General rules

Tafl rules
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Re: To draw of not to draw...where is the option?

Post by Adam » Mon Mar 11, 2013 9:32 pm

I for one enjoy carefully levering kings off the board edge in order to safely execute them. Conversely it's something of a thrill when black gets it wrong and the king suddenly escapes. I think that if black is careless enough to allow the stalemate position then they should be punished with a draw in what is clearly otherwise a black win, otherwise how will they learn to play better? There are already versions that make total encirclement a black win, so no need to alter the others to match. Copenhagen is still my preferred solution to all such problems. Having said that, it would be a way of streamlining the rule sets a bit. Immobilized pieces = loss. On reflection it's probably a good blanket rule.

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Re: Skalk Hnefatafl 11x11

Post by crust » Sun Apr 28, 2013 6:25 am

Hello Rynoknight,
Thanks for your post. Very interesting, I hope you don't mind if I ask a question or two?

I expect you found with your rules that black (attackers) always wins? You must have had some pretty strong anti-draw rules. Otherwise white (defenders) would always go for a draw, and we already know white can easily force a draw unless forbidden by the rules. Or did you have a lot of drawn games? (by which I mean, drawn single games, not drawn pairs.) With hindsight, I realise that's what I should have done in the tournament.

It was interesting that you sought to redress the imbalance by playing pairs of games and counting up the moves to determine the winner. That's an idea I've never encountered before, though it's similar to the idea of counting up the captured pieces for the same purpose. But, doesn't your system change the game-play quite significantly? I mean, if both players know black is going to win anyway, white will either go for a draw if permitted, or otherwise play with the sole aim of wasting as much of black's time as possible, regardless of position or numbers. For instance, by arranging 4 warriors in a square (impregnable) to slow down black's advance.

Also, I suppose you would count the number of moves in the first game, and then in the second game all white has to do is to survive until that number of moves has been made, at which point the game would stop. There would be no point in continuing the second game beyond the number of moves made in the first, because if the white player in game 2 has survived up to that point, he wins the pair of games regardless of the eventual outcome of game 2.

Sorry to pepper you with questions. I hope to play you again soon, but not Skalk I hope. I strongly prefer those versions of hnefatafl (and there are several) which are well balanced, and provide nearly equal winning chances for both players.

p.s. I think it's possible to argue that the chieftain would have been the strongest and best-equipped of the war-band, so you could justify 4-side capture as easily as 2-side. It certainly makes for a more balanced game.

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Re: Skalk Hnefatafl 11x11

Post by Hagbard » Wed May 01, 2013 3:21 am

Rynoknight wrote:

I still haven't received my information but I will answer the questions the best that I can.

We found that by having the "diamond" starting position for the defenders caused a lot of draws and caused the attackers to win, so we ran the big batch of games from the "plus sign (+)" starting position instead. There we found that the it was more of a game than skill. Some people won both of the games in their rubbers (I won every game in every rubber), there were a lot of 1-1 rubbers, and some people lost every time. It kind of followed the normal curve respectively.

Talking about the + starting position again. This variation seemed to open the game up more and very different strategies were used by the players. The players however did not have a lot of experience with the game, but were all chess players. This could have skewed the data some obviously. I expect if experienced players played each other, in this variation, the games would turned out a lot different. Like in the chess world championships (a lot of draws) and etc.

Just some opinions. I think in warfare the attacker always has the initial upper hand. So that being the case, it would be alright if they had a better chance of winning in this game. But by each player playing an equal amount of games on each side (attacker and defender), the player gets to have his "field strategies" tested in two different fashions. Even if one side, because of rules or whatever, has an upper hand it makes it more awesome when the underdogs win. That is why in our test we claimed that when the defenders win (because this was the perceived underdog and the point of the game) the win was considered 1.5 points.

I hope this answers your questions. When I get my info back I will post it for all to see.

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Re: 13x13 Tafl

Post by cyningstan » Wed Jul 03, 2013 5:57 am

Adam wrote:By the way, does anyone have a link or file of the oxford ms 122 manuscript with the alea evangelii text translated? The image is covered in enigmatic notation. Would love to read the text.

[link not working]
I feel a bit cheeky resurrecting such an old thread, especially with a plug, but I've not seen this question answered so far. I typed up the 1923 paraphrase by J. A. Robinson a few years ago, and put it on my hnefatafl web site [link not working] recently.

