My own thoughts are that the game is best as it is here at brainking with no hostile citadels and the king always with a four man capture. The hostile citadels would make it too easy for black to place two men right beside each corner and occupy the only spaces the king can escape to. And two man capture of the king would make for very short games in black's favor.
Son of Monse: I'm wondering if the writer of this article has read our discussion here on Brainking about the Latin rules!
In my opinion a good translation should first look at the text and context. Then, a translation/interpretation should be tested against actual high-quality gameplay.
A rule-set which is unsupported by the text - such as corner Tablut or even citadel Tablut - might be an interesting modern variant but doesn't have much to do with the historical game. On the other hand, if rules based on a translation/interpretation of the text lead to a broken game, it's unlikely the game was actually played that way.
I think the rules we use on Brainking are based on a translation which is problematic but not impossible. After a lot of games, we now see white has an advantage even on the higher levels. However, the game is not (quickly) broken and we can imagine it kept people interested until chess invaded the north.
Now let's look at the interpretation offered by the new translation: 1) The citadel part looks far-fetched and is unsupported by the text; it's based on the outlook of the board which is more naturally explained as just showing the starting point of the black pieces. Introducing the citadels as new game elements pushes this into the direction of a modern variant instead of a reconstruction. I'm inclined to ignore this part of the article.
2) The other part is the capturing of the king, i.e. the king can capture and the king can be captured by 2 when outside (but not next to) the castle. I think this is the more interesting part. Looking at the Latin text only, the interpretation offered in the article is more natural as it doesn't need to come up with the "unarmed king myth" and the "etiam rex" bit doesn't need to be changed or explained away. So, before turning to the gameplay - the ultimate judge - I'd say this is a big plus for the 'new' interpretation. The crucial question is: does this rule-set offer a playable game, interesting enough to be kept alive for centuries? Compared to our rules, it will be a lot easier for black to capture the king, which is only partly compensated by the king being able to take part in captures.
I don't want to jump to conclusions without playing the new rule-set - did anyone tried to play it yet?
Does one side have a big advantage? How does it interact with the "jump-over-the-castle rule"? And what about the infamous perpetual raichi?
On Dragonheelslair they will implement this new version too - they already have corner tablut and the one we have here, After trying a few times to win a game against myself I don't think white stands any chance, but we'll see.
Tibs: The article was published years ago but I didn't want it to become lost & forgotten. Probably the emailaccount of Abstract Games Magazine is not working anymore as the magazine closed down years ago. Actually after reading this article I joined Brainking to play Tablut as the game looked interesting.
Groeneveld: I would say all first moves are playable except d5-d7 which obstructs your own pieces. C5-c7 looks a little suspect as well as it closes the 7th row, but some interesting games have been played regardless.
Fwiffo: No only Fencer (the site owner) would deal with that. The discussion board moderator's basic job is to ensure that the board adheres to Brainking.com discussion board rules. It is even better when the moderator knows a lot about the topic (as you obviously do), and can participate and get the board active. (I know little about Tablut! As a member of Brainking Staff, I am simply watching over the board, because of the lack of a volunteer)
Of course, it is also required that a moderator be of Brain Knight or Brain Rook membership level.
Fwiffo: The article seems to suggest that the Sami invented this game. The game was invented by the Vikings. The Sami are most known for playing this version. It is possible it is the oldest version of tafl, but the game design itself is characteristically Viking.
Son of Monse: I'd be interested to read more on your findings and arguments. The only historical investigation I've done on this matter is finding the rules in Latin a few years back - but I don't know much about either the Sami culture or history, nor the Viking.
Fwiffo: Certainly! I would love to do a series of posts about this.
The Sami are a nomadic "indigenous" people who throughout history have survived in northern Scandinavia by hunting, trapping, gathering, and fishing; with elk and reindeer providing the resources for food, clothing, tools, etc. It was animal furs that primarily attracted the Viking traders (Hall, 2007). The Sami are quite peaceful and humble, and it may be because of this their relationship with the Vikings was one of “mutual toleration” (Hall, 2007). In many areas, the Sami paid “tribute” (taxes) to Viking chieftains (and merchants, most notably the famous Viking merchant Ottar) and would do so without resistance. The taxes were primarily in the form of hides, feathers, whalebone, and rope made of whaleskin and sealskin (Ferguson, 2009).
