VIKING FACTS

Hnefatafl

Pieces of the game Hnefatafl
Hnefatafl
Hnefatafl is an ancient Norse board game that was played by the Vikings. The Vikings spread this game to many of the areas they traveled to including Iceland, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, and England. On this page you will find information on how the game was played, where it originated from, and who played it.

Hnefatafl Introduction

The game was originally called tafl which translates to table or board. As the medieval Nordic people began to be play other board games they began to call the original tafl game Hnefatafl. The exact meaning of Hnefatafl is disputed but it is most likely "King's table". As mentioned above tafl is the ancient Scandinavian word for table. The beginning of the word probably is derived from the word hnefi which translates to "fist" and refers to the center king piece in the game. Hnefatafl was probably derived from a Roman game by the name of Latrunculi. Latrunculi was probably derived from the ancient Greek game Petteia. Hnefatafl was very popular throughout Europe up until the 12th century when chess (skak-tafl) became the most popular game.

How Hnefatafl is Played (Rules)

There were many variations of how the game was played and the size of the board however the list below describes the rules they all have in common. Besides the rules listed above there is no clear description of how the game was played by the Norse people. The closest description we have is by a man named Linnaeus from the 1732 diary of his travels. Many of the rules listed below are derived from his diary and other documents about the game. Listed with several of the rules are some of the variations that may be used.