While I'm here, I may as well poke my nose in where some other interesting points have been made.
Adam wrote:
Beadle wrote:As far as I know, no sets have been found that had more than 24 pieces of the same type.
The Alea Evangelii evidence suggests that tafl games with many more than 32+16+1 pieces existed. No doubt less common than their simpler counterparts, but none the less real.
There's the possibility that the 47 pieces from Nes come from the same set. I don't have access to my original source for this at the moment, so I can't check whether all the pieces were similar. The rarity of larger (and more costly) sets means they're less likely to survive intact.
Hagbard wrote:the reason for the scattered initial ordering perhaps could be to reduce the game length? This way part of the opening game is skipped.
Either to reduce the game length or to reduce the number of pieces needed for a balanced game. I think of the layout not as "scattered" but more closed in: the blockade is far advanced and the attacker needs fewer pieces to complete and hold it, just as in smaller games where attackers become redundant as the blockade gets smaller and tighter.
Beadle wrote:Adam- I agree about the board markings on the Gokstad board. The markings could have been used for a different game, or perhaps they were irrelevant. We will never know.
There is another well-known example of irrelevant markings: tawlbwrdd as described by Robert ap Ifan in 1587. No mention is made of a marked central square, but alternate rows are shaded for no reason other than decoration.

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Re: Balanced 9x9 and 11x11 tafl variants

Post by nath » Wed Aug 21, 2013 7:00 am

I know a very simple rule for this:
"If any sequence of moves is repeated three times in the same board position, the player who made the second move of the sequence must find another move." That's really simple and a good rule to play Copenhagen Hnefatafl.

I really wonder Copenhagen Hnefatafl should have a positive measure. I think it's really hard to play with white - I obviously prefer black. There's problem a lot of players might have with black: A slow move that doesn't improve your position is very dangerous, two of them are mostly deadly (depends on the move - of course; it isn't such important at the 80th move...but at the 5th move). I currently fear Copenhagen Hnefatafl to be in favor for black. I also lost more games with black than with white, but because I was new and very inexperienced at Hnefatafl.

I like the edge win fort very much, but it's very hard to pull it off. I'm not sure what kind of solution is the best, I consider to test rules that supports edge forts, but the idea I got is something like "If white captures a piece he may but the capturing piece at the position of the captured piece if he finish an edge win fort with this move.". This rule might fix some problems I'm seeing, but doesn't look very intuitive and might be only confusing to some players.

I also hold I'm not understanding the measure of the 'old' Hnefatafl. It looks very boring to be always dawn, but if I should try to make pressure with any color, I would choose black.

The interesting point is that 'strong' players prefer white a little less in games are considered as 'nearly balanced' by the measure, but at the other ones they show the more how imbalanced the game is (Hnefatafl 9x9, but primary at the variants that are in favor for black like Skalk Hnefatafl 11x11). I consider the games with a negative measure as highly imbalanced in favor for black. I'll try to play some variants at 9x9 boards as well. I currently think that Sea battle (9x9) might be in favor for white, but I'm inexperienced to tell yet. I'll try Skalk Hnefatafl edge 9x9 against a friend so see whether it works (never tried it).

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Re: Balanced 9x9 and 11x11 tafl variants

Post by nath » Tue Dec 03, 2013 6:06 am

Salk Hnefatafl even on a 9x9 board seems to be in favor for black. The king is just to hostile. Sea battle tafl seems to be better balanced, but much easier to play for while. Sea battle tafl leads to very fast, very tactical game. I'm still very bad at that variant.

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Re: Use of tafl variants in real life tournaments

Post by cyningstan » Sun Dec 15, 2013 8:39 am

I quite agree.

In fact I'm hoping to organise a tournament here in Hull in 2017 for the Year of Culture events, if I can get the support of enough others locally (venue, publicity, participants). I'd very much like to use Cartier/Skalk Edge 9x9 type rules for it, and I'd love to keep an eye on the stats of games here to see its balance. I ought to make an effort to play more too.

Currently my plans are for sea battle tafl 9x9, as we know that's a very nice, balanced game, and its rules are simple and elegant too, ideal for beginners. But my eye is very much on the latest tablut interpretations too, as I think that these will be our closest approach to the game that the Vikings played.

