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Hnefatafl (Tafl)DLP Game   

Period Medieval

Region Northern America, Northern Europe

Category Board, War, Custodial


Hnefatafl is a Nordic game mentioned frequently in medieval texts from Scandinavia, Iceland, and the British Isles. Hnefatafl appears to be related to a range of other tafl games, where one side has a king and a smaller number of pawns, situated in the center of the board, playing against an opponent with more pieces. The king's goal is largely thought to be to escape to one of the corners, and the opponent's goal is to capture the king.


Boards can be 7x7 or 13x13. Two players. One side has a king piece and allied pieces, the other has uniform pieces, greater in number. The central spot on the board is marked. Can be played on intersection of lines or in the squares. Captures are made.

DLP Evidence.

These rules were taken from the Historical Information ruleset.

All Rulesets

Suggested rulesets
Fetlar Suggested reconstruction from 2007 Fetlar Hnefatafl Panel.
Copenhagen Suggested rules by A. Nielsen, A. Bartley and T. Millar in 2012.

Incomplete rulesets
Historical Information Information on Hnefatafl from DLP evidence.



Ludeme Description



Browse all concepts for Hnefatafl here.


Murray 1951: 55–64.

Evidence Map

22 pieces of evidence in total. Browse all evidence for Hnefatafl here.

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Arbman, H. 1940. Birka I. Die Gräber. Tafeln. Uppsala: Almquist & Wiksells Boktryckeri-Aktiebolag.

Arbman, H. 1943. Birka I. Die Gräber. Text. Uppsala: Almquist & Wiksells Boktryckeri Aktiebolag.

Berger, F. 1998. 'Das Spielbrett auf dem Stein von Ockelbo.' Archäologische Informationen 21(2): 279–281.

Lund, G. 2010. Spill I middelalderens bysamfunn. En arkeologisk analyse av spillmateriale fra Bergen. Våren: Universitetet I Bergen.

Murray, H.J.R. 1951. A History of Board-Games Other Than Chess. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

Nicolaysen, N. 1882. Langskibet fra Gokstad. Christiania: Alb. Cammermeyer.

Rundkvist, M. and H. Williams. 2008. 'A Viking Boat Grave with Amber Gaming Pieces Excavated at Skamby, Östergötland, Sweden.' Medieval Archeology 52: 69–102.

Schulte, M. 2017. Board games of the Vikings— from hnefatafl to chess. Maal og Minne. 1–42.

Sterckx, C. 1973. 'Les trois damiers de Buckquoy (Orcades).' Annales de Bretagne et des pays de l'Ouest 80:675–689

Vigfusson, G and F. Powell. 1883. Corpus Poeticum Boreale. The Poetry of the Old Northern Tongue from the Earliest Times to the Thirteenth Century. Volume I. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

Vigfusson, G. and F. Powell. 1883a. Corpus Poeticum Boreale. The Poetry of the Old Northern Tongue from the Earliest Times to the Thirteenth Century. Volume II. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

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