this wasn't as clear.

Secondly, a very close look at the crack that jumps from E6 to E5 shows that an angled piece has splintered away from the surface. One has to think of the crack in 3 dimensions, slicing through the board at a shallow angle, just as when one snaps a piece of wood. If one imagines the surface splinter back in place, the line runs smoothly from E6 to D6. As you can see, the upper right board remnant with the star on has broken away completely like a jigsaw piece, so its easy to imagine how the pointy end has broken off.

In addition, K6 shows a near perfect lock and key form in the broken wood. The lower right board piece is much distorted, as I think we all would be after a thousand years of laying in the ground, but I feel sure that when new, these pieces were one.

Very close inspection of H8 hints at what might be a double + form, or perhaps the same form we see on G8, but it is very degraded and impossible to be sure from this photo, which is the best we have. Frustratingly, the piece on display in oslo is the lower half only. I am sure I could get a look at the other piece to photograph it, and also to check with the conservators if the line up they have created in the photo is correct according to the wood grain and break lines.

I really do suspect you are right about the rows of 3 crosses being an inner board, however, I have been playing around with the idea of the ramparts, and made some fun board set ups which I will send in the next email.

Re: 15x15 tafl

Posted: Sat Jan 30, 2016 10:57 am
by Adam
7/2/2014 Adam wrote:

it just says middleages. Pretty vague. But in any case after the vikings. I can send an enquiry to a conservator I know there, but if we have any other questions, it would be good to collect them all first.

link to the picture search that turned up this board:

and here is the fotoportal, where you can search. Tim, its in norwegian, so you may like the following vocab:

spillebrett (game board)
spillebrikke (game piece)

This is only things they have archived photos of. So there may well be more!

Re: 15x15 tafl

Posted: Sat Jan 30, 2016 10:59 am
by Hagbard
8/2/2014 Hagbard wrote:

I've attempted to deduce logically what can be seen in the Oslo board fragment.
Here's my interpretation of the Oslo board:

1. The board is size 15x15 and has no marked corner squares; it has no marked edge squares at all.

2. More than a quarter of the board is visible, and from this the rest of the board is also known.

3. A few squares are marked in one of three ways: with an * or a + or an X. The very center square is not marked.

4. The board is dated from the Middle Ages and is therefore some hundreds years earlier than the Saami board, but not a thousand years earlier.

5. The visible part of the board, rotated four times, gives this board:

Code: Select all

- - - X X X - - -
- - - - - - - - -
- - - - - - - - -
X - - - * - - - X
X - - + - + - - X
X - - - * - - - X
- - - - - - - - -
- - - - - - - - -
- - - X X X - - -
(the center 9x9 part; rest of the board are unmarked squares)
On the photo only one * and one + are visible. The lost squares are for the present marked symmetrically with * and +.

6. No marked corner squares means win by edge escape. No marked edge squares means win by escape through any edge square.

7. If the * and + in center were to mean the starting points of special pieces in addition to the king, the defenders would have to have three types of officers (with the X squares possibly even yet one more type). There are no marking at all in the attackers' area, so this would mean that the attackers have no special pieces, and the defenders three or four.
This is not very probable. Instead the marked squares can be squares with special properties, or for help when setting up pieces or navigating through the board.

8. The center square itself is not marked, but its four neighbouring squares are marked. These four squares (together with the enclosed center square) happen to be the very area in the Saami tablut where many rules differ from rest of the board. The markings of the two visible squares (* and +) differ only in order to decorate this important board area, the king's castle, so fourfold rotational symmetry applies.

9. The X-squares happen to indicate the edges of a 9x9 smaller board within the large board, and the XXX-rows happen to mark the initial set up of the outermost attackers in Saami tablut.
15x15 is a very large board, and especially for such a large board you would also want to have a smaller board for a quicker variant of the same game.

10. The Saami game and the Oslo board are not far apart in time and geographical distance, and there's nothing in the Oslo board to contradict that the middle 9x9 part of the board is meant for the game Saami tablut described by Linné.

