Hnefatafl World Championship

Maybe one day I’ll make the trip out to Shetland.  I’ll have to time it so I can be there for the Hnefatafl World Championship in Fetlar.  I disagree with their rules on historical grounds, as the Fetlar rules bear little resemblance to my best reconstruction of the historical (Viking Age) rules of hnefatafl.  The Fetlar rules are based upon a translation of Linnaeus’s rules for Tablut, but with several important differences.  The Fetlar Hnefatafl Panel has adjusted their rules in some distinctly modern ways to seek a strategically balanced game (no player has an advantage over the other), but the asymmetrical forces and unequal objectives of hnefatafl produce an inherently unbalanced game.  This is why I believe the game was not intended to be balanced.  I believe it was a challenge (play the king and escape as quickly as possible) with an adversary (the other player’s objective is not necessarily to capture the king, but only to delay his escape). Any strategic balance is found in turning tables to play a second round.  After proving your ability to escape, you must foil your gaming companion’s attempt to affect an even quicker escape.  Download a handy trifold leaflet of the Fetlar rules here (PDF).


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