A reader rang me this week to ask about Hnefatafl. Despite having frequently referred to this euphoniously named game, I have never in fact known the rules. The call prompted me into action, and a search on the Internet brought erudition.

Hnefatafl ("King's table") has existed in many forms since about 400AD, all played on square boards with an odd number of squares along each side. The games are all played by essentially the same rules: White starts with a king (or Hnefi) on the centre square or throne (Konakis), surrounded by a number of his own men. Black's men start on the edge of the board. The 9 x 9 version - known as Tablut - is shown above. All the pieces move like rooks in chess: any distance in a straight line, vertically or horizontally. Only the king may occupy the throne. A man is captured when two enemy pieces stand on each side of it on a rank or file. To capture the king, it must be surrounded on all four sides, or on three sides when the fourth is the throne. White wins if his king can reach any square on the edge. Black wins by capturing the king.

Good Hnefatafling!