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Hnefetafl is a Norse game dating back to at least the 4th century, probably derived from the Roman game of Latrunculi (which was probably a copy of, or evolution from, the Greek game of Petteia). Hnefetafl was played widely in Scandanavia and in the areas the Vikings visited, such as Scotland, Ireland, Wales, and England. After the 11th or 12th century, it was largely displaced by chess (skak-tafl), although it was played into the 17th century by the Saami.
The object of the game is to capture the defender's king, or to get the king to escape by reaching a board corner.
All pieces move in a straight line along a row or column (no diagonals, much as a rook moves in chess). The light squares in the center and corners are called "king's squares", and only the king may land on them, although any piece may move over them. Pieces may not be jumped. Ordinary pieces (but not the king) are captured by being bracketed (called custodial capture) by two enemy pieces across from each other. The king's square can also be used (in place of a piece) to capture an attacker or to capture the king. A piece may safely move between two enemy pieces, though; only the moving player may capture.
The king may be captured by being surrounded on all four sides by enemy pieces or the king's square. The board edge does not count as surrounding a piece; a king that is against a board edge cannot be captured.
The attacker moves first.
Copyright © 1998, Leif Bennett. All rights reserved.