Viking Talf / Hnefatafl Game
Make Your Own Medieval
Talf or hnefatafl is an ancient board game with origins in ancient Celtic and Germanic culture.
Talf is a wargame of attack and defence strategy sometimes referred to as Viking chess. Whereby a king and a small guard occupy the castle at the centre of the board. A larger force of attackers surround the king and guard.
There are many variations of the game which can be played. This style of board is commonly called the Brandubh (meaning black raven).
As Scandinavian people travelled across Europe, they took the game with them. Introducing the game to Anglo Saxon England, Scotland, Ireland, France, Iceland, Germany and Eastern Europe
Talf remained popular through the middle ages but started to decline in popularity after the 12th century when it was replaced by chess.
The game board is made from suede leather and has the image of Odin's ravens Hugin and Munin in each corner. The game board has a leather cord so that after play the board can be gathered and tied for transport and storage. The game includes white, black and green colour game pieces.
The game is a great education tool to encourage conversation about Viking history and good for keeping the kids occupied.
When open the board measures approximately 30cm by 30cm in size.
A good overview of the game can be found from several presenters on YouTube.
A brief summary of the rules is below:
The green king piece starts on the castle (centre square). The four defending white colour pieces start by protect the king on either side. The eight attacking darker colour pieces start on the sides to make a cross.
The defending player wins if the king escapes to the edge of the board. The attacking player wins if they capture the king while he attempts to escape.
Any piece can move in a straight line up or down and sideways (not diagonal) any number of vacant spaces. The path of the movement must be vacant and not blocked by another piece. No piece may jump over another piece in its path.
To capture a piece or the king the piece needs to be surrounded on two opposite sides.
If the king is on the castle spot, he cannot be captured unless surrounded on all four sides.
If the king is on a square adjoining the castle, he must be surrounded on the three remaining sides to be captured.When the castle is not occupied by the king any piece may be captured by being pinned with an opposing piece against the castle.