Introduction: How to Make and Play Hnefatafl(a Popular Viking Board Game)

The popular viking board game called Hnefatafl or conquer the castle is fun to make and play.


A 9 1/4'' square of wood

At least 51'' of wooden dowel

A ruler


A small hand saw

A pencil

A wood burning kit

Step 1: Cutting the Pieces

Cut 24 2'' pieces of dowel and one 3'' piece of dowel. The 3'' piece will be the king. Sand the bottoms of the pieces.

Step 2: Drawing and Marking the Board Lines

Draw a 9'' x 9'' square made up of 1'' squares on your 9 1/4'' piece of wood so there is a 1/8'' edge. Wood burn the lines you drew on your board and wood burn a star on the middle and x's on the corner squares. The marked squares will be the refuge squares.

Step 3: Marking the Pieces

Mark 16 of the 2'' pieces with a line. These are the invaders. Mark the other 8 2'' pieces with a jagged line, and the 3'' piece with a crown and a star on top. These are the defenders.

Step 4: How to Play

Set up the board like the photo above.

The attackers start with 16 warriors, and the defenders start with 8 warriors and 1 king.

The 5 refuge squares are the marked squares, the four corners and the center square.

Endgame Conditions

Attackers win by capturing the king. Defenders win by bringing the king to one of the four corners.

The game is drawn if a player cannot move. The game can also optionally be drawn if a position is repeated 3 times. A position is defined by the location of all pieces, as well as whose turn it is.

Moving Attackers move first. Both players alternate turns until the game has ended.

Each piece moves horizontally and vertically, but cannot jump over or onto other pieces.

Note refuge squares can only be occupied by the king.

Capturing the King: The king is captured when all 4 adjacent squares are occupied by an attacker. The king may also be captured if he is on the central refuge square.

Capturing Warriors: All other pieces are captured when they are sandwiched horizontally or vertically by their opponent’s pieces after a move has been made.

Exceptions: Refuge squares can also be used to capture warriors, with one exception.

The center refuge square is not hostile to defenders if it is occupied by the king.

Captures are not obligatory.

The king may be captured if he is on the central refuge square.

The king cannot be captured on the edge of the board, because he cannot be surrounded on all 4 sides.

You cannot capture your own pieces.

You can capture more than one piece at a time.

Instructions adapted from an article written by Matt Oates.

Now you're ready to play!

Woodworking Contest

Participated in the
Woodworking Contest