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 was annoying to lose so easily when playing the defenders' side even against beginners.

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 with 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:

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. 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.

January 2002 I decided to write a hnefatafl game from scratch to replace the Swedish one. Fully developed it became a Java program of 6400 lines = about 100 A4 pages. This applet became a stronger opponent than the Swedish had been.

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, 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 had arrived from a user somewhere with a wish for some or other extension of the online game, and there was the Ashton discussion 2007. Other than that there was practically no direct contact with other players from this site.
ClustrMap, however, showed visitors and users of the applet as a dense swarm of dots covering a large part of the globe. Those dots must be a lot of people interested in hnefatafl, and would it be fun to let them contact each other and meet in an online game!
February 2010 a function was ready for playing live hnefatafl online, soon with rating and chat functions.
The first many years of this site "Hnefatafl" was the same as "Skalk Hnefatafl" as we'd learnt in Denmark and the only option. Now, however, skilled opponents turned up on the net and it was practically impossible to win the defenders' side.
(From 178 Skalk Hnefatafl 11x11 test games we measured the attackers to win three times more often than the defenders!)
And did the discussions about tafl take off!
ClustrMap by October 2010:

ClustrMap 2010-10-12

April 2010 "Darkont" from 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 "Old Hnefatafl" and was outlined 2007 by the Fetlar Hnefatafl Panel, UK, chairman Peter Kelly.
For years, Millar, Bartley and I had brisk discussions by email and in the site forums about tafl. Also other players contributed occasionally in the chat forum.
Millar was from the start a most diligent opponent for testing of rules, and has done a great work to disseminate the knowledge about tafl. Millar also often was the one to welcome new players and in a pedagogical and instructive way teach them about the finer points of the game. And Bartley has from the start been a diligent initiator of philosophical discussions about the nature of this game, and has digged up 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).
May 2017 - : Also Lucho Panchev ("OdinHimself"), Bulgaria, and Alexander Steiger Dis ("Steiger"), Ukraine, created many extraordinary, carved boards.

Hnefatafl gamebox beach hnefatafl

August 2011 a Hnefatafl World Championship tournament was organised here for the first time, as the tournament on the Shetland island 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 Adam Bartley ("Adam"), Norway, Tim Millar ("crust"), UK, Jonas Lööf ("conanlibrarian"), Germany, Damian Walker ("cyningstan"), UK, Arne Roland ("nath"), Germany, and Arne H. Hansen ("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 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", in discussion with Torkelson. Added November 2011.
November 2012 Aage Nielsen (Denmark) drew the dragonship pieces for the online Sea Battle tafl.

Sea Battle Tafl

September - October 2011 Aage Nielsen (Denmark) invented the "Berserk Hnefatafl 11x11", based on a photo of an archaeological Norwegian tafl set with five types 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-December 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. (First and foremost, Adam and Tim had discovered that the defenders can always force a draw fort in their first two moves in Fetlar Hnefatafl 11x11, which of course spoils the game.)
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 humans against humans 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 phones, internet-connected televisions, anything.

Hnefatafl online

August 2012 Adam Bartley, Norway, drew the World Tafl Federation logo:

Sea Battle Tafl

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

Saami Tablut
(The Saami Tablut setup was proposed by Nicolas Cartier already November 2011.)

May 2013 Aage Nielsen, Denmark, invented the method for calculating the variants' game balances.
July 2013 Aage Nielsen invented how to allow for game balances in the rating calculations.

From February 2014 the collection of game variants was expanded into more board sizes than 9x9 and 11x11: board sizes 7x7 and 13x13.
Damian Walker, UK, was a great inspirer for the setups of these boards.

August 2014 Tim Millar set up the hnefatafl Facebook page, which now has 613 followers (May 2019).
October 2014 Adam Bartley wrote a Press Release about the World Tafl Federation on the occasion of the Hnefatafl Championship Tournament 2014, which was sent to major newspapers and magazines in UK, USA, Germany, Norway and Denmark.

January 2015 the timing of games was tightened to avoid exceedingly long lasting games, proposed by Adam Bartley.
(Tightened further several times since then).

