Cyningstan

Traditional Board Games

Dablot Prejjesne

Dablot Prejjesne Photograph
Dablot Prejjesne Photograph

Dablot prejjesne is a Sami game from the nineteenth century. It recalls historical struggles between nomadic Sami warriors and Finnish settlers farming the land.

One side has a king, prince and warriors, while the other has a landlord, his son and tenant farmers. Despite the differences in names, the sides are completely equal in number and power, making this an even-handed game of war.

History of Dablot Prejjesne

The nomadic Sami people from Lapland have been quite innovative over the centuries when it comes to board games. An example of this is dablot prejjesne, which has some resemblances to other games, but in combining them becomes a pure Sami invention.

The game has been in existence since at least 1892, when it appears in a museum catalogue in Stockholm. However, it took until 1973 before it was introduced to English-speaking people by the game historian R. C. Bell.

Dablot prejjesne recalls historical struggles between nomadic Sami warriors and Finnish settlers farming the land. One side has a Sami king, prince and warriors, while the other side are known as the landlord, his son, and their tenant farmers. Despite the differences in names the sides are completely equal in number and power, making this an even-handed game of war.

A traditional board was made of pine, with the Sami side in yellow and the Finnish side in red.

Rules for Dablot Prejjesne

Rules for Dablot Prejjesne
Dablot prejjesne is played by two people on a board of 72 points, arranged as two overlapping grids: one of six rows of five points, and one of five rows of four points, all connected by lines (see the diagram). One side consists of a king, a prince and twenty-eight warriors, while the other has a landlord, his son and twenty-eight tenant farmers.

1. The Sami playerís pieces are set out with the warriors on his back ranks, the prince in front to the right, and the king in front, as shown in the diagram.

2. The Finnís landlord, son and tenant farmers are set up in the same way at the other end of the board.

3. Players decide at random who is to move first. After each player moves, play passes to his opponent.

4. A player in his turn may move one piece along a marked line in any direction.

5. All pieces have the same power of move.

6. Only one piece at a time may occupy a point on the board.

7. Instead of moving, a piece may capture an enemy by jumping over it and landing on the empty space beyond.

8. Captures in this game are optional; players are never forced to capture.

9. No piece may capture above its station, specifically:

(i). the king and the landlord may capture any enemy;

(ii). the prince and the landlordís son may capture anything except the king or landlord;

(iii). warriors and farmers may only capture each other.

10. If the piece, having made a capture, is in a position to make further captures, it is free to do so in the same turn.

Ending the Game

11. A player loses the game if he cannot move because:

(i). he has lost all his pieces, or

(ii). he has pieces left but they are surrounded by the enemy and unable to move.

12. A player may resign if he feels his position is hopeless.

13. The game is a draw if only the king and the landlord remain on the board.

Some players have introduced new rules to counter drawish play.

14. Warriors and farmers may only move forward, either directly or diagonally. They may, however, capture in any direction.

15. Captures for warriors and farmers are compulsory, though for pieces of higher station they are still optional.

16. The game can be declared over when the king or landlord is taken, that pieceís owner losing the game.

If rule 16 is not used, it is sometimes possible to beat a player whose most powerful piece remains when yours is lost. Since it is possible to win by immobilising the enemy, minor pieces may block major ones in even if they cannot capture them.

Comments

I'm very glad that you're writing about the Sámi origins of this game. I see sáhkku is now being sold by one company as a "Russian game" without any mention of the Sámi. Tablut, for its part, is generally just sold as "Hnefatafl - the viking game" with packages, material and design that accentuate Norse culture and don't bring up that the rules of the modern game actually derive from the Sámi version of tafl, tablut.

But I'm just wondering about one thing, really: doesn't rule 8 and 15 contradict one another? I know that compulsory/optional capture varies between versions of Dablot Prejjesne, but this set of rules say both...

Frostviken - 13:40, 16/12/2015

Thanks Frostviken for your comments! Rule 15 does contradict 8, but it's in the optional section under the heading "Some players have introduced new rules..." and really replaces rule 8. I should have numbered it 8 to avoid confusion.

The Sami were the originators of three interesting board games as far as I know. I believe tablut to be very close to the Viking hnefatafl, if not exactly the same. There's more about tablut on my other site http://tafl.cyningstan.com/. Sahkku will find its way onto this site as soon as I have the time to research it properly.

Damian Walker - 05:48, 17/12/2015

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