In Tafl games (I'm specifically playing Tablut if it makes a difference) Black wins if they capture the White king by surrounding it on all four sides.

Suppose the king and one or more adjacent pawns in a block are all completely surrounded and White has no other pawns so they cannot move. Is there any consensus on whether this is stalemate (like in Chess if the player can't move), or, a win for Black? Or is it just "house rules"?

Most of the rule sets I've found do not mention it explicitly. So the implication is it's a stalemate, but they aren't very official.

(This ruleset suggests you take away one pawn in a blocked group per turn, in my scenario it would amount to the same thing as an immediate win.)


This set of rules for Saami Tablut ("Historical Hnefatafl") includes an explicit handling of that case:

7b. If the attackers surround the king and ALL remaining defenders, then they win, as they have prevented the king from escaping.

And it's even broader in this set of rules, which captures the king if he cannot move (even if the king's side has other pawns that can move):

  1. The king himself is captured if he is surrounded with enemy pieces or restricted squares in all four cardinal points, so that he cannot move in any direction.

(emphasis added) The case is also present in the rulesets for other variants presented on this page.

In this summary of the history of the game, under the section of "correcting the errors" of Murray's mis-translation of the rules, they say that Helfrid included this additional rule (that agrees with your link to the PDF by Zorya):

If a defending piece is beside the king and the king is trapped, the companion is taken rather than the king.

  • Thank you for answer with those links I couldn't get to. The website I'm playing with friends on doesn't enforce that, but now we can honourably surrender the match in this scenario. .. I think this is a game that deserves more attention. Cheers. Oct 29 '20 at 11:32

I would think it is a win, as you have denied the king's goal of escaping.

Here is a nearly-primary source, which doesn't 100% explicitly say, but I think does cover it in rule 10: http://tafl.cyningstan.com/data-download/695/tablut-leaflet (which is split between pages 2 & 4).

  • 1
    Do you have a reference to the rules to prove this? Oct 28 '20 at 7:57
  • I didn't when I wrote it. As I said, I offered my logic based on the objectives. And, incidentally, I was correct. I was trying to be helpful, but true to traditional Stack Exchange hostility, I got downvoted for my efforts. Now I do see more gratuitous references references that might satisfy even such people, but I'm not feeling very much like elaborating them, for some reason.
    – Dronz
    Oct 28 '20 at 23:45
  • 1
    Thanks. I agreed with the other answer which was very specific and answered my question, but I think the downvotes on you were a bit harsh and your answer also makes sense to me, so I upvoted here too. Thank for you and @L. Scott Johnson for answering so promptly. Oct 29 '20 at 11:27
  • Thanks. I added a reference to another rule source, in the answer above, which is based on a primary source.
    – Dronz
    Oct 29 '20 at 16:46

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