March 2015 the Irish Brandubh was identified.

Irish Brandubh

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

Rasmus Holbroe vikings
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.
Users of the site have tested and determined the game balances of 37 variants (of which 14 were found to work).
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.
Latest 7 days, 76 games were completed, and in average about 3000 game moves are done per week.

May 2016 the Welsh Tawlbwrdd was identified.

Welsh Tawlbwrdd
(Tawlbwrdd Bell was proposed by Arne H. Hansen ("arne64") already December 2012.)

May 2016 Aage Nielsen, Denmark, put forth here the theory of the historical rules of the ancient Scandinavian board game Hnefatafl, which unifies the tafl games Brandubh, Ard Ri, Tablut, Tawlbwrdd and Hnefatafl.

March-April 2018 test tournaments confirmed the setup for Historical Hnefatafl 13x13.

Welsh Tawlbwrdd
13x13 David Parlett setup.

March 2019 all use of Java was given up on this site. Players who want to try their skills against a computer adversary are referred to the site Play Tafl Online.

Hnefatafl events at Viking markets etc.

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

August 2008, 2009 and 2010 Hnefatafl World Championship was organised on the Shetland island Fetlar, UK. Tim Millar won 2009 and 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

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

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

August 2013 Tim Millar supervised the English Hnefatafl Championship tournament at Sutton Hoo, UK, and did so for years.

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 did so for years. This event directed 7 new, strong tafl players to this site.


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

June 2016 Alexander Clay ("Tuireann") created the USA tafl site Play Tafl Online, and Jay Slater ("Fishbreath") created the opentafl AI for it.

August 2016 Tim Millar supervised the Asgardian Hnefatafl Championship tournament, Leicestershire, UK.

Asgardian Festival

May 2017 Aage Nielsen attended the Board Game Studies Colloquium XX in Copenhagen, Denmark.

Board Game Studies Colloquium XX

June 2017 Damian Walker ("cyningstan") organised Hull's first Hnefatafl tournament (Kingston upon Hull, UK).


June and September 2017 Lucho Panchev ("OdinHimself"), Bulgaria, informed about Hnefatafl in Bulgarian media:
Bulgarian TV, June 9th.
PixelMedia June 15th.
The scientific TV magazine Epohata na Vodoleya, Bulgarian TV September 4th.
January 2018: Lucho Pancev's book about Hnefatafl in Bulgarian.

September 2017 Vogneslav Zmijovich, Kiev, Ukraine, started the ancient games club "Gral'nij Majdan" at the National University of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy, Kiev, Ukraine.
Gral'nij Majdan

January 2018 Tabletop Gaming Magazine has an article on hnefatafl, including input from David Lonsdale ("Animals") and Damian Walker ("Cyningstan"), and mention of this website. The article starts on page 48:
Tabletop Gaming Magazine
(Hat tip: Steve Lonsdale ("xerxes")).

February 2018. Alexander Fomichëv ("Ded Fomich"), Moscow, Russia, is active in the hobby centre "Geek Wars" in Moscow, which regularly arranges board game evenings with i.a. tafl tournaments.
Training was provided by Dmitriy Pashkov who produces figures of vikings and board games in Moscow.

Hobby Centre Geek Wars

February 2018 Aage Nielsen presented Hnefatafl at a Classic Board Game cafe, Denmark, and does so twice a year.

Classic Board Game cafe

April 2018 Vogneslav Zmijovich told about tafl in the daily Culture program of the Ukrainian Radio.

Classic Board Game cafe

June 2018 Alexander Steiger Dis presented Hnefatafl at the Moscow medieval festival.

Classic Board Game cafe

June 2018 Vogneslav Zmijovich presented Hnefatafl at the Mariupol Festival in Ukraine.

Classic Board Game cafe

November 2018 Mikkel Berg-Nordlie teaches sáhkku games, dablo games, and tablut in Umeå in Sweden, and Oslo, Alta, Bodø and Kautokeino in Norway and many more places in the Sápmi area.

Aage Nielsen, Copenhagen, Denmark, May 2019.

Updated 24.5.2019
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