Summary on the Saami Tablut.

Tablut 9x9 board
Tablut drawn by Linné 1732.

The ancient board game Hnefatafl was invented in Scandinavia in the Iron Age and played by Iron Age people and later by the Vikings and people everywhere in Europe where Vikings came. From about 400 AD till about 1000 AD, where chess arrived to Europe and to Scandinavia and many switched over to chess. But in outer corners of Europe such as Ireland, Wales and Lapland, the hnefatafl game survived for hundreds of years more, then died out.

For hundreds of years the rules were believed lost and forgotten, until the botanist Carl von Linné 1732 saw Saamis in Lapland play an unknown board game and wrote down the rules in his diary. The game turned out to be Hnefatafl, by Saamis called Tablut. The game was never seen live again. Fragmented and deficient descriptions of tafl have also been found in Ireland, Wales and Iceland, but the best documented tafl game is, thanks to Linné's diary, "Tablut".

Many attempts have been done, based on the Linné diary, to reconstruct the Hnefatafl rules. The diary is in Latin mixed with a few Swedish words, and since of course Latin was a foreign language to young Linné (25 years old), it has not been quite a simple task to interpret the text.

Pages from the Linné diary (sent by Jonas Lööf "conanlibrarian", Germany):
Linné diary.
and sent by Olli Salmi:
Linné diary 1.
Linné diary 2.
Linné diary 3.


1972 Swedish historians reconstructed the version, which is now used in the Foteviken Museum. The game works, though our test tournaments found the game balance to be a bit mediocre, 17 defenders' wins per 10 attackers' wins.
More about the Foteviken version here.

1992 a Danish archaeologist attempted a reconstruction for his book "Board and Piece, Games in the Iron Age". Unfortunately it does not work so well, our test tournaments showed 38 attackers' wins per 10 defenders' wins.
The king must in this version go to a corner, in contradiction to the Linné rules, perhaps inspired by the Ockelbo runestone, and the board size is increased to 11x11.
We call this version "Skalk Hnefatafl 11x11", because the book was published by the Danish Skalk publishing house Wormianum, the hnefatafl chapter from the book was also published in the archaeological magazine Skalk, and Skalk sells a Hnefatafl game with these rules enclosed.
See more here.
The Swedish company Expomedia for its educational PC program turned the board size back into Linné's 9x9 but kept the win in corner. The balance improved but was still not good, our test tournaments showed 17 attackers' wins per 10 defenders' wins.

August 2010 John C. Ashton, New York, USA, wrote a paper about reconstruction attempts done since 1913. Ashton also attempted a reconstruction of his own, which unfortunately does not work too well.
But the paper is thorough work and can be read here.

November 2011 Nicolas Cartier, France, did a reconstruction which later turned out to work very well. Except for a couple of very small details it is a Skalk Hnefatafl edge 9x9.
Read Cartier's paper here (in French).
And the Cartier rules here (in English).
And a forum note here.

December 2011 Jonas Lööf ("conanlibrarian"), a Swede in Germany, reached a result very nearly the same as Cartier's.
Read Lööf's translation of the Linné rules here.

December 2012 a test tournament on this site showed the "Skalk Hnefatafl edge 9x9"/Cartier/Lööf game to be very well balanced.
Read more here.

Damian Walker, UK, also arrived at the Skalk Hnefatafl edge 9x9 variant very nearly.
See more here.


December 2013 the Finnish linguist Olli Salmi did a very thorough translation of the Linné rules:
http://www.uusikaupunki.fi/~olsalmi/Tablut.html
Aage Nielsen, Denmark, placed the four translations of Salmi, Ashton, Cartier and Troilius side by side for comparing:
http://aagenielsen.dk/tablut_translations.html
Accurately based on these translations, we (the users of this site) came to these reconstructed rules for the Saami game Tablut (which is Skalk Hnefatafl edge 9x9. Cartier and Lööf had come to the exact same result except for a couple of very small and unimportant details, and they've agreed to the following interpretation also):
http://aagenielsen.dk/TaflRulesEnglish.pdf
This reconstruction works very well; our test tournaments show 114 attackers' wins per 100 defenders' wins.


Saami Tablut

More about the Saami Tablut in our forum.
Test tournament.

Papers on Saami Tablut.

John C. Ashton in USA did an interesting analysis directly from one of the historic sources, the Latin diary of Carl von Linné from his excursion to Lapland in Sweden, 1732, where Linné found and described the Lappish board game called Tablut, a descendant of the at that time lost Viking game Hnefatafl. Ashton suspected the Hnefatafl game rules in Anglo-American countries to be erroneous due to a chain of translation errors and misunderstandings. Therefore Ashton started over again with a fresh translation of the Latin text of Linné.
The research paper and findings of John C. Ashton were published in the journal The Heroic Age,
read the paper, Linnaeus's Game of Tablut and its Relationship to the Ancient Viking Game Hnefatafl, here.
John C. Ashton's paper was demanded reduced to half length before publication in the games magazine. The original, full paper is much more informative and can be found here, with Ashton's kind permission.

Nicolas Cartier, France, wrote this paper on Tablut in French and permitted it to be published here.
The tablut rules deducted by Nicolas Cartier, translated into English.

Jonas Lööf ("conanlibrarian"), a Swede in Germany, translated the Linné tablut rules from Latin here.

The Finnish linguist Olli Salmi translated the Linné tablut rules from Latin here.

Aage Nielsen, Denmark, placed the four translations of Salmi, Ashton, Cartier and Troilius side by side for comparing:
http://aagenielsen.dk/tablut_translations.html


Updated 10.12.2017
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