Tablut is a hybrid hunt/war game from Lapland. It is one of many variants of the old Norse game of hnefatafl, played throughout Northern Europe. A king attempts to escape from the board with the help of eight defenders. Sixteen attackers attempt to capture him.
Featured in A Book of Historic Board Games
This game is featured in A Book of Historic Board Games, by Damian Gareth Walker. That volume, available as a hardback or paperback, covers twelve games in depth. For each game there is an entertaining history, full rules, and a discussion of strategy, all in more detail than you'll see on this site.
History of Tablut
In 1732, the famous Swedish botanist Linnaeus took a tour of Lapland, keeping a journal of all that interested him. Among the non-botanical observations that he included in this journal were the rules of an unfamiliar game being played by the Sami people among whom he found himself. This game is tablut, a late survivor from a family of games called hnefatafl, much played by the Vikings and taken to the various lands they visited, raided and settled in.
The object of this game, played between Swedes and Muscovites, differs for each side. The Muscovites must capture the Swedish king, while the Swedes endeavour to help their king to safety.
Rules for Tablut
1. Tablut is played on a board of 9×9 squares, with the starting positions of all the pieces marked.
2. There are 25 pieces: a king and his eight defenders, and sixteen attackers. These are placed in the shape of a cross with serifs, as in the diagram.
3. The attacking side takes the first move.
4. Pieces move any distance orthogonally, not landing on nor jumping over other pieces on the board.
5. No piece may land on the central square, not even the king once he has left it.
6. A piece other than the king is captured when it is surrounded orthogonally on two opposite squares by enemies. The king can be regarded as an enemy of the attackers for this purpose.
7. A piece may also be captured between an enemy and the empty central square.
8. When in the central square, the king is captured by surrounding him on four orthogonal sides with attackers.
9. When stood beside the central square, the king may be captured by surrounding him on the remaining three sides with attackers.
10. Elsewhere on the board, the king is captured as other pieces.
11. If the king when on the central square is surrounded on three sides by attackers, and on the fourth by a defender, the defender may be captured by surrounding it between an attacker and the king.
12. The king wins the game on reaching any square at the edge of the board. The attackers win if they capture the king.
13. The game is drawn if a position is repeated, if a player cannot move, or if the players otherwise agree it.