The Vikings, however, are a complete contrast to the Sami. It goes without saying their very name is synonymous with war, violence, bloodshed, and raiding. One only needs to look at their gods (particularly Odin, Thor, and Tyr) to see what war meant to them. War was glorified in every aspect of their lives, including song and poetry (and their games). Viking life revolved around the war-band which consisted of a self-styled “king” and his men (Clements, 2005).
Tablut is a game that is the playing out of a battle or war. In my opinion, this type of game does not depict the Sami at all. It is the Vikings who were obsessed with violence and war, not the Sami. So while I see friendly play between Sami and Viking (both lovers of games), I do not see the Sami inventing this game of war.
Sources: Hall, Richard. The World of the Vikings. Thames & Hudson, 2007. Page 32. Ferguson, Robert. The Vikings. Penguin Books. 2009. Page 152. Clements, Jonathan. The Vikings. Running Press. 2005. Page 52.
Kings, bodyguards, and castles (Viking ring fortresses, ramparts, burgs etc.) are deeply ingrained in the Viking’s culture, not the Sami‘s. “The king often fought at the head of his army, surrounded by a bodyguard of his best men.” (Roesdahl, 1987). Sound familiar? This trait is unique to the Vikings. Viking kings fought beside their men for several reasons, primarily because unlike the rest of Europe, Vikings did not believe in the Divine Right of kings. Another interesting example of this is that Viking kings themselves were not immune to being sacrificed to a god if the situation was dire enough (Ferguson, 2009). A Viking chieftain/king had to not only be wealthy, but had to have successfully led a war-band to a victory in battle. Else, you could not be a chieftain.
Sources: Roesdahl, Else. The Vikings. Penguin Press. 1987. Page 144. Ferguson, Robert. The Vikings. Penguin Books. 2009. Page 33.
Getting into the setup of the game, it is first worth noting the number of squares on a tablut board. The board is nine by nine squares. In addition, the number of defending pieces is nine (including the king). “Germanic and Norse pagans believed that the numbers 3 and 9, as well as their multiples, had special powers.” (Field, 2009). The two most well-known recurring Viking festivals, Leire in Denmark and Uppsala in Sweden, “were enneadic events, announcing a mystical attachment to the number nine.”(Ferguson, 2009).
I’d like to continue and get into the setup of the pieces and its characteristic shape (which is the shape of the Viking cross (a "plus" sign with "serifs" at the ends), one of the most important Viking religious symbols and appears unrelentingly in Viking architecture, money, jewelry, and art), but will have to wait as it is going to take several hours of writing.
The Viking cross (a symbol in the form of a “plus” sign with “serifs” at the ends) was a Viking religious symbol that came from the Latin cross (the Romans, who in turn got it from the Greeks). Long before Christianity, pagan peoples were using crosses as religious symbols, most often representing the sun, or the earth (the four corners). In addition to these meanings (the Vikings held the sun in high religious regard according to many sources), the Viking cross and its related symbols (such as the swastika) represented war itself due to the fact that these types of symbols represented Thor--the lines with “serifs” at the end representing his hammer (Bruce-Mitford, 2008).
An example in architecture would be the Viking ring fortress. All the fortresses had a circular rampart built of earth and turf. This rampart had four gates placed at equidistance from each other (at all four-points of the compass). Covered structures called “gateways” were built around these gates and were probably crowned with towers. Linking the gates internally, were two timber-paved streets, one running north-south, the other east-west (Roesdahl, 1987). The two streets form a cross shape (“plus” sign) and the gateways at all four ends of them (where the attackers “base camps” would be in Tablut) make for a comparable design to the Viking cross.
By the time Vikings were printing coins (later-half of ninth century), Christianity was beginning to take hold among the Danish Vikings (Christianity did not take hold in Norway for another two centuries). However, belief in the norse gods did not die out overnight and Viking beliefs and Christian beliefs were melded together for a time. “Many Christian Vikings kept their faith in Thor, just in case.” (Margeson, 2010).
One example is when the Vikings printed coins. The coins depict the names of Christian kings of East Anglia who were defeated and killed by Vikings in the early ninth century. “All of these coin designs give a fascinating insight into the way in which Scandinavian political dominance was maintained and made palatable through recognizing and respecting the traditions and susceptibilities of the Anglo-Saxon population. Indeed, the coins may represent deliberate attempts to create regional power blocks in which the children of Viking invaders and the children of the conquered Anglo-Saxons were bound together into carefully manufactured and unique identities.” (Hall, 2007).
