Irish Fidchell / Viking Hnefatafl

We play a variety of games at events. Usually we try to keep them period, or at least not mundane (ie: we don't play Monopoly at our events).
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Comyn
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Irish Fidchell / Viking Hnefatafl

Post by Comyn » Thu Jan 10, 2008 3:00 pm

I have a version of the rules that I bring to events (see below), but here are a couple great online resources for the rules of the many variants of this game:
IMG_3295-sm.jpg
Comyn has a board and pieces that he made with Grimnir many years ago that he brings to events.The basic idea of Fidchell (also spelled Fitchneal) is this: One player is the king and will control all black pieces. The King also commands 8 men at arms. The King is in his hall (on the center square) surrounded by his men (in various starting layouts) when the player controlling the white pieces attacks. The attacking player has 16 pieces and starts along the perimeter of the board (entering the King's hall). All pieces move like a rook in chess, although alternatively the pieces may move like the King in chess - one square at a time, or may move a number of dice squares at a time in a straight line. No diagonal moves are permitted. A piece is removed when a player places a piece of his color on either end of a defending piece. The King is captured when all four sides are blocked in this manner. The object for the King is to get off the board, while for the attackers it is to slaughter the hapless King. There are many variants for play which may might discuss. It makes it more interesting to play such that the King can only escape out of one of the four corners of the board (call them the doors of the hall) though you can play that he can escape by reaching any edge square.

Fichneal / Fidchel as played by Comyn
An ancient game for two, played on a 7 by 7 grid. (Chess boards are 8 by 8).
fichneal.gif
fichneal.gif (14.99 KiB) Viewed 1818 times
Object

The object of the game for the attackers (the 16 lighter colored pieces) is to capture the King (the larger dark piece) and the object for the defenders (the 8 smaller dark pieces and a larger dark King) is to move the King off the board.

Rules

The center square belongs to the King and no other piece may land on it.

The players move one piece at a time as described below: All pieces have the move of the Rook in chess. This means that every piece may move any number of spaces horizontally or vertically in a straight line (eg. "Orthogonally"). Pieces may NOT move diagonally.

A piece is captured when it is trapped between 2 opposing pieces orthogonally. However, if the piece moves between 2 opposing pieces voluntarily, the piece is safe.

The King is captured when surrounded on all four orthogonal sides, or when surrounded on three sides plus the King's square. The King is also captured if he and another defender are enclosed on all sides such that neither of them may move.

When the King has a clear line of exit (or exits) from the board, he must announce that: "he has a way out".

Optional Rule

This game may be played by throwing a die for movement. The number thrown is the number of spaces a player may move a piece. The number may not be split so as to allow more than one piece to move at a time.
Attachments
Hnefatafl_by_Sten_Helmfrid.pdf
Hnefatafl - the Strategic Board Game of the Vikings
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Comyn
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Starting board layouts

Post by Comyn » Fri Jan 11, 2008 3:47 pm

If you looked through the Fitchneal rules posted on gamecabinet you'll notice that the board layout shown in my snapshot doesn't match any of those shown on that site. I'm not sure where I got the layout that I always used, or if i just made it up - but gamecabinet shows the corner squares as off-limits to any but the King. This makes sense, since I know we originally made the board with knotwork in the corners for some reason (that must have been it ;) The next time I play, I'll try to use the Scottish Ard-Ri layout (since my board is a 7x7).
Ard-Ri.gif
Ard-Ri.gif (2.36 KiB) Viewed 1813 times

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Cormac
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Re: Irish Fidchell / Viking Hnefatafl

Post by Cormac » Sun Jan 13, 2008 10:39 pm

Oh! The layout in the photograph is VERY close to one I use on our 9x9 board on our coffee table. There's just one extra king's man in the horizontal and vertical axis in our layout.

The updated 7x7 does make sense though. One set of rules indicated that although the corner "X" squares are for the king only, a rule variation might allow any of the king's men in the center one, and even allow the attackers to pass through that space (but not stay there).

Personally, I want to try adding dice in to the game to even out the sides. A 6 sided could be used on the 7x7 board and an 8 sided on a 9x9 board. The die would determine the maximum number of square a piece could move.

