Friday, 1 July 2016

Abstract Games Continued - Hnefatafl Review

I like to think that games have been around for a long time, and that the games that we play now are only the latest versions of those that were played hundreds, maybe thousands of years ago.  The problem, of course, is in finding the tenuous links between the things that we think were games, and things that actually were games.

In this case, there are solid historical references to the notion that the Vikings played this as a game of strategy, not only to pass the time, but as a way of educating the young warriors in the ways of war.  

I got a copy of this some years ago, and while the materials that my copy is made of may not be the ones they used back then, it's an excellent game with the usual tenets of being able to teach the game in a few minutes, but it taking years to become a master at it.

This is Hnefatafl...

In advance, I know that there are a number of variations on this game, and that the victory conditions and piece set up can and does vary from the one that I've displayed here.  The playing of the game, however, does not vary at all.

In the centre are the King (the green taller piece), and his guards (the green flat pieces), at the edges are the raiders (the red flat pieces).  

Each turn, a player moves one of their pieces any number of squares on the board, but in a straight line only, as a Rook would in Chess.  

They may not move over other pieces (their own or the opponents), and the idea of the game is to trap the other pieces between two of their own.

And the red piece is captured...
The ultimate aim of the game is for the Red pieces to catch the Green King between two of them, or for the Green King to get (in this version anyway) to the edge of the board, whereupon he has made his escape.  The best way for this is to move to a location where whichever way you go in the next turn, you can reach an edge.  

Other variations include the king having to get to one of the four Burgs (Squares) in the corners, a game that is far more difficult for the Greens to win, but more satisfying (for me anyway) in terms of tactical play.

The more I study Abstract games, the more I'm seeing that it's all about having the simplest of rules to make the most complex of games, something that seems to be quite the inverse of games where there are hundreds of rules to observe, thereby limiting the nature of the moves you can carry out.  As always, if anyone has any more recommendations for me to take a look at, I am interested, please get in touch.