The period of history in Scandinavia prior to the Viking Age (793-1066 AD) is labeled “The Roman Age” and dates from 0-400 AD (Ryder, 2003).
In the chapter titled “Before the Vikings: Scandinavia and the Roman Empire” from Richard Hall’s _The World of the Vikings_, we learn that the Romans never invaded or conquered Scandinavia. Further, the frontier along the Rhine and Danube defended the Roman Empire against Germanic tribes, while at the same time allowed for diplomatic and commercial interchange (Hall, 2007). In addition, “Germanic warriors could come south to serve as Roman auxiliary troops, and Roman luxury goods such as glassware could be traded to the north.” (Hall, 2007). And burial sites in Norway at this time “indicate links with the civilized countries to the south” with various objects of bronze and glass being found as well as “Latin-based runic letters appear for the first time.” (Ryder, 2003).
Therefore, pre-Viking peoples had regular contact with the Romans for at least four centuries and would have easily come across the extremely popular Roman game of Ludus Latrunculorum. The games are very similar. Rules common to both games (no matter the “version”) are 1) playing on a grid board, 2) orthogonal movement of the pieces, 3) capturing an opponents piece by placing two pieces on two opposite sides of it (“sandwiching”) and 4) allowing the placing of a piece safely between two opponent’s pieces.
Because the Romans did not invade or conquer Scandinavia, the Sami would not have had contact with them. It was the Vikings who did, and they are the common link between the two similar games. It makes perfect sense that the Vikings easily discovered Latrunculorum prior to 400 AD, invented tafl by clearly infusing their own personal identity to the older game (at the same time advancing its complexity), and brought the finished product to the Sami on regular and frequent trading visits.
Sources: Ryder, Simon, editor. Norway. APA Publications. 2003. Page 18. Hall, Richard. The World of the Vikings. Thames & Hudson, 2007. Page 14. http://ludus-latrunculorum.co.tv/
Please allow me to reintroduce the perpetual check topic. I am currently discussing perpetual check with a player from another site. Please read below and comment, thanks!
My colleague wrote: “It occurs to me that as often as not, black will be wanting to force a draw to prevent the king from winning, so rewarding only black for such behaviour seems unjust.”
My reply: Black cannot force a draw in playing to the edge. If he is able to secure a perimeter, he will capture the king eventually. A draw by black only applies to corner tafl. Black can force a draw in corner tafl by securing the three squares that block each corner. Black could secure the corners too by making a complete ring of men around the board (see my game against the computer), but there is only a slim chance for a draw in the situation of a complete ring. The reason is because the second example has more men available to surround the king (the first example, the men cannot leave the corner squares to help, but in the second example black’s pieces can start moving inward one man at a time). It is more likely to be a black win. In any case, white has 0% chance of winning in either example.
Again, in edge tafl, black cannot force a draw. With so many open squares to protect, black cannot place three men at each corner. And if he can form a ring of men around the board (very rare), it always results in a white loss (white’s men will always end up captured one by one, including the king).
He continued: “If a stalemate occurs, it is both because white has not played well enough to escape, and that black has not played well enough to completely contain the king.”
I disagree. Perpetual check is not a stalemate, and the reason it is a loss for white is because white is the only player who controls check. Black can only react to check. Even if black plays perfectly, white can usually get a check in to the side. In edge tafl, even if black plays perfectly, there are circumstances where white can force a perpetual check in just a few opening moves.
Further, you stated “white has not played well enough to escape”. That is why he should not be able to force a draw. White would therefore only have to play hard enough or just good enough to force perpetual check, not win the game. Saying, “black has not played well enough to completely contain the king” is not fair. That now means that black’s goal has now changed to where he must not only capture the king, but now he cannot even allow a check for fear of perpetual check. Both burdens are not equal. You have put more burden on black.
He continued: “Neither side has played well enough, so there is nothing unfair about calling it a draw.“
Yes there is when only one player (white) controls check. Black can only get out of it once he is placed in it. Black’s goal should be to capture the king, period. Not to capture the king before getting into check or perpetual check. That is asking too much of black. Perhaps the best way to put it is this: Getting into perpetual check (white’s moves) is easier than preventing it (black’s moves). They are not the same as you are suggesting.
"We have adopted a system where a win is 1 point, and a draw is zero points for both players.Making it less tempting to force a draw, whereas .5 points for a draw makes it more tempting. Also, as a chess player, I'm sure you are aware of the leverage potential of threatening a player with a forced draw. This is something which we have discovered enriches hnefatafl enormously, and makes for some very entertaining end games."
