History of aagenielsen.dk website.

December 1992 I met the Viking game Hnefatafl for the first time, in the Viking Ship Museum in Roskilde, Denmark.
The rules were those we call "Skalk Hnefatafl 11x11", published earlier the same year by the Danish archaeological magazine Skalk in the book "Board and Piece. Games in the Iron Age", authored by the Danish archaeologist Karsten Kjer Michaelsen.
By these rules the king is captured from 2 sides and wins in corner. An interesting and exotic game to get to know, but it annoyed me somewhat to lose so easily when playing the defenders' side even against beginner opponents.

Bræt og Brik Skalk Hnefatafl 11x11

February 1993 there was a big exhibition at the Danish National Museum in Copenhagen, "Viking and White Christ", with extraordinary contributions from many countries. The hnefatafl game was everywhere to find in this exhibition, many viking graves and the viking always bringing to the other side his personal set of hnefatafl pieces.

Birka hnefatafl king


October 1998 this website was started. One page told the story of the great 1993 viking exhibition and the game hnefatafl, the game rules (Skalk), and ended up with sending the reader off to the Swedish company Expo Media's online hnefatafl game, a "Skalk Hnefatafl 9x9" written in Java:

Expomedia
Artist: Marcus Edström.
Snip from Edström's Curriculum Vitae: "Expo Media NS AB, Graphic Designer 1993-1995. Expo Media developed multimedia for exhibitions, cd-rom and kiosks. I developed application about Vikings, East India Company, Leonardo da Vinci as well as the game Tablut. Initial work was done parallel to studies."

During 2001 the Expo Media online game gradually stopped working because of changes in Java and in the browsers available. For some time it worked only in Netscape, then stopped there, too. I emailed Expo Media about it and was told that the developer had left the company, but they would try to fix the errors. However, instead they soon removed the online game from the internet entirely.
It is possible still to find the Expo Media Tablut pages in the Internet Archives.


What to do? This hnefatafl page was at that time only an introduction to the Swedish online game, and several Danish public libraries, museums and schools already linked this way.
January 2002 I decided to write a hnefatafl game from scratch to replace the Swedish one, not expecting the size of the project. Fully developed it became a Java program of 6400 lines = about 100 A4 pages.
This Java applet became a stronger opponent than the Swedish had been, which was useful, as it was next to impossible to entice family and friends to a game of hnefatafl (bad losers).
Now also a couple of schools abroad linked this way.

Hnefatafl online

In the beginning of 2007 John C. Ashton, Chicago, USA, emailed me some questions about Hnefatafl and Tablut. After a discussion on the subject,
March 2007 the online game was extended so that one could play Tablut against the computer by Ashton's rules, and also by the Tablut rules of the Foteviken Museum in Sweden.
John C. Ashton wrote the thesis, "Linnaeus's Game of Tablut and its Relationship to the Ancient Viking Game Hnefatafl", which was published August 2010 in the journal "The Heroic Age".


February 2010. A couple of times during the previous years a mail arrived from a user somewhere with a wish for some extension of the online game. Other than that there was no discussion about the tafl game here, apart from the Ashton discussion 2007. Hnefatafl was "Skalk Hnefatafl 9x9 and 11x11", period.
ClustrMap, however, visualized visitors as a dense swarm of dots covering a large part of the globe. Those dots must be a lot of people interested in hnefatafl out there, and would it be fun to let them contact each other and meet each other in an online game!
February 2010 a function was ready for playing live hnefatafl online with rating and chat functions.
At first "Skalk Hnefatafl 11x11" was the only option. Now, however, skilled opponents turned up on the net and it was practically impossible to win the defenders' side.
(From 142 test games we measured the attackers to win about 18 games per 10 defenders' wins.)
And boy, did the discussions about the tafl game take off!
ClustrMap by October 2010:

ClustrMap 2010-10-12

April 2010 "Darkont", reenactor club Ulvgard, Russia, advised to have the king captured from 4 sides instead of 2, and the "Old Hnefatafl 11x11" was added.

