This game, also known as "the Viking game", is one of the rare examples of asymmetric traditional games. In it, one player will lead an army of 12 warriors and their king (sometimes called the Swedes) in an attempt to guide the leader to safety. The second player will lead an army of 24 warriors (sometimes called the Muscovites), in an attempt to capture the enemy king. This game was very popular in northern Europe around the 5th until the 12th century of the Common Era, which includes the Viking Age, and it well deserves to become popular again.
For 2 players, with an approximate duration of 15 minutes. A fast paced game suited for children.
There are many variations of "tafl" games in Germanic and Celtic traditions. Tafl means simply "board", but it refers to a family of games. The size of the board vary in these games along with the number of pieces, but the ratio of 2:1 pieces for attackers and defenders remains constant.
Vikings have made this game popular in northern Europe, where it would be common from the 5th century until the 12th century, being then replaced by chess.
The exact rules of the game unfortunately did not survive to the 21st century, but it can be fairly recreated with archaeological findings and the numerous mentions to the game found in the Norse Sagas. We know the game was played well into the 18th century by the Saami people of Lapland, and the most extensive explanation of the rules available to us come from an explorer named Linneus, that has observed them playing in 1732.
Since he did not speak the local language, though, his text is still ambiguous and flawed. Besides the asymmetry of the game (in classic games, players most often control the same number of pieces), another of its distinct features is the way pieces are captured - by sandwiching them among enemy pieces. This feature indicates the roman game Ludus Latrunculorum as a possible ancestor of tafl games. If this is true, then the ancient game of Hnefatafl may have even older roots, because the Roman game can be traced back Greek games dating at least to the 9th century BCE.
The best known variations of the Hnefatafl are the Alea Evangelii, the Tawlbwrdd, the Brandubh, the Ard ri and the Tablut.
A game called Seega, probably related to tafl games via the Roman Ludus Latrunculorum, is still played today in Egypt and Somalia.
For more information about the Hnefatafl, visit Hnefatafl World Championship page at fetlar.org. The championship is held in Scotland.