11. Since the 9x9 and the 15x15 games are played on the same board, the game for the larger 15x15 board is expected to be a larger scale variant of the same Saami game.
The outermost lines of the large board are unmarked, indicating the king's escape through any edge square.
So, presuming that the 9x9 and 15x15 games are versions of the same game, the king's escape through any edge square should apply also for the 9x9 game (which is assumed to be Saami tablut), even if some of those edge squares are marked on this board as well as on the Saami board observed by Linné; those decorations are merely a help for the initial set up of pieces.

12. When it's assumed that the same Saami rules are to use for both the sizes 9x9 and 15x15 on this board, this means that the rules are scalable and could also have been used on 11x11 and 13x13.
The 11x11 version is the same as tawlbwrdd except for one thing: the latter has no throne square and thus must lack all the special king's castle rules in the board middle. I would say that this property of tawlbwrdd is a simplification, and that tawlbwrdd at some point in history lost the king's castle and the special rules there. I would say that the board with the king's castle is the more original version.
Especially in the cross set ups, like the one which is used in Saami tablut, the throne is nearly indispensable. Because without the special protection in the center, the king is easily captured in his start position: two opposite white neighbours move away, two blacks move in and voila, the king is captured from two sides.

13. Of course the game name in those times in Oslo was not "Saami tablut". But perhaps "tafl" in Norwegian, "tablut" in Saami, same word.

14. On even larger boards like 19x19, the king escapes through the corners instead of through the full edges.

It's true that the capture-from-4-sides corner escape variants have their very own qualities and give interesting games. But the most original version might be the capture-from-2-sides - Saami style.

Re: 15x15 tafl

Posted: Sat Jan 30, 2016 11:00 am
by Adam
8/2/2014 Adam wrote:

I think that is the most reasonable interpretation of the Oslo board.

I think I'm right in saying that the only evidence for corner escape is the Alea board, the carving you use on the homepage, and the small irish board with corners marked. Otherwise it is the players experience that it seems to make for a much more complex and interesting game of course.

I think its important to think back to our early experiments with edge escape. We are now finding balanced versions it seems, but the game strategies are a good deal simpler than the edge escape versions.

I think it is an interesting possibility that Alea, which is also a medieval (1100s ?) version can tell us something about the larger boards. I suppose my main reason for thinking this is that 9x9 tablut rules played on a 15x15 sized board would yield a near identical game, just more long winded. Thats certainly what the present 11x11 tournament is telling me.

Re: 15x15 tafl

Posted: Sat Jan 30, 2016 11:04 am
by Adam
8/2/2014 Adam wrote:

On Feb 8, 2014, at 12:25 PM, Aage Nielsen wrote:
> The outermost lines of the large board are unmarked, indicating the king's escape through any edge square.

I just wanted to check one thing Aage, by this, did you mean that none of the edge squares are patterned (true) or were you referring to the open ended squares down the left side? This is something we see on the trondheim board too, along with the peg holes where a similar wooden border would have been attached. However, as a further conundrum, the lower edge of the Oslo board, row 1, does appear to have double edge line carved in. Giving us a potentially 2 directional board like on the alea manuscript, with its troughs top and bottom. This is also supported somewhat by the welsh board drawing with its horizontal lines, and very much so by gokstad with its 2 fold symmetry pattern and open ends.

What that means though I can only begin to speculate.

Re: 15x15 tafl

Posted: Sat Jan 30, 2016 11:05 am
by Hagbard
10/2/2014 Hagbard wrote:

I referred to the former - none of the edge squares are patterned.

I see what you mean, peg holes are visible to the left, where a wooden border was attached.

And you were right about the horizontal line of fracture - the two parts do fit together. The carved lines in the lower right part of the board show that this wood has shrunk.

As for the Russian old tafl board photo. It's extraordinary little damaged, so if the board is genuinely archaeological, it must come from the arctic area where wood is preserved. Perhaps another Saami board.
The board is primitive, 13x13, and surprisingly the four X'es seem to mark a merely 7x7 board within the large one.

Next to this one in the same album is a photo of a heavy stone board (the Viking board owner can use his board also as a weapon if needed...!). Top right corner shows that the board was at least 11x11.

(No story told about the origin of those boards - the Russians might have just borrowed the photos from elsewhere on the net).

The Trondheim board (fine wooden borders!) is 11x11.
The X'es are used in the same way as they are used on the Russian board. A single X to each side mark an inner 7x7 board. And the outer set of X'es mark an inner 9x9 board.