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Hnefatafl - a lost Art

Hnefatafl (Ner-far-taff-all) is a Tafl Game, though it is a lost art in the modern day. The aim of the game is either to capture the king, or get the king to a corner depending on which side you are playing on.

It is played on an 11 x 11 board:


Although this and the layout are the only rules that has survived to this day, another Tafl game, Tablut, had its rules recorded and it is assumed that the rules where the same except for board and layout.

The layout is as follows:

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The rules and pieces are as follows:

  • Moves are taken in turns
  • The king (white with cross) starts on the Konakis, the central square
  • The Konakis can not be occupied by any other piece apart from the king
  • Once the king has left the Konakis he can not return to it
  • The 12 Swedes (white) or defenders surround the Konakis in a diamond formation
  • The 24 Muscovites (black) or attackers start in groups of 6 with one facing towards the Konakis
  • All remaining squares can be occupied at any point during the game by any piece
  • All pieces can move vertically or horizontally, but not diagonally, for as many squares as the player chooses, unless blocked by the opposition or reaching the edge of the board (medieval Rook)
  • Pieces can't 'jump' over another piece, they will be blocked
  • If the king has an unimpeded path to a corner (if there at no pieces inbetween the king and the corner, and the move is legal) and isn't blocked by a Muscovite, he may escape and white has won the game.
  • If the king has a path to a corner, he must say 'raichi' (check) to alert his opponent. If he doesn't say this and escapes then it is an illegal move.
  • If the king has multiple paths to corners and hence an inevitable victory, he must say 'tuichu' (checkmate)
  • Any piece (except the king) can be captured and removed from the board if it is surrounded on two opposite sides by the opposing team
  • If the king is surrounded on 4 sides by the Muscovites he is taken capture and blacks win. If he is only surrounded on 3 sides he can escape
  • If the king is surrounded on 3 sides, and the 4th side is blocked by the Konakis he is taken capture

What is the minimum moves that the king can be escape in and what is the minimum moves that the Muscovites can capture him in?