The King's Table

The King's Table

The King is on his throne, surrounded by his retinue. Attackers appears from all four corners. It's the defenders' duty to safeguard the King's escape.

People playing a Tafl game, Ockelbo Runestone Sweden / CC BY 2.5 I, Berig

That game was king in Northern Europe, but it lost its crown to Chess.

While you were at the King's table and playing a game of Hnefatafl with one of the housekarls, the enemy fighters suddenly surrounded you. It's time for you to deserve the golden arm rings the monarch has gifted to you.

You curse the imbalance, you and your party of adventurers have left shields and spears before entering the hall, you only have seaxes. There are two guards with spears and swords, the rest are old men, wise but weak.

You curse the timing. That northern table game is fun.

That's about it, I was told the size of the board and the starting positions vary from one region to the other.

You go on playing with the karl, you both are asserting the situation, alterning looks at the inconsequential table game and at your men in the retinue. Staying quiet, keeping them quiet.

"Those game pieces are beautiful", "Yes indeed, they are carved from walrus tusks".

Is the King dozing or aligning himself on his greyhaired karl? We all had too much mead.

"Let's leave the table game, the wider game is calling us, one to two"

You stand up, draw your seax, time to empty your sleeves from their tricks, time to haul the King out of his hall, and to safety.


It seems that Carl von Linné is to be credited helping us reconstructing the Hnefatafl game, has he wrote down the rules he saw in practice among the Sami people in 1732.

It's the second time I mention Linnaeus on this blog, since he's also the inventor of index cards.