I have long been somewhat fascinated by Tablut and Hnefatafl, and in the last days I started thinking about starting playing the game, which led to the question of which rules to learn to play by. And as a consequence I started reading about the documented rules of Tablut, as described by Linnaeus.
Most of you know the discovery by Ashton (http://blog.gametime24x7.com/blog/file. ... Longer.pdf
), that translation errors led to the use of the four men capture rule for the king, and that two men capture is the rule described by Linnaeus except for on or next to the citadell/throne. This impressed me, but when reading the article further, I was not convinced by some conclusions he reached regarding other rules, specifically regarding the base camps. Because of this, I decided to have a go myself at translating the rules, and see where I ended up. With no real knowledge of Latin, armed with only "Google translate" and previous translations as a reference, this perhaps is foolhardy
, but I think I have reached some interesting conclusions, that I discuss below. When almost finished, I also discovered that Nicolas Cartier seems to have reached similar conclusions. His analysis is available on this site, but only in French, which I do not know (http://aagenielsen.dk/Cartier-IterLapponicum.pdf
), although the derived rules are also available in English (http://aagenielsen.dk/TablutrulesbyCartier.pdf
My basic approach is my belief that Linnaeus actually knew and understood the game he is describing. I think this is clear from the detailed nuances, for instance in the rules describing capture of the king; these are not mere observations of play, but rules stated in the form of examples. In other words, Linnaeus knew the game (or at least had an informant who did), and did his best to describe it in a clear and complete fashion.
Anyway, here are my translations and discussions of the paragraphs of Linnaeus Tablut where I disagree with Ashton. I have taken the Latin text from Ashton, since I do not have access to a scan of the manuscript.
O. Vacua loca occupare cuique licitum, item Regi, idem valet de locis characterisatis praeter arcem.
O. Empty squares may be occupied legally, also of the king. Also allowed are the marked [with numbers] squares, except for the castle.
This paragraph is used by Ashton to support the concept of restricted "base camps", but I think the translation should be as above. If the Moscovite starting areas were restricted, Linnaeus would have written that explicitly in the section describing them, as he did for the center square. Linnaeus only explicitly calls the center square arx
, and always use the singular form. I see no support in extending the concept to the Moscovite starting areas as Ashton does. The rules as written by Linnaeus does not give any special properties to these areas.
4. Si Rex tali modo exit, est praelium fiuitum.
4. If the king exits in such a way, the battle is ended.
This translation is straight forward, but Ashton inserts an extra reference forbidding exiting over the base camps here. Ashton makes a big deal of the fact that all exit examples take place away from the Moscovite base camp, but I think this is an artifact of the labeling. Linnaeus started by drawing the game board, then described the game setup, adding the numerical labels. When he got to describing the rules, he could not use the Moscovite starting areas in examples in an exact way, since all these squares were labeled with a 4!
12. Rege capto vel intercluso finitur bellum et victor retinet svecos, devictus muscovitas et
12. If the king is captured or escapes, the war is finished, and the victor takes the Swedes, the loser the Moscovites, and the game begins anew.
This rule is interesting, and I have not seen any satisfying translation before. I think it is a rule for match play, or other extended sessions. What this tells us is that in a match (or a money game) the winner will play the Swedes in the next game. I think this shows that the players knew that that side is stronger, since the winner is rewarded with this side. The effect is that in a long enough session the best player will definitely have the most won games, since even if starting as Moscovite, he will win sooner or later, and then get to play the Swedes, where he will have the double advantage of having the stronger side, and being the stronger player.
14. Arx potest intercludere, aeque ac trio, ut si miles in 2 et hostis in 3 est, occidat.
14. The castle can block [movement], as well as act as a third piece [in capture], such that if a soldier is in 2 and an enemy in 3, the soldier is killed.
I think this rule explicitly says that pieces cannot cross the castle, and also that it can assist in capture.
Well, long rambling first post, but I had to write it down. As I said above, Nicolas Cartier reached similar conclusions, but since his thoughts are only available in French, I thought I better write this down before I forget it. In the English rules from N. Cartier the king can not reenter the castle after leaving it. I am not sure about this. On one hand no exception for the king is mentioned in the rules (if one do not interpret the paragraph labeled O. to mean this), on the other hand calling the square "the kings castle", or "throne" in Sami would seem weird if the king was not allowed there. I believe the rules from Linnaeus are not clear on this as they stand, but I am prepared to be convince otherwise.
So that's that. I am no closer to deciding on what rule set to learn to play, but perhaps I learned something else instead.