Viking Roundup, Part 3

We picked up Hnefatafl (the Viking Game) at the British Museum in London, and as such it's more of a souvenir of our trip than a game we plan to play regularly. That said, it is actually a pretty engaging game, sort of an asymmetrical version of chess with fewer rules and (in my opinion) slightly more interesting strategy.

The defending player gets 12 pieces plus a king. These pieces start in the center of the board, and the goal is for the king to reach one of the corner squares. Meanwhile, the attacking player gets 24 pieces that start along the 4 edges of the board. Any piece other than the king can be captured by sandwiching it between two opposing pieces, or between a piece and a corner space; the king can only be taken if he's closed in on all 4 sides.

Our experience playing the game is that it's substantially weighted in favor of the attacker, but still pretty challenging for both sides. It's possible for the attacker to effectively block the corner squares, but it's also pretty difficult for him to keep his blockers in place, since he also needs to use his pieces to chase the king around the board and (hopefully) capture him.

The attack and defense game play isn't particularly viking themed, but Hnefatafl is purported to be a game that was actually played in Scandinavia during the viking era. If nothing else, it can clearly be seen being played on the History Channel's excellent Vikings TV show.

Rating: 3 (out of 5) We don't spend that much time playing abstract strategy games, but this one is more interesting than a lot of them.

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