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The Complete List of Tafl Games
Moshe Callen
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ἄνδρα μοι ἔννεπε, μοῦσα, πολύτροπον, ὃς μάλα πολλὰ/ πλάγχθη, ἐπεὶ Τροίης ἱερὸν πτολίεθρον ἔπερσεν./...
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μῆνιν ἄειδε θεὰ Πηληϊάδεω Ἀχιλῆος/ οὐλομένην, ἣ μυρί᾽ Ἀχαιοῖς ἄλγε᾽ ἔθηκε,/...
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UPDATE: When I wrote this Geeklist, only one of the games I wanted to list had a BGG entry even though I am by no mans the first person on BGG to refer to them. I took a few moments and submitted them; the nifty new microbadge I just added I got with the GeekGold I got from it AND BGG is now more complete!


The modern name of the tafl or tavl family of games reflects both these games association with Germanic cultures and the Germanic origins of the English language itself. [The word originally means "board" or "table" but came to mean "a board game" and confusingly it was applied to all such games.] Yet, this type of game also has such strong roots in Celtic tradition that it is impossible to be certain who influenced whom in the games' development. The Celts certainly arrived in Western Europe before the Germans, but the two peoples were in varying degrees of contact from prehistoric times.

Most of the known traditional tafl games are not currently included in the BGG database. The point of this Geeklist therefore is to list these games with links to rules.

The characteristic features of a tafl game are:
1. Some square board of size nxn is used.
2. Generally the number of pieces on each side is unequal.
3. One side wins by getting a king piece which starts at the center of the board either to a corner of the board or in some cases simply the edge of the board, while the other side wins by capturing the king piece.
4. All pieces move like rooks in chess.
5. All pieces except possibly the king are captured by custodial capture, i.e., an opponent's piece immediately on either side of the piece in a horizontal or vertical but not a diagonal line. [As noted, in some games the king is captured differently and may or may not himself capture.]
6. Only the king piece can land on the center of the board and possibly the corners.
7. In spite of the diagrams in the sources I found on-line, every known historical tafl game was played like Go on the intersections of lines, not in the spaces.

What varies is:
1. the size of the board,
2. who goes first,
3. capture rules relating to the king,
4. whether a the king must reach a corner or merely an edge of the board,
5. initial position of pieces,
6. whether or not other pieces can pass through the center of the board.
7. Some variants used dice to determine either if a player could take a turn [e.g., odds yes but evens no] or how far a piece could be moved. Tawlbyund is specifically thought to have used dice and some claim the use or lack of dice is the only respective difference between Fitchneall and Brandubh. This may well be, but dice only detract from the game if my opinion.

N.B.:
The games used as headers have in general no relation whatsoever to the game described and are merelyused to alphabetize the list of games.

A good overview with specifics of some games can be found at: http://www.gamecabinet.com/history/Hnef.html.

If I have inadvertantly omitted a game from this list of made some blunder in recountign these games, additions and corrections are welcome.
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1. Board Game: Alea evangelii [Average Rating:7.00 Unranked]
Moshe Callen
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ἄνδρα μοι ἔννεπε, μοῦσα, πολύτροπον, ὃς μάλα πολλὰ/ πλάγχθη, ἐπεὶ Τροίης ἱερὸν πτολίεθρον ἔπερσεν./...
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μῆνιν ἄειδε θεὰ Πηληϊάδεω Ἀχιλῆος/ οὐλομένην, ἣ μυρί᾽ Ἀχαιοῖς ἄλγε᾽ ἔθηκε,/...
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The game is called Alea Evangelii after the first two words in a manuscript where the game is described. The rules can be found at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alea_evangelii_(game). Some websites erroneously claim this means is the proper name of the game; it isn't and no one knows what was, because the manuscript we have describing it does not say. Yet this tafl game is played on a 19x19 board identical to a go-ban and is the only game we know of, or at least so many claim, which derives from Anglo-saxon England.
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2. Board Game: Ard Ri [Average Rating:5.73 Unranked]
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ἄνδρα μοι ἔννεπε, μοῦσα, πολύτροπον, ὃς μάλα πολλὰ/ πλάγχθη, ἐπεὶ Τροίης ἱερὸν πτολίεθρον ἔπερσεν./...
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μῆνιν ἄειδε θεὰ Πηληϊάδεω Ἀχιλῆος/ οὐλομένην, ἣ μυρί᾽ Ἀχαιοῖς ἄλγε᾽ ἔθηκε,/...
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Ard Ri meaning "High King" is a traditional Scottish tafl game. It's rules are must better established seemingly than some of the others. It is played on a 7x7 grid and the rules can be found at http://www.pipcom.com/~colyne/Article/SCA_game_tafl.htm.
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3. Board Game: Brandubh [Average Rating:6.81 Unranked]
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ἄνδρα μοι ἔννεπε, μοῦσα, πολύτροπον, ὃς μάλα πολλὰ/ πλάγχθη, ἐπεὶ Τροίης ἱερὸν πτολίεθρον ἔπερσεν./...
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μῆνιν ἄειδε θεὰ Πηληϊάδεω Ἀχιλῆος/ οὐλομένην, ἣ μυρί᾽ Ἀχαιοῖς ἄλγε᾽ ἔθηκε,/...
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I am listing the actual game Brandubh or Brandub under the modern game of the same name which barely little or no resemblence to the traditional game in order to emphasize that very point. A leaflet with the rules to this game is linked to Hnefatafl. The rules and history are also less thoroughly discussed at http://hem.passagen.se/melki9/tablut.htm.

