I recently purchased a new game: Hnefatafl

Now as far as I'm aware, this is the game that Thud is based on, which is the real game I want to play. For reference, here is my set:

enter image description here

And here are my pieces:

enter image description here

I have twelve defenders, and 24 attackers. It looks like those aren't enough (based on the number in the wiki link), so how can I make up the numbers? Or can I play n a smaller board?

Also, what is the best way to reproduce that original board? Do I need to consider anything balance-wise if I do shrink the board/number of pieces? What else should I consider?


This is actually hnefatafl according to this wikipdia page I found
enter image description here


To play Thud, whether regular rules or Koom Valley rules, you need a 15x15 board, made round by lopping off the corners such that the straight edges are 5 long, and the diagonals are 6 long. You then need 32 "dwarf" pieces, 8 "troll" pieces and one central "Rock" piece.

The board dimensions are critical, as is the number of pieces. Any other board size, any other number of pieces, will result in a giant advantage for one side or the other. The balance is all about the timing it takes for trolls to reach the dwarves and start splatting: it has to be exactly the same amount of time as it takes a skilled dwarf player to have the start of a block built, so they can start hitting trolls in return. And that means you need five squares clear between trolls and dwarfs at the start. Four squares, and it's a clear win for trolls. Six squares, and dwarfs wipe the board. Remove the rock in the middle, and it's a clear win for trolls. And so on. It's not like go where the board size can be changed within reason without affecting the core gameplay: any change to the board changes the balance.

It might be easier to just get cardboard and draw the board out, or to get a decent sized go board. It's certainly not immoral to play the game with stuff you made yourself, nor stuff you bought elsewhere and co-opted. Though I just checked and it looks like Bernard "the cunning artificer" Pearson's Discworld Emporium of Wincanton (the only town in the world officially Twinned with Ankh Morpork) does still sell boards and pieces of great beauty.


I think what you have bought is a Tablut set, which is a reduced version, and actually survived into the twentieth century. Viking Hnefatafl had 25 defenders and 50 attackers on a larger board, but the rules are (believed to be) the same.

And Thud, from the link, is a board game (inspired by Discworld) created by Trevor Truran. It seems a bit unfair to try and play it without buying a set, but if you do you can, of course, try out any combination of board and pieces; at what point you move into creating your own game is an interesting point.

Finally, more for casual visitors than as a real answer; the Thud Lord Vetinari plays existed only in Terry Pratchett's fertile brain. A boardgame has been officially approved, but it would be as unwise to try and follow the Dwarf King's actual strategy as it would to try and build a network of semaphore towers across the land.

  • 1
    +1 for warning me off building clacks towers. The real Thud game is no longer in print, and when it was in print it 5x as expensive as this set! Thanks! Jan 21 '12 at 17:27
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    In Linnaeus' tablut, "One player has eight blonde Swedes and their monarch; the other has sixteen dark Muscovites." Also the illustrations of it I've seen are on a smaller board (9x9 instead of 11x11). 12 defenders and 24 attackers is, to my knowledge, one of the supposed versions of Hnefatafl.
    – Alex P
    Jan 21 '12 at 19:46
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    As I by the way, @Pureferret, I bought myself a Thud set at the Irish Discworld Convention a couple of weeks ago, so it looks like it's back on the market.
    – TRiG
    Nov 17 '13 at 1:43

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