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High King

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Note: this game requires at least one other person to play and there's no one playing it right now. You may want to invite a friend to come play it with you.

The invading hordes have reached the throne room! Crush the tyrannical monarch or escort your king to safety in this variant of the ancient Norse game Hnefatafl. Challenge 2006 Entry.



The game of High King simulates an epic battle. The black attackers' goal is to capture the red king. The white defenders' goal is to escort the king to safety.

MOVEMENT: Turns alternate between players with Black making the first move. On her turn a player must move a piece of her colour any number of spaces along either orthogonal direction (i.e., up-down or left-right but not diagonally) so long as the piece has a clear path to its destination (i.e., a piece may not jump over other pieces). Only the king may move on to the throne at the centre of the board or the four corners.

CAPTURE: Pieces may capture one or more pieces of the opposing colour by moving to bracket them on opposite sides; captured pieces are removed from the board. A player may sandwich a piece to be captured between two of her pieces, or between one of her pieces and a corner. Only the moving piece may initiate a capture, hence a piece may safely position itself inside a sandwich. The diagrams below show 1. Black capturing a single White piece, 2. Black capturing two White pieces simultaneously, 3. Black capturing a White piece using the corner, and 4. White safely positioning itself between two Black pieces respectively.

Capturing the king requires more effort; he must be surrounded on all four sides. The edges of the board, throne, and corners are all considered Black pieces when determining if the king is surrounded. The following diagrams illustrate several ways in which the fleeing monarch may be apprehended.

WINNING: White wins if the King escapes to safety by moving to one of the four corners of the game board. Black wins upon capturing the King. The game ends in a stalemate if the current player has no valid moves available.

Playing the Game

To select a piece, click on it. To move a piece, select it then click the space to which you wish to move. The game interface provides several visual cues to guide you through this process. Whenever you hover the mouse cursor over a piece that has a valid move available to it a translucent blue selector box will appear above it. Upon selecting a piece the selector box will become solid. With a piece selected, hovering the mouse cursor over a space to which the piece may move will show a translucent piece over the space.


  • Game creator plays black?: If the creator of the game should play black (attacker).
  • Board setup: The size and initial layout of the board. Choose from Ard-Ri (7x7 board with 16 black and 9 white pieces; Scottish), Tablut (9x9 board with 16 black and 9 white pieces; Finnish), or Errk (7x7 board with 8 black and 5 white pieces; EricWoroshow-ish).
  • Is chat enabled?: If players and watchers are able to chat with one another while the game is in progress.

Source Code

Currently available from here under the MIT license. The source distribution contains the Java source code for the game, along with the accompanying media and other configuration files. Please feel free to use or abuse it however you like. The current version is 20061203.

Code: Eric Woroshow
Artwork: Eric Woroshow, with resources adapted from Three Rings Design Inc.
Design: Hnefatafl (lit. King's Table) is a board game that was popular in Viking Age Scandinavia up until its replacement by chess in the eleventh and twelfth centuries. This game, however, models and adapts a little-known Scottish variant called Ard-Ri. In its standard form, the game is inherently unbalanced; this implementation tweaks the rules in an attempt to provide an even playing field. These modifications are my unique contribution to the game design - I hope you like them!
Thanks: To everyone in the Game Gardens community who has helped make it easy for me to create a fun game, and to all my friends I conned in to playing with me.

Created: Nov 20, 2006
Last updated: Dec 3, 2006

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