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How to Play Fetlar Hnefatafl

The Fetlar rule variant is a common and popular way to play hnefatafl on a 11x11 board. There are 37 total pieces, 24 attackers, 12 defenders and 1 king.

Step 1: Arrange the Pieces

Arrange the pieces on the board according to the following layout:

Fetlar  Layout

The king piece goes on the central square surrounded by his defenders forming a diamond shape. The attacker pieces surround the defenders along the perimeter of the board.

Step 2: Learn the Rules

  • Attackers start first.
  • Pieces move like rooks in chess, horizontally and vertically as many spaces are there are available.
  • Pieces can not jump, skip, frolic, dance, fly or hop over other pieces.
  • Pieces can not move diagonally.
  • Only the king piece can go to the corner squares or central square.
  • Other pieces can pass through the central square after the king leaves but can’t stop there (think freeway with no exit).
  • Capture pieces by surrounding the other player’s piece on two sides either horizontally or vertically (not diagonally).
  • You can capture 3 pieces at most with 1 move.
  • You can capture pieces against the central square and corner squares as though your piece is on it.
  • The king is special, attackers needs to surround him on 4 sides to capture.
  • If the king is next to the central square, attackers needs to surround him on 3 sides to capture.

The defender wins by getting the king to the corner square.
The attacker wins by capturing the king.

Step 3: Switch

After the first game switch sides and play again. This is not really a step in the Fetlar rules as much as it’s a good chance to play both sides.

Generally speaking, most people feel that it’s easier to win as the defender. This is one of the characteristics of hnefatafl games due to it’s asymmetrical nature. The strategies of a defender is more long term. Not to worry, as each player gets better the game becomes more balanced.