1,600-Year-Old Viking War Game

#Games

Mon, Jan 13th, 2014 12:00 by capnasty NEWS

The Medium website brings to attention a 1,600-year-old Viking war game called Hnefatafl, which kind of looks like chess, but has a more interesting setting and goal: far from their boats, ambushed Norsemen must "flee to a nearby castle while keeping their king alive."

“I love the asymmetry in this game. To win in this game, you absolutely have to think like your opponent,” emails Kristan Wheaton, a former Army foreign area officer and ex-analyst at U.S. European Command’s Intelligence Directorate. “Geography, force structure, force size and objectives are different for the two sides. If you can’t think like your opponent, you can’t win. I don’t know of a better analogy for post-Cold War conflict.”

The game is similar to chess, but with several important differences. Instead of two identical and equal opponents facing each other, Hnefatafl is a game where one side is surrounded and outnumbered—like a Viking war party caught in an ambush.

The game might seem unbalanced. The attacking black player has 24 total pieces—known as “hunns”—to white’s meager and surrounded 12 hunns. But white has several advantages.

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