About the modern Russian Tavlei which you describe. We know and have tested this variant, we used the working title "Skalk Hnefatafl 9x9 (Expomedia)".
Like you, we found that the game is playable but rather unbalanced in favour of the attackers. From 158 test games we found that the attackers win 17 times per 10 defenders' wins (balance -1.72).
I wrote a bit about it here:
http://aagenielsen.dk/hnefataflforum/ph ... &t=11#p152
(In our test, the king can return to the throne, but that's not important to the balance).
Limiting the king's moves will favour the attackers even more.
Thank you for this information. Our expectations are now confirmed.
In history there is the Norman theory, whose supporters regard the Normans (the Varangians) as the founders of ancient Rus’. But there is the opposite side (anti-Normanists, Slavophiles), whose supporters suggest that native Slavic people were the founders notwithstanding that the participation of Normans in the political life they acknowledge too. Among them there are modern anti-Normanists (for example Sergey Tsvetkov, Vsevolod Merkulov), who suggest that the Normans (the Vikings) ≠ the Varangians, the Varangians in their opinion were Slavic people. This conception even formed the basis of the tavlei game “Obereg” (“оберег”—“talisman“, “protector”). It’s named so because the main goal of the defenders in the game is to protect the king (there is also the Russian verb “оберегать”—“to protect”). Here is the link to the “Obereg” site: http://tavlei.net
. There is a demonstartion of the rules on the board at the bottom of the page describing the rules: http://tavlei.net/pravila
In “Obereg” the attackers are the “the Vikings”, the defenders are “the Varangians”, the king is “knyaz” (“prince”). The rules I’ve already described in my letter. It’s a complete mystery to me why these unbalanced rules are used for the game of tavlei with the utmost obstinacy, they are everywhere—in smartphone applications and in all possible game sets. Moreover, I witness with apprehension that this modern Slavophilic Varangian theory is being widely disseminated.
Interesting with your ideas of dice and of capturing a piece which has stayed between two enemies for two turns.
We have from the Linné diary rule 9:
"If a player can move so that the enemy is between two of his pieces, it is killed and taken off, likewise the king."
So an enemy move kills the piece.
But even if your ideas were "local Moscow rules", no doubt there were also in ancient times sometimes local rules variations.
What would it mean to the game balance? We haven't tried it, but my guess is that it does not change the balance significantly. When you move a piece between two enemies, the purpose is usually to do a double attack and not so much to park the piece there for several turns. And your opponent will usually react by immediately moving away one of the two attacked pieces.
About that idea of the new capture rule told us Dmitriy Pashkov as I wrote in my letter. I brought with me that evening not only my tablut boards but also the book of Damian Walker “Reconstructing Hnefatafl“ and printed list with four translations of Salmi, Ashton, Cartier and Troilius from this made by Aage page: http://aagenielsen.dk/tablut_translations.html
. We told Dmitriy about the rule number nine and even about the rule number ten ( so-called “Linnaeian capture”). This new capture rule can be used near the throne and near the corners, so I feel like this rule helps attackers more and increases imbalance.
Have you in Russia and in the Eastern area as a whole (the countries around the system of rivers which were travelling routes from the Baltic Sea to the Black Sea) in archaeological excavations found tafl (tavlei) boards and pieces? And what do they look like?
(Vogneslav Zmijovich showed a fine example from Kiev. By the look of it, it is a 13x13 board without corner decorations, that is with edge escape as expected:
http://aagenielsen.dk/zmijovich/hnefata ... s_kiev.jpg
Lucho Panchev sent news about a recently found board in Slovakia, which is more likely Ludus Latrunculi than tafl, as the board seems not to be quadratic:
I heard a lot that along the entire length of the trade route from the Varangians to the Greek many tafl boards were found. I wasn’t looking for the boards but I’ve just found a fragment of the 11×11 board from IX–X century found in 2008 in Staraya Ladoga (Old Norse “Aldeigja”, “Aldeigjuborg”): http://www.ladogamuseum.ru/media/IMG_2715.jpg
Maybe if I have time I’ll keep looking.
Do you in the Eastern countries have historical sources which mention tavlei and give som hints about how it was played?
Do you know the origin of the modern tavlei rules you mention in your mail?
Perhaps they come from some books and articles in Russian/Ukrainian etc.? Perhaps they were brought home from some international viking exhibition fx. in Stockholm? Perhaps they were fetched from the internet, where the Expomedia site with these rules was extremely popular and all over the net many years ago.
(Many years ago I had a contact to a reenactment club in Peterburg, they used the "Old Hnefatafl 11x11" rules. They could've fetched the rules from the internet, just like this Russian page
is simply a direct translation of an earlier version of an American page
Under this title (“тавлеи”—“tavlei”, “тавля”—“tavlya”, sometimes in vernacular version “велеи”—“velei”) the game was named in Russian epics, songs and legends, where the Russian epic heroes were playing “German tavlei” (in Russia everything foreign was called German), and was prohibited by Russian orthodox church. In the aftermath of that the game was forgotten and the rules were lost.
The word “tavleya” comes from the Greek language (“τάβλαις”) and means “board”. Also from the dictionary of the Constantinople Patriarch Photios it’s known that the word “tavleya” is the equivalent to the word “petteia” (“πεττείαις: παιδιαῖς τάβλαις”, “petteia: the game of tavleya”) which means the ancient Greek game. From petteia developed a Roman war game called “latrunculi” (“ludus latrunculorum”), from which in turn probably developed the game of hnefatafl. Thus, despite the fact that the nature of the game “tavlei” is unclear because of the loss of it’s rules, it may be probably assumed that this is an analogue of hnefatafl.
But who can sure enough know, how deep all those ancient games were entwined? Maybe some of them represent different games. There are various arguments. By the way, mentioned above Vsevolod Merkulov is the one who suggests that hnefatafl = tavlei.
Anyway nowadays tafl players in Russia call hnefatafl “tavlei”—“тавлеи”. Moreover, the word “tavlei” in the late Russian language means also a game of checkers (draughts).
I don’t know any ancient sources with the tavlei rules. I think that all the rules used in Russia are taken and translated from the Western sources. And sometimes people create self-penned rules.
Regarding tafl I know about Linnaeus diary and the Peniarth Manuscript written by Robert ap Ifan. There are mentions in sagas and in “The Senior Edda”. Regarding tavlei there are mentions in Russian epics sometimes with a very short and unclear description of gameplay. There is a mention in Сhurch Slavonic dictionary where the different types of gameplay are again short and unclear described and some of them are unlike hnefatafl. That’s all off the top of my head.
Interesting that the creators of the “Obereg” game refer to the Linnaeus diary and say that “Obereg” rules are the result of the Linnaeus rules re-thinking. On their site there is the information that the head of the creative lab “2×2” and math teacher Anatoliy Bronnikov did the analysis of the Linnaeus rules and suggested several improvements that balance odds of the defenders and the attackers. As a result of his “improvements” we have these unbalanced tavlei rules. I just don't understand how a mathematician was able to change the rules in that way.