A major part of any celebration is having fun so let the games begin. We will be hosting 2 types of game tournaments.


A simple description would be to call it Viking lawn chess. One theory is that while the kids were out at the wood pile splitting wood, as kids will do, they came up with this game. We often describe it as a cross between horseshoes but with a wooden baton being thrown, and bowling where one is attempting to knock over your opponent’s wood “Kubbs” and then the King.

This is a game that is played around the world and indeed there are world tournaments for it as well as local and national ones. Several of these exist in the United States and now one exists in Vernon NJ. The field is a rectangle and can vary in size but there are official regulation dimensions for the field and the pieces used in the game. You may have seen us playing it on the lawn area in front of the Nordic House. It is a great came for tweens and up with it being a great way to gently exercise, do bending and stretching, as well as improving hand eye coordination (ideal for seniors).

Two Combatants square off in a Kubb match.
Two Combatants square off in a Kubb match.


Hnefatafl [Nhev-eh-TAH-full]

Tafl games were a family of ancient Germanic and Celtic board games played on a checkered or latticed surface. It involved two teams of uneven strength(number of pieces). The actual size of the playing area and the number of pieces varied, but it always involved a 2:1 ratio of pieces, where the lesser side had a king set up in the centre. The king’s objective was to escape off the board(to the corners), this while the opposing force was attempting to capture him.

As the Vikings roamed the game ended up being played across much of Northern Europe from earlier than 400 CE until it was supplanted by Chess during the 12th century.

The term tafl (Old Norse: “table”, “board”; pronounced [tavl])is the original name of the game. The preferred word for the game in Scandinavia during the Viking Age became Hnefatafl. The specific name Hnefatafl may have arisen from hnefi meaning “fist”,”closed hand”,or “thing held in one’s closed hand”. Some believe it was called a fist due to the early “king” pieces consisted of a sheep knuckle others say “fist” referred to the king-piece since the “hnefi” had a role similar to the “king” in chess. Most sources have settled on it standing for “King’s Board.

Father & Son playing tafl
Father & Son playing tafl

The rules of play are subject to even more debate and indeed complete rules were never found. Numerous attempts have been made at reconstructing them only to be continually challenged, in the end leaving various layouts and rules of play. A world tournament was held in Scotland starting in 2008 after they worked to come up with a set to be used, but even it is subject to change as the game is played more and more. Part of the debate or reason for this is has to do with an apparent “unfair advantage” one side has over the other. Below is a video of a game being played at one of their tournaments. Like chess it has a timer element to official play (you can hear the gong in the background).

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