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Posted: Wed Aug 16, 2017 8:37 pm
by Hagbard
Some postings from Boardgamegeek copied here for backup. ... tawlbwrdd

Damian Walker, UK / Posted Oct 23, 2006 / Last edited Dec 31, 2011
No, I don't know how to pronounce it either. This is the simplest variant, though not the smallest. It was recorded in Wales by Robert ap Ifan, in 1587, and is also mentioned in the earlier Laws of Hywel Dda.

1. The game can be played on an 11x11 board with 37 men - the king and his 12 defenders, against 24 attackers. The defenders are placed in a diagram around the king. The attackers are in four groups of six by each edge of the board. Here's the complete layout:

Code: Select all

2. The king wins the game by reaching the edge of the board. The attackers win by capturing the king.

3. The attackers move first. Pieces move as far as they wish in a straight, horizontal or vertical line. A moving piece may not land on, nor jump over the head of, another piece.

4. A piece is captured by surrounding it between two enemies. The king may make captures, and may be captured like other pieces.

The starting layout is that proposed by R. C. Bell in his 1969 volume II of Board and Table Games from Many Civilizations. Other possible starting layouts are that from The Viking Game, or the smaller 9x9 layout of Tablut. You can play this variant with the applet at using the following settings:

Defender: [according to taste]
Attacker: [according to taste]
Min time: 10 [recommended]
Min depth: 1 [recommended]
Objective: Edge
Corner size: [irrelevant]
Castle: Normal
King capture: Custodian
Movement: Unlimited
Speed: [irrelevant]
Applies to: [irrelevant]
King strength: Armed
Layout: Trondheim I
First move: Attacker

Chris Baglin, UK / Posted Dec 29, 2011
Pronunciation guide:

Tawlbwrdd: First syllable like English "towel" but omit "e" sound.Second syllable "w" makes short "oo" sound as in English "book" and "dd" makes a non aspirated "th" sound as in English "this". So to sum up.

Tawlbwrdd - Tow-lboorth

Although to throw the cat amongst the linguistic pigeons I personally believe the word has been mistranslated along the way as the translation is usually given as throw - board which in Welsh would be Taflbwrdd (Tavlboorth). Just sayin.

Retired Hurt, Brussels / Posted Dec 13, 2012

I think the translation "throwing" would be impossible to explain.

More probably, given the link with the tafl family, the name is simply a pleonastic compound of Old Norse tafl (of similar pronunciation) and Welsh bwrdd, both meaning "table".
And of course it came back to Scandinavia under the name Tablut, which is the same word, adapatated to Sami pronunciation.

Re: boardgamegeek

Posted: Wed Aug 16, 2017 8:47 pm
by Hagbard ... es-brandub

Damian Walker, UK / Posted Mar 18, 2006
Here's another variant which I've built myself out of building blocks from other hnefatafl games, and a bit of historical evidence. Some people might know of a different game with the same name, but I've no reason to believe that the historical game of brandubh wasn't another variant of hnefatafl. Here goes:

1. The game of brandubh is played with a king and four defenders against eight attackers, on a board of seven squares by seven. The central and corner squares are marked.

2. The object for the king is to make his escape to one of the marked corner squares. The object for the attackers is to capture the king.

3. The attackers move first. All pieces move any distance horizontally or vertically. No piece can jump over the head of another. Only the king can land on any of the marked squares.

4. A piece is captured when it is surrounded between two enemies, or an enemy and a marked corner square. The king can take part in making captures, and is himself captured in the same way as other pieces.

Temporarily, I have a Java applet on my home page at which you can play the game. Go to the address below and click on "Games". The computer plays the king's side. At some point in the future you may find that another game has usurped the place of brandubh.

Re: boardgamegeek

Posted: Wed Aug 16, 2017 8:53 pm
by Hagbard
New Translation

Tim Koppang, USA / Posted Sep 14, 2010
I received a link to the an article published this month in "The Heroic Age: A Journal of Early Medieval Northwestern Europe". The article is by John C. Ashton, and contains a new translation of the rules to Tablut, and by extension, Hnefatafl, from Carolus Linnaeus's original account.

The major rules difference is that the King may be captured by just two men so long as he is away from the center square, or "throne." There are some other clarifications as well.

I thought the more experienced players here on BGG would find this most interesting.

Trygve E. Rosenvinge, Norway / Posted Sep 19, 2010
There's really nothing new here, unless you've only been playing Hnefatafl according to the rules published with "The Viking Game".

The proper game always allows the king's capture with two pieces, unless he's on or next to the throne. Similarly the throne and the corners are always hostile to every other piece but the king.

If the publishers of "The Viking Game" had taken their historical sources seriously and not dumbed down the game the way they have with their rule set, Hnefatafl would probably have received better reviews, because as long as you permit the king to be captured by two pieces when away from the throne, the game becomes immensely more tactical. When playing Hnefatafl according to the "The Viking Game" rules, playing the attacker becomes much more difficult making the game terribly unbalanced.

