Viking Tablut

Viking Tablut

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The family of Tafl games is at least 1,500 years old and Tablut, this version of the game, is based upon a game found in Lapland in 1732. This type of game is most closely associated with the Vikings who brought it to all parts of Scandinavia, Britain and many parts of Europe and Russia.

Tablut translates as "Kings Table" in Icelandic and it is a fascinating game of unequal forces and different objectives. The dark Muscovites aim to surround and kill the enemy King while the blonde Swedes must protect their King as he tries to escape to a corner of the board. The game is simple to learn but can require deep thought; some believe it is a forerunner of chess.

The Tablut box is made from hardwood and measures 22.5 x 22.5 x 5.5cm (9 x 9 x 2.25 inches). The top is hinged and opens so that the pieces and rules can be stored inside the box.

Contains small parts. Not suitable for children under 3 years.

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The Origin of Tafl Games

Games of the Tafl family are distinguished by the unequal size of the opposing forces. The objective is usually for the force of fewer numbers to take all the members of the larger forces whose aim is generally to stop them doing so. A fragment of a gaming board of 18 x 18 squares, found in Wimose, Fyn, Denmark dated prior to AD400 is the first evidence of a game called Tafl, which also regularly appears in the early Icelandic sagas. Tafl apparently developed into Hnefatafl (which literally translates as 'Kings Table'), which was played by the Saxons as well as other Northern Europeans on the same size board and which is mentioned in Icelandic sagas from the beginning of the fourteenth century. The Vikings took the game with them on their forages which helped it to spread far and wide.

It isn't known exactly how either Tafl or Hnefatafl were played but evidence shows that the game of Tablut, described by a traveller called Linnaeus during his trip to Finland in 1732, is likely to have been very similar to Hnefatafl. The later British game Fox & Geese, still played today is an ancestor of the game converted to use a chessboard.

You can learn more about the History of Tablut from The Online Guide to Traditional Games.


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