May 2010 Tim Millar ("crust"), UK, and Adam Bartley ("Adam"), Norway, joined and recommended the "Fetlar Hnefatafl 11x11", which was added.
The "Fetlar Hnefatafl" adjusts and improves "Old Hnefatafl" and was outlined 2007 by the Fetlar Hnefatafl Panel, UK, chairman Peter Kelly.
For several years, Millar, Bartley and I had brisk discussions by email and in the forums about tafl. Also other players contributed sometimes in the chat forum.
Millar has from the start been a most diligent opponent for testing of rules, and has done a great work to disseminate the knowledge about tafl. And Bartley has from the start been a diligent initiator of philosophical discussions about the nature of this game, and has digged up many extraordinary, detailed photos of arhaeological findings.

Fetlar Hnefatafl

From June 2010 many players have sent photos of their homemade hnefatafl boards and sets. Especially Altti Piirsoo ("altti"), New York, USA, has created a great collection of tafl boards (photo left). The simplest board was sent by Millar, lines in the sand (photo right).

Hnefatafl gamebox beach hnefatafl

August 2011 a Hnefatafl World Championship tournament was organised here for the first time, as the tournament in Fetlar was cancelled that year. Since then we've had a Championship tournament every year.

August 2011 the hnefatafl discussions were now so complex and involved ever more players so that it became necessary to establish the large, structured forum (proposed by Christoph Treskow, "Kratzer", Germany) as a supplement to the simple chat forum. Some of the great contributors here were, besides Adam Bartley and Tim Millar, Jonas Lööf ("conanlibrarian"), Germany, Damian Walker ("cyningstan"), UK, Arne Roland ("nath"), Germany, and "arne64", Germany. Damian Walker has been the expert in digging up information from all kinds of historical sources.

August 2011 the association "World Tafl Federation" was founded, with Tim Millar - Chairman and Adam Bartley - Vice Chairman, and with this site as home page of the association.

September 2011 an unarmed king edge tafl was added ("Rachunek"), advocated by Adam Torkelson, USA.

September 2011 Adam Bartley (Norway) invented the simple, unarmed king game "Sea Battle Tafl 9x9".
(November 2012 Aage Nielsen (Denmark) drew the dragonship pieces for online Sea Battle tafl.)

Sea Battle Tafl

October 2011 Aage Nielsen (Denmark) invented the "Berserk Hnefatafl 11x11", based upon a photo of a Norwegian set of pieces sent by Bartley, and exclusively combining rules from tafl antecedents and their decendants.

Berserk Hnefatafl


November 2011 the live play format was replaced by correspondence format.

January-June 2012 Adam Bartley (Norway), Tim Millar (UK) and Aage Nielsen (Denmark) developed the "Copenhagen Hnefatafl 11x11". The Copenhagen Hnefatafl is Fetlar Hnefatafl with a handful of additions to extend Fetlar and fix its shortcomings.
The process was supported and commented by other tafl players in the forum. Konstantin Jaehne ("Sqaree"), Germany, did a simplifying analysis of the rules description. The online game pieces were sent by Gregory Binns ("Torc"), USA.

Copenhagen Hnefatafl


May-June 2012 the site software was rewritten so that online games no longer use Java, Java becoming increasingly problematic just as it happened to Expo Media eleven years earlier.
The software now works on computers, mobile telephones, internet-connected televisions, coffee machines (just kidding), anything.

Hnefatafl online

August 2012 Adam Bartley drew the World Tafl Federation logo:

Sea Battle Tafl

September 2012 the online game boards were given different colors to indicate the game type.

February 2013 the site was mentioned in a hnefatafl article in Danish newspaper Weekendavisen.

May 2013 Aage Nielsen invented the calculation method for measuring the variants' game balances.

December 2013 the Saami Tablut was identified.
Nicolas Cartier, France, Jonas Lööf, Germany, and Olli Salmi, Finland, contributed much to this process.

Saami Tablut

From February 2014 the collection of game variants was expanded into other board sizes than 9x9 and 11x11 (board sizes 7x7, 13x13, 15x15 and 19x19).
Damian Walker, UK, was a great inspirer for the setups of these boards.

August 2014 Tim Millar started the hnefatafl Facebook page, which now has 481 followers (February 2017).


Hnefatafl events at Viking markets etc.