I should note that the equipment I personally use to play this game with is properly played on a board of 7x7 intersecting lines, with pieces placed on the intersections of lines and not in the spaces, is simply a chessboard with draughtsmen and a single chess pawn.
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4. Board Game: Fidhchell [Average Rating:6.96 Unranked]
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ἄνδρα μοι ἔννεπε, μοῦσα, πολύτροπον, ὃς μάλα πολλὰ/ πλάγχθη, ἐπεὶ Τροίης ἱερὸν πτολίεθρον ἔπερσεν./...
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μῆνιν ἄειδε θεὰ Πηληϊάδεω Ἀχιλῆος/ οὐλομένην, ἣ μυρί᾽ Ἀχαιοῖς ἄλγε᾽ ἔθηκε,/...
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The Irish game variously spelled fidhchell or fitchneal or fithcheall is the subject of much debate. The variance of spelling simply reflects the non-standardization of Old Irish [Gaelic] pronunciation and therefore spelling. When pronouncing these names, one should realize that a e or i which occurs in combination with another vowel is generally not pronounced separately but indicates only that the adjacent consonant is slender, which is to say palatalized. The h is used as a mark of lenition or aspiration and hence th becomes roughly pronounced like the same letters in English "think" and the ch as in Scottish "loch". Just to add to the confusion of names, the name in modern Irish Gaelic means Chess.

Some scholars say the name refered not to any tafl game but in fact to a form of Petteia. Others say that the name was used for the diceless form of Brandubh, the latter game properly referring only to the form of the game using dice.

If this name does refer to a separate game, it would be a game played on 9x9 not 7x7 grid. The basic rules are described at http://alumnus.caltech.edu/~leif/games/Hnefetafl/fitchneal.h... but this site leaves out several details. Namely, if the king is by the center square so that an opposing piece cannot be placed on that side of the king, the the king can be captured by being surrounded on only three sides rather than four and similarly, if the king is beside a defender, the attacker can do same thing, i.e., simply place pieces on three sides in order to capture the king. The site does mention that only the king can either land on or pass through the center square but not that attackers move first. There is also a stub article http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fitchneal on wikipedia which concurs on the initial placement of pieces. Notably the corners are occupied which emphasizes that the king need only reach an edge of the board, not necessarily a corner, for the player playing the defenders to win.
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5. Board Game: Gwyddbwyll [Average Rating:5.60 Unranked]
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μῆνιν ἄειδε θεὰ Πηληϊάδεω Ἀχιλῆος/ οὐλομένην, ἣ μυρί᾽ Ἀχαιοῖς ἄλγε᾽ ἔθηκε,/...
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Some scholars say that the Welsh name Gwyddbwyll originally meant the same tafl game played in Ireland under the name Fitchneal. Like the latter, the Welsh name has confusingly come to mean Chess in modern Welsh. Most other scholars however disagree that this is the same as the Irish game which was played on a 7x7 grid.

Two opinions exist among those who maintain that the name Gwyddbwyll refers to a purely Welsh game. The website http://cy.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gwyddbwyll describes chess at the top of the page and this game below, referring to it as Gwyddbwyll Geltaidd to avoid confusion. It notes however that the game is properly called merely Gwyddbwyll, the longer name meaning merely "Gaelic Gwyddbwyll". This website also shows the initial set-up and gives a brief but incomplete description of the game in Welsh. The game according to this opinion is played on 9x9 grid and the object for the defending player is to get the king to a corner. Rules are otherwise presumably like Brandubh.