There's no reason that rules should be imported from chess, particularly as these are modern introductions even within the rules of chess. Were shogi the default game neither stalemate nor perpetual raichi would be allowed. Naturally, rules for tablut should be considered only on their independent merit for the game tablut, and it is clearly established that the strongest players think that perpetual raichi is a loss for white.
ughaibu: What do you make of this, though? It's seems a rational argument--- This was his reply to mine.
"Its unsportsmanlike to cheat, to move the king diagonally or remove enemy pieces when they aren't looking. But these things are impossible IF one follows the rules, and would be tantamount to wizardry in the world of the hnefatafl pieces. Its unsportsmanlike to wave your hands in front of your opponents face shouting 'Not touching you!' repeatedly. But it is not forbidden by the rules as it really doesn't affect the little men on the board. That is a 'code of conduct' that most players would, thankfully, happily agree to.
So, what about white forcing a perpetual check at the board edge or corner? Arguably this is unsporting. I have argued against that as an opinion, but what interests me here is: is it relevant in a discussion of rules? It occurs to me that forbidding a particular player behaviour is a code of conduct, not a model defining rule. The rules govern how the pieces can behave, not how the players should behave. If we want perpetual check to not be a part of the model of the world a tafl variant portrays, it should be impossible to achieve, not forbidden according to player opinion creating an add on code of conduct.
To make the forbidding of perpetual check a rule defining the physical laws in the hnefatafl world, it would have to read something like:
Rule: A king may not move between two or more checking positions repeatedly in order to force a draw. If he does this three times in a row white automatically loses the game.
As the Ko rule is described on wikipedia: A play is illegal if it would have the effect (after all steps of the play have been completed) of creating a position that has occurred previously in the game. Consequence (ko rule). One may not play in such a way as to recreate the board position following one's previous move.
So that sounds like a rule governing the physical behaviour of a piece on the board (like saying soldiers can only move like rooks, its not a matter of opinion, its just how things are in their universe). But here's the thing, the REASON for introducing the rule is a matter of code of conduct: 'Its unfair', 'its unsportsmanlike'. Is that a good reason for introducing a physical law? Surely its a matter of personal opinion? To say 'It makes the game unbalanced' would be a much better reason (Warder has indicated this idea to me in a private message and I am more sympathetic towards this argument, "Saying, "black has not played well enough to completely contain the king" is not fair. That now means that black's goal has now changed to where he must not only capture the king, but now he cannot even allow a check for fear of perpetual check. Both burdens are not equal. You have put more burden on black. One player (white) controls check. Black can only get out of it once he is placed in it. Black's goal should be to capture the king, period. Not to capture the king before getting into check or perpetual check. That is asking too much of black.", An interesting argument, but other rule adjustments that address the physical laws of the game can fix power imbalances (Weaponless king etc etc) without forbidding behaviour. Also blacks goal has not changed until perpetual check is forbidden, at which point things get much easier for him. And while white can easily force a perpetual check in edge tafl, one would expect the white player to give up on it in a bid to win the game, especially if the points for a draw are 0,0.
The tafl game is inherently lopsided, asymmetrical, that's one of its great attractions. So I personally don't have a problem with one of blacks challenges to be avoiding allowing white to get into a perpetual check position, as that is one of the things possible in the hnefatafl universe model. You could use the same argument to say its an unfair burden on white to have to get the king to the edge. Black don't even have a king to worry about, that's asking too much of white. And Its an unfair burden on black to have to capture the king at all, white don't have to capture the black king. Isn't that unfair?
Suppose I thought it was unfair that white has only half the players, its unfair, its unsportsmanlike to have twice as many men. And why can't black have a king? It hardly seems fair that only white have a king? Why don't we introduce a rule that says black are not allowed to use half of their men, or better yet have to remove half of their men from the board at the start of the game, to be good sports. And black also get a king. Right, now lets address this unfair asymmetry thing, white starts on one side, and have to get their king to the other side, and vise versa. Thats better, a lovely fair game. And look, we can allow forced perpetual checking now as both sides can do it, so its not unfair anymore! Brilliant. Oh, wait, what happened to our hnefatafl game? It looks like chess all of a sudden.
While we are on the subject of unsportsmanlike, look at custodial capture. Its an illustration of killing someone by overwhelming them with numbers. Two soldiers are fighting a fair fight, another slips in and stabs one in the back. And four side king capture? Very noble.