During many years now, the hnefatafl game has been displayed at a number of Viking markets etc. in UK, Norway and Germany. These events have spread the awareness of hnefatafl and definitely brought many new taflers to this site.

August 2008, 2009 and 2010 Hnefatafl World Championship was organised on the island Fetlar, UK. Tim Millar won 2009 and 2010 and made sure that this site was mentioned in the local newspaper 2010.

June 2010 Adam Bartley displayed Hnefatafl at Tønsberg Middelaldersfestival, Norway, and has done so every year since then.

Tønsberg Middelalderfestival 2010

September 2010 Tim Millar displayed Hnefatafl at Burnsall Viking Festival, England.

Burnsall Viking Festival 2010


March 2012 Shaun Nelson in Burnsall, Yorkshire, UK started a hnefatafl club which played regularly in the village pub.

Burnsall Hnefatafl Club

May 2012 Adam Bartley displayed Hnefatafl at the "Vikinger i krig" exhibition at Midgard Historisk Senter, Borre, Norway. Bartley created for the exhibition an extraordinary board and pieces for "Sea Battle Tafl"; first time displayed outside this site, and first time ever with ships as game pieces.

Sea Battle Tafl

(March 2013 Tim Millar made this Sea Battle tafl set with pieces and board out of hand-carved wood:)
Sea Battle Tafl

June 2013 Frank Prohl founded the "Tromsø Tafl Laug", Norway, which play in the "Victoria Fun Pub" in Tromsø.

August 2013 Tim Millar supervised the English Hnefatafl Championship tournament at Sutton Hoo, UK, and has done so every year since then.

Sutton Hoo 2013

September 2013 Tim Millar displayed Hnefatafl at Shave Farm arts festival, Somerset, UK.

Shave Farm Hnefatafl set

November 2013 René Gralla organised in Berlin a Hnefatafl demonstration match between the Norwegian chess player Woman International Master Silje Bjerke and the CEO of the German newspaper "Neues Deutschland", Olaf Koppe, during the "8th Ladies Chess Gala" in Berlin.

Berlin 2013
Photographer: Joachim Lissner, "Neues Deutschland", Germany.

October 2014 Tim Millar displayed Hnefatafl at Fornebei Herfolk's Viking Festival, Formby, UK, and has done so every year since then. This event directed 7 new, strong tafl players to this site.

Fornebei

October 2014 Justin Levi White ("Fairland") started the Fairland Schools Hnefatafl Club at Fairland High School, Oklahoma, USA.


October 2014 Adam Bartley wrote a Press Release about the World Hnefatafl Federation on the occasion of the Hnefatafl Tournament 2014. The paper was sent to major newspapers and magazines in UK, USA, Germany, Norway and Denmark.

January 2015 the timing of games was tightened to avoid very long lasting games, proposed by Adam Bartley.
(Tightened further from October 2015 and September 2016).

March 2015 the Irish Brandubh was identified.

Irish Brandubh

April 2015 the national hnefatafl champions of USA and Italy was found for the first time by tournaments on this site. (The English National Champion is found at Sutton Hoo, England).

January 2016 Rasmus Holbroe, Denmark, drew a collection of viking drawings for the site:

vikinger
Artist: Copyright © Rasmus Holbroe.

January 2016. The extent of this site is at the moment 32000 software lines = about 500 A4 pages.
The games archive contains 11000 tafl games played by some 600 players.
The small discussion forum has 2200 messages, and the structured forum 700 messages.
Users of the site have tested and determined the game balances of 37 variants.
At the moment there are 59 active players on the rating list, rated from 1096 to 2049,
31 players are right now playing 92 ongoing games and 7 invitations are in the wait for new games.
Latest 7 days, 76 games were completed. In average are done about 3000 game moves per week.

May 2016 the Welsh Tawlbwrdd was identified.

Welsh Tawlbwrdd

May 2016, theory of the historical rules of the ancient Scandinavian board game Hnefatafl was published here, which unifies the tafl games Brandubh, Ard Ri, Tablut, Tawlbwrdd and Hnefatafl.


Aage Nielsen, Copenhagen, Denmark, May 2016.


Updated 7.2.2017
Copyright © 1998-2017 Aage Nielsen, All Rights Reserved;