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Re: hnefatafl and the quest for balance

Post by cyningstan » Wed Jan 01, 2014 2:21 pm

nath wrote:I can also life with the choice to establish Sea battle tafl 9x9 as standard variant (in which our knowledge is weaker for far and that is combinatorial easier), but it would be a break regarding the the former promotion of the 11x11 board.
Even if I'd take Copenhagen Hnefatafl, the most important point for me is that we agree on any variant in common. I don't want Hnefatafl to become a game that forces you to talk about the rules before you can play a game.
This is where we'll not agree - the variety of different hnefatafl games is what I find so interesting. I must have something of the anarchist in me: I love brandub, tablut, tawlbwrdd, sea battle tafl, and I desperately want to love alea evangelii too. I'm less enthusiastic about Fetlar, Copenhagen and other 11x11 corner-victory games, though I'm happy that they exist and flourish. That goes for most variants I've seen... except "ard ri": the less said about that one, the better.

I think it's enough that we settle on an official variant here on this site (and possibly the WTF), e.g. Copenhagen, while the Fetlar people play their version. I'm still favouring sea battle tafl for the Hull tournament. But I'd love the opportunity to organise a brandub tournament too!

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Re: 13x13 Tafl

Post by conanlibrarian » Fri Jan 17, 2014 10:50 am

For larger boards, the Tablut (latest translations) rules do not seem well balanced. Check the tournament "Skalk Hnefatafl edge 11x11 (2013-11-09)"; the top four players in total only lost two games as black!

I have some speculations on how to extend the rules of Tablut to a larger board: I suspect that the Castle (throne) and the Kings "protection zone" (the four surrounding squares) were added to the rules to improve the game balance. This principle could be extended, by making the "protection zone" larger. For 11x11, one could for instance try:

Code: Select all

. . . . . . .
. . . % . . .
. . % # % . .
. % # @ # % .
. . % # % . .
. . . % . . .
. . . . . . .
Here '@' is the normal Castle, and the squares '#' require three sided King capture as normal. The new thing would be the squares marked '%', where the King would have to be surrounded by four Men to be captured. I have no idea if this kind of thing would work well, but it is something that could be tried, and although without historical support, it would be within the "spirit" of the Tablut rules.

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General rules

Post by Hagbard » Wed Jun 24, 2015 11:01 pm

Through experience from thousands of tafl games some general rules for all tafl variants have emerged.

Always quadratic, the width an uneven number of squares. Used are 7x7, 9x9, 11x11, 13x13, 15x15 and perhaps 19x19.

Always one king, and number of attackers = 2 * number of defenders.
The usual number of tafl game pieces is the Walker number p = 6w - 29, where p is the number of pieces and w is the width of the board in squares (hat tip: Damian Walker).

Initial ordering.
The king is on the centre square, surrounded by his defenders.
The attackers occupy the central edge squares.
The ordering is rotationally symmetrical.

Three types of king:
Armed king, captured from 4 sides (strong king).
Armed king, captured from 2 sides (weak king).
Unarmed king, captured from 4 sides (sea battle cargo ship).

Forbidden squares.
A sea battle board has no forbidden squares.
Only the king can stop on a forbidden square, but all pieces can pass through it.
If the king wins in corner, then the board has four forbidden corner squares. If the king wins on edge, there are no forbidden corner squares.
A forbidden square is hostile against all pieces, but if it's occupied by the king, it's hostile only against attackers.
If the board has a throne (forbidden centre square), then the king must always be captured by 4 attackers when he is on the throne. And by 3 attackers + throne when he is on one of the four neighbouring squares to the throne.

All pieces except the king are captured from 2 sides by custodian capture.
Forbidden squares are hostile and take part in custodian captures.
A weak king is captured from 2 sides like all other pieces, except if he is on or next to a throne.
A strong king is captured from 4 sides everywhere on the board. An unarmed king (sea battle) likewise.

Attackers win.
Attackers win by capturing the king.
The attackers can also win by encircling all defenders.

Defenders win.
Defenders win when the king escapes. In some variants he escapes to a corner, in other variants he escapes to the edge.

Repetition forbidden.
Perpetual repetitions are forbidden. If the overall board position is repeated three times, the player who maintains the situation ("the threatening player") must find another move to break the repetitions, or else he loses the game.
The player who does the side stepping with a piece in order to find an open path to break through, is the threatening player who must find another move. The other player brings his piece in line with the threatening piece in order to block the open path and is the blocking player.

Compulsory move.
If a player can't move, he loses the game.

These general rules actually cover it all for all game variants used here (except for a few specials: Copenhagen, Fetlar, Berserk and Magpie).
Left is only one varying parameter: the precise initial ordering of each game variant. Thus the initial ordering is the parameter, which tunes the balance of the game.
Last edited by Hagbard on Fri Aug 14, 2015 12:13 pm, edited 5 times in total.

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