Any seasoned player will find that when playing by the proper rules, when inexperienced the attacker appears to have the advantage, yet with practise the defender becomes easier to play.

By always requiring four pieces for the king's capture, the publishers may have intended to give the defending player a handicap but by doing so they've also removed most of tactics involved in the game, not to mention ignoring the real rules that saw development over a period of 800 years.

I may be mistaken, but "The Viking Game" seems like it might have been based on the version published by the Danish archaeological publication SKALK (most likely in the 1980's).

Both versions uses the same unique board set-up and to my knowledge, having not found any such set-up described in other sources, it appears to have been introduced by SKALK. The SKALK Hnefatafl reconstructs the game based on archaeological evidence and the rules described by Carl von Linné in 1732. "The Viking Game" appears to copy the set-up introduced with the SKALK game, but swaps white with black (the defenders are black in the SKALK game as they should be from a historical point of view), and omits the rules the publishers of "The Viking Game" most likely considered too complicated (for their game).

Tim Koppang / Posted Sep 20, 2010
Based on my reading of various articles available on the web today, it's not just the Viking Game that contains the 4-man capture rule. Most English translations to this point repeated the rule. So while others around the world may have had access to the version containing a two-man capture rule, I think this may be a first for English readers.

Trygve E. Rosenvinge / Posted Sep 20, 2010
After I had posted my reply yesterday, I had a look at this site:, where the author differentiates between "the rules given by Scandinavian museums" (probably the SKALK version) and "Rules used outside Scandinavia".

So I might be mistaken regarding the origin of the "The Viking Game" version of the rules, but personally I'm only familiar with these two commercial versions of the game and I drew my own conclusions. And having played the game according to both versions of the rules, I find that I prefer the two-man capture of the king for the reasons outlined in my previous post: for reasons of historical accuracy, for game balance, for tactical depth, etc.

When you need four men to take the king, the evacuation of the king becomes less urgent for the defender, as the king is less vulnerable and cumbersome to surround for the attacker. It also serves to complicate the game whenever the king stops along the edges of the board.

When I play, the king is sometimes captured when the defending player mistakenly lets the king stop next to a corner square and allows the attacker to place one of his pieces on of the square opposite the corner. It doesn't happen often but it's one of those things I love about the game, it's always tense, dramatic and tight.

Tim Koppang / Posted Sep 20, 2010
I did a quick review of the articles out there, and I stand corrected. The rules given by Sten Helmfrid, under his chapter on Modern Commercial Versions, list the two-man capture rule as laid out in Ashton's new article. However, Helmfrid lists many different rule variations in his article, including the four-man capture rule under his Tablut section.

Helmfrid's article is probably one of the best out there in English. My larger, point, however, is that Ashton's article is valuable because it gives further textual and historical context to the rules in English.

Re: boardgamegeek

Posted: Wed Aug 30, 2017 9:17 pm
by Hagbard
- and this quote from Sten Helmfrid:
The most informative references to hnefatafl in the Icelandic sources are two riddles in Hervarar Saga between king Heiðrekr and the god Óðinn in disguise. Three different manuscripts, which phrase the conversation in a slightly different way, have been preserved. The oldest one is the so-called Hauksbók from the 14th century. The other texts are from the 14th or the 15th century and from the 17th century, respectively. The first one of these two riddles is (according to Hauksbók):

Hverjar eru þer brúðir
er um sinn dróttin
vápnalausar vega;
enar jorpu hlífa
alla daga,
en enar fegri fara?
Heiðrekr konungr,
hyggðu at gátu!

The verse can be translated as: "Who are the maids that fight weaponless around their Lord, the brown [25] ever sheltering and the fair ever attacking him? King Heiðrekr, solve this riddle!" The answer is of course the playing pieces in hnefatafl, and Hauksbók continues: "It is hnefatafl, the pieces are killed weaponless around the king, and the red ones are following him." The younger medieval manuscript explains the answer in the following way: "It is hnefatafl, the dark ones protect the king and the white ones attack him." The king's pieces are referred to as reddish brown [25], red or dark, and the attackers as white or fair. Hence the colours of the forces are consistent with the ones in Friðþjófs Saga.

When Riksutställningar made their reconstruction of tablut in 1972, there appeared to be some uncertainty about the interpretation of the word weaponless. In the younger medieval text, the original Icelandic adjective is written in singular form, vápnalausan, as opposed the plural form used in Hauksbók. Therefore, they argued, the adjective must be an attribute to the king, rather than to the maids, which suggests that the king in hnefatafl is weaponless and cannot take part in captures of enemy pieces. This hypothesis is contradicted by the reply in Hauksbók, which clearly states that it is the defending pieces that are slayed weaponless around their king. Probably, the word weaponless is just a poetic way for the author to hint that he is referring to playing pieces and not to real armed warriors, and it has nothing to do with the actual strength of the pieces in the game.