The alternatives opinion that the game was played on a 7x7 grid is described at http://www.celtnet.org.uk/miscellaneous/gwyddbwyll.html. The initial set-up described there may be slightly speculative, but again it is believed that the other rules not described there were identical to Brandubh.
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6. Board Game: Hnefatafl [Average Rating:6.50 Overall Rank:1942]
Moshe Callen
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ἄνδρα μοι ἔννεπε, μοῦσα, πολύτροπον, ὃς μάλα πολλὰ/ πλάγχθη, ἐπεὶ Τροίης ἱερὸν πτολίεθρον ἔπερσεν./...
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μῆνιν ἄειδε θεὰ Πηληϊάδεω Ἀχιλῆος/ οὐλομένην, ἣ μυρί᾽ Ἀχαιοῖς ἄλγε᾽ ἔθηκε,/...
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This is the only actual tafl game I'm aware of currently in the BGG database. It is the most well-known of the game family and was popular in Norse Scandinavia.

http://www.gamecabinet.com/history/Hnef.html describes it.
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7. Board Game: Large Hnefatafl [Average Rating:6.71 Unranked]
Moshe Callen
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ἄνδρα μοι ἔννεπε, μοῦσα, πολύτροπον, ὃς μάλα πολλὰ/ πλάγχθη, ἐπεὶ Τροίης ἱερὸν πτολίεθρον ἔπερσεν./...
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μῆνιν ἄειδε θεὰ Πηληϊάδεω Ἀχιλῆος/ οὐλομένην, ἣ μυρί᾽ Ἀχαιοῖς ἄλγε᾽ ἔθηκε,/...
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Large Hnefatafl requires a 13x13 grid to play. The rules are described at http://hem.passagen.se/melki9/tablut.htm. This is also a Norse version.
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8. Board Game: Tablut [Average Rating:6.49 Overall Rank:4946]
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ἄνδρα μοι ἔννεπε, μοῦσα, πολύτροπον, ὃς μάλα πολλὰ/ πλάγχθη, ἐπεὶ Τροίης ἱερὸν πτολίεθρον ἔπερσεν./...
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μῆνιν ἄειδε θεὰ Πηληϊάδεω Ἀχιλῆος/ οὐλομένην, ἣ μυρί᾽ Ἀχαιοῖς ἄλγε᾽ ἔθηκε,/...
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Tablut is played on a 9x9 grid and is described at http://hem.passagen.se/melki9/tablut.htm. A leaflet describing the history and rules of this game can also be found linked to Hnefatafl. The game was originally recorded by Kinnaeus in Lappland but is thought by a few scholars once to have been played throughout Sweden. Given the lack of documentation of this game before Linnaeus' account, I find that opinion difficult to maintain, but it exists nonetheless.
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9. Family: Tafl
Moshe Callen
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ἄνδρα μοι ἔννεπε, μοῦσα, πολύτροπον, ὃς μάλα πολλὰ/ πλάγχθη, ἐπεὶ Τροίης ἱερὸν πτολίεθρον ἔπερσεν./...
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μῆνιν ἄειδε θεὰ Πηληϊάδεω Ἀχιλῆος/ οὐλομένην, ἣ μυρί᾽ Ἀχαιοῖς ἄλγε᾽ ἔθηκε,/...
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This is the family of tafl games here on BGG.
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10. Board Game: Tawlbyund [Average Rating:6.00 Unranked]
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ἄνδρα μοι ἔννεπε, μοῦσα, πολύτροπον, ὃς μάλα πολλὰ/ πλάγχθη, ἐπεὶ Τροίης ἱερὸν πτολίεθρον ἔπερσεν./...
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μῆνιν ἄειδε θεὰ Πηληϊάδεω Ἀχιλῆος/ οὐλομένην, ἣ μυρί᾽ Ἀχαιοῖς ἄλγε᾽ ἔθηκε,/...
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The Welsh tafl game tawlbyund or tawl bwrdd is thought by many scholars to have obtained its name meaning "throwing board" specifically because it most often was played with dice. Linguistically this makes sense but evidence is otherwise scarce. The game was definitely played on an 11x11 grid and a diceless version is described at http://www.gamecabinet.com/history/Hnef.html. The dice if used would as noted above either have determined if a player got to take a turn or how far he could move a piece.
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