I posit that hnefatafl is a game that revels in unfairness. What matters, I think we all agree, is balance between experienced players. Ought not this balance be achieved by the physical laws, of what is and is not possible in the hnefatafl universe , not by what is 'allowed' on grounds of fairness? (regardless of if it works for Go or backgammon, tafl is nothing like either) Is not the magic of a strategic board game the life like complexity that emerges from a simple set of physical laws?
If, in any tafl variant it turns out there is a way for either side to force a draw which is unavoidable from the start of the game regardless of the opponents actions, then I agree we have a problem, and that that variant is to be consigned, deservedly, to the dustbin of history without regret. My great fear is that this has already happened, allowing chess to take over in the middle ages, as it doesn't suffer from this problem. However, if it does happen to a tafl variant, I hope we have the nerve to bin it, or find a rule set that addresses and fixes the problem physically, without resorting to telling players how to behave on the board.
I look forward to responses explaining why I'm wrong! But lets try to keep it to reasons that are not based on opinions about what is good sportsmanship. As if that is all we are talking about, then there is no objective truth to the matter and we could argue without end or reason until the cows come home.
And to reiterate, the tournament players at this site seem to agree that the simplest way to prevent easy draw positions allowing weak white players to do well by refusing to play to win, evaporates entirely with a points system win 1, lose 0, draw 0,0. I am very fond of the Fetlar rules, but if our present research proves that white can indeed force a draw fort in the opening moves in spite of blacks most valiant efforts to stop them, then hnefatafl is once again in trouble as the game would, I agree, be pretty daft.
I think his reply is silly. Rules about perpetual check exist in other games, and like all rules, they concern the behaviour of players. This guy seems to think that pieces exist in some ideal non-human world, and that's nonsense. It may be a wonderful thing about tablut, that the game is asymmetrical, unfair if you like, but it's not a wonderful thing if all the asymmetricality favours one side over the other.
Well, there is another tafl site on the internet that has adopted the rules used here at brainking.
It is http://aagenielsen.dk/
There are several tafl games and you must select 9x9 Tablut with "Marseille" rules. Those rules are identical to ours. However, I do not think I was able to convince them of the perpetual check rule.
And the site is only live play, no correspondence.
That makes three sites now (brainking, dragonheelslair, and aagenielsen) that has this version.
It is my view that if perpetual check were to become a loss for White then the White King should be given the ability to act as a pawn for capturing Black pieces (an ability which does exist in some variants).
If the rules were to change to make perpetual checking by White a win by Black then the balance has changed and it is no longer Black's objective to capture the White King but merely (a word used here to create emotional rather than rational effect) to stop the White King getting to the border. For me this is a significant reduction in the task for Black. Well executed this will also eventually result in the capture of the White King, poorly executed a win by forced perpetual check. There are certainly times when the perpetual checking can be stopped by Black by moving a different piece so the result is not always White's "fault". I can also foresee times when Black's move will be coloured by the expectation of containment giving a less aggressive and more containment approach rather going for the kill which, to me, is what Tablet is about. The age old struggle of fight (Black) or flight (White), not siege and fight.
Attacker base camps 1. Works with either 9x9 or 11x11
2. White wins when the king reaches an edge square other than a square where an attacker starts. These will be known as basecamps. (The squares where the attacker start) A 9x9 and 11x11 both have 16 victory squares.
3. Base camps act just like a hostile throne but for all peices. Once vacated by an attacker no one can land on any of these squares.
4. The throne is hostile. The throne isn't hostile to white when the king is on the throne. Once the king leaves a white piece can be captured against the throne.
5. The king can capture. The king is captured in the same as his men. This means that a king next to a base camp can be captured by one single piece.
6. A king on the throne must be surrounded on all four sides and a king adjacent to the throne must be surrounded by three sides, much like here on this site.
This variant makes for a quick and bloody contest. I found the rules on an IOS app on my phone , it seems fairly balanced but I've only played against a computer.
Perhaps I should have separated the rules with another number, but it reads correctly. Unlike tablut where the king is weaponless, the king in this sense CAN capture. However to balance this he is able to be captured in the same manner as his men. With the exception of the king being on/adjacent to the throne.
(gem) Hvis du vil spille et spil med en modspiller som er på omtrent samme niveau kan du lave en invitation med et ønsket BKR-område. Da kan kun de spillere med den BKR se og acceptere invitationen. (Katechka) (vis alle tips)