Hnefatafl – Historia i zasady gry wikingów [ENG SUB]

Hnefatafl – Historia i zasady gry wikingów [ENG SUB]


Hnefatafl. What is it and where it came from? Welcome! Today I would like to tell you about tafl games Particularly about most renowned tafl game called Hnefatafl Which I have here with me Tafl games were very popular in Early Medieval Europe not only in Scandinavia, they are also mentioned in British Isles and Northern Europe (Germania) Those games have been played from Ireland to Finland Their origins are covered with mist of mystery, but most scholars think that they originate from Roman boardgames especially from famous Ludus Latrunculorum the board game similar to modern chess played by Roman legionaries between rapes, plunders & slaughter of civilians Legionary with his comrades could sit down & spend time nicely Probably their activities were an inspiration for local Germans & Celts, who made similar games on their own like these, we can see here Scandinavian Hnefatafl or Irish Fidchell I would like to add that the word “tafl” derives from Latin “tablum” – table Game as a status marker Board games were played widely in Medieval by peasants, soldiers, priests kings Such board game or rather proficiency in playing could be a mark of a social status Peasants had no time for refining their skills but the nobles had time & resources to pursue their proficiency in board games So if you were a medieval traveler who traveled and you met a stranger who was an outstanding player very likely, you met someone of noble origins who spent some time on learning how to play A lot of references about tafl games came not only from Scandinavia, but also from Ireland In Ireland we have a story about a local, petty king who divided a day for three occupations 1st – he looked after his henchmen who trained martial arts. after that he sat with board games probably he played with likewise noblemen, counselors, priests and chat during play and later, after play, he started drinking and drank until he slept The next notice came also from Ireland where one of the local lords left a letter-epitaph where he summarised all his noble achievements necessary for every young nobleman among them was a mastery in Fidchell a Celtic tafl game Scandinavians imagined their own gods playing tafl games but gods used a different board bigger, with golden paws representing kings, wizards and noblemen God’s hnefatafl board will be scattered after Ragnarok but as we know from Nordin mythology the world will resurrect one day and this board with golden paws will be used again by a new generation of gods and everything will start again Unbalanced game? Some say that hnefatafl is an unbalanced game that support defending side too much It is not true Hnefatafl is asymmetrical game Sides aren’t equal but the lack of balance is caused by the bad translation of rules written down in Latin by Carl Linnaeus who observed in XVIII century among native Sami people Rules written by Linnaeus were translated by a guy named Smith to English and his translation was very poor and full of mistakes In “Smith’s Rules” the king could be beaten only if surrounded on the throne or next to him and was immune everywhere else It was a fatal blow for a game we have no written rules for Hnefatafl from the medieval period so you can play as you like but this version was completely unbalanced Rules We have no complete, written reliable, early medieval rules for any of the tafl games Nobody ever found two identical boardgames So we can assume that there were countless local versions Majority of rules for henfatafl is based on the work of previously mentioned Linnaeus Other relations comes from legends and sagas are incomplete or contain contradictory information For example, Hervarsaga mentions playing Henfatafl with dices some sagas mention the king as “weaponless” Linnaeus claim that king could slay other pawns So… we can reconstruct all the rule with the grain of salt Rules I am showing here are based on Linnaeus story with some adjustments done by us after playing countless games Most of all Hnefatafl is asymetrical there are two sides with an unequal number of pawns Defending side with a king surrounded by 12 soldiers Attacking side has 24 soldiers King is always placed in the center this place is called the Throne only the king can sit on the throne other soldiers can pass the throne if it is empty although they can’t stop there Game is started by the invader moving one of his soldiers then the defender has to move every player has to make a one move during his turn, you can’t miss the move or move two pawns Pawns are moved in the straight line, you can’t move diagonally, so you can move that way or that the invader moved that way and now the defender counterattack Pawn is “killed” when he is embraced on two sides two opposing sides only invader’s pawn has been removed A pawn can enter between two enemies it is called “the charge” without been killed he made a charge, it was his initiative King is bound with a different set of rules He can be beaten with three methods If he is on the throne he has to be surrounded on four sides if he is next to the throne the invader has to surround him on three sides on all other places king is beaten the same way as other pawns Surrounded on two sides King in our rules can attack other pawns so he can be easily used that way The defender has to move a king to one of the four corners The invader has to intercept a king before he can run away We added one more rule that is sometimes used among other reenactors that corners are treated as enemies pawns It makes harder for the invader to to block escape way for a king The invader could easily block a king and it would end the game quickly it would be too easy the game would end fast in this version, corners are treated as enemies for both defenders & invaders if you have an invader pawn here king can kill the opponent it works the same way if a defending pawn is placed next to the corner important addition only a king can enter corners Here we see a similar board based on finding from Ballinderry called The Game from the Man Island Designs are characteristic for this island this game was probably a variation of tafl game we don’t know for sure Original pawns were lost so I “reconstructed” a new using one saga as a source Saga told that defenders were white invaders were red The volume of pawns also is debatable there are no sources we assume it was a tafl game because a central place and corners were marked with special carvings it reminds hnefatafl I adopted this version The invader has eight pawns The defender has a king and four pawns The goal is exactly the same as with hnefatafl 11×11 squares King has to run away and reach on of the corner squares rules are the same initial setup is different and there is less pawns Trivia some archeologists claim this board found in Ireland is a reconstruction of Ireland with five historical provinces four provinces on the outskirts and one province in the center where the high king had his headquarters in some sense this board can be a reenactment of such situation the king had been surrounded by invaders and tries run away to one of the friendly provinces where he find a rescue Hnefatafl Twilight Hnefatafl became with time ousted by chess that became exponentially popular in early and became a dominant game in late middle ages among higher social classes same happened to other tafl games henfatafl once popular among elites game of the gods fade away and survived only among peasants, hunters same like those Sami meet by Linnaeus The last evidence was recorder in XIX century by a man who saw Sami hunters playing a similar game we have no later evidence those games extinct but we can see some revival now

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