Cormac McInnean
Ollamh Gobae (Mastersmith)
Ancient Celtic Clans

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Comyn
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Tafl

Post by Comyn » Mon Jan 14, 2008 9:14 am

At Winter Thyng, Tomas and I found that using the layout in the graphic, there was virtually no way for the King to 'open' without losing a man. I think what we'll do next time is set the King's men up like I have them in the photograph and the attackers as shown in the graphic. We played so that the king could only escape through the four corners (the 'doors' of the room) which made it a lot harder. We also played that no piece was allowed to pass through the center square, but next time I think the King's men should be allowed to pass through as you suggest. Dice would introduce a random element which, although I agree might be fun to try, I don't believe a Viking warrior would really like the outcome to be affected by anything other than his own skill at 'King's Table'. Perhaps we should establish one accepted set of rules for warriors (or championships) and one, more open set for kids?

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Comyn
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Play Tafl online

Post by Comyn » Tue Feb 05, 2008 12:47 am

I thought this site was pretty cool.
http://aagenielsen.dk/hnefatafl_online.html note: now dead, 2015
http://aagenielsen.dk/hnefatafl_online.php
tafl-online.jpg
Yes, the page is in Danish, but don't be afraid! Clicking on one of the little Tafl boards should open up a java window (if you have java installed) so you can play Tafl against the computer, and there's a button you can click for English. Aonghus had suggested a game called Tablut which I found, but appears to be a Windows program and not free.

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Comyn
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Round robin Fidchell tourney

Post by Comyn » Thu Apr 15, 2010 12:14 am

At the last meeting it was discussed that I should prepare to run a Fidchell tournament at the next event. Dagr of Norseland provides an excellent summary of the rules of a similar game he calls Hnefi (I've also heard it called Tafl) in the Spring 2008 issue of the Arrow which I may decide to adopt completely but as yet am undecided. There are so many rule variants, but we must settle on one.

I believe there will be a fee of Clann coinage to enter the tournament with the pot going to the winner (and a percentage to the Clann?) I'm assuming a small number of contestants and so am not planning on a 2nd or 3rd place prize. Thoughts?

SHOULD each "match" consist of two games because the defenders have an advantage? So a match between player 1 and 4 will really be two games where 1 plays defender in the first game and 4 plays defender in the 2nd game? Problem with that is that with any more than 4 contestants the number of games played becomes pretty unwieldy!

A game should take no more than about 20 minutes but I believe we may need to use egg timers to keep them going because otherwise a tournament with a larger number of contestants could drag on all day and theres lots of other things to do.

I'm thinking of using a point system which could be: winner of both games in a match = 3 points, winner as attacker = 2 points, winner as defender = 1 point. Haven't thought that through well enough yet.

I have only one 7x7 board, so will need to start making some more (I want to have at least 4 handy). These may be cloth or leather or if I find gumption to make wood boards I will.

I've posted this in the Fidchell forum post because a starting board layout needs to be decided on as well and there is some pertinent discussion about that above.

The rest of this post contains some code to generate a round "Round Robin" list which can be used so that all contestants meet all other contestants. If we decided we wanted to play more games, we could just pick new player numbers out of a hat and use the same list over again.

3 Player Round Robin:
-----------------------
Round #1 : 1-3
Round #2 : 1-2 3-2

4 Player Round Robin:
-----------------------
Round #1 : 2-3 1-4
Round #2 : 1-2 4-3
Round #3 : 3-1 2-4

5 Player Round Robin:
-----------------------
Round #1 : 4-2 1-5
Round #2 : 1-2 3-4 5-3
Round #3 : 3-1 2-5
Round #4 : 1-4 2-3 5-4

6 Player Round Robin:
-----------------------
Round #1 : 2-5 3-4 1-6
Round #2 : 1-2 5-3 6-4
Round #3 : 3-1 4-5 2-6
Round #4 : 1-4 2-3 6-5
Round #5 : 5-1 4-2 3-6

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Comyn
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new fidchel board

Post by Comyn » Sun Apr 25, 2010 10:45 pm

Here's a quickie fidchel board I made out of scrap today. This one is pegged (there have been some pegged boards found which might have been "travel boards" or perhaps its just less frustrating when you knock into the table ;) I may make a couple more "boards" out of cloth or leather and just makeshift pieces like acorns and such, but if we can even get 5 people playing in the "tourney" I'll be surprised anyway and even then we only need two boards.
fidchel.JPG

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