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The Traditional Board Game Series Leaflet #56: Alea Evangelii

by Damian Walker
The following books give information about alea evangelii and other forms
of hnefatafl.
Bell, R. C. Board and Table Games from Many Civilizations, pp. 79-
91. New York, Dover Publications, Inc., 1979.
Bell, R. C. Games to Play, p. 24. London: Michael Joseph Limited,
Botermans, J. et al. The World of Games, pp. 119-120. New York:
Facts on File, Inc., 1989.
Murray, H. J. R. A History of Board-Games Other Than Chess, pp. 55-
64. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1952.
Parlett, D. The Oxford History of Board Games, pp. 196-204. Oxford:
Oxford University Press, 1999.
In preparing these rules, I also consulted the following less accessible
Linnaeus, C. Lachesis Lapponica, vol. 2, pp. 55-58. London: White &
Cochrane, 1811.
Robinson, J. A. The Times of St. Dunstan, pp. 70-71. Oxford: The
Clarendon Press, 1923.
Copyright © Damian Walker 2011 -

Illustration 3: some capturing moves. Note

captures against the central square and the
fixed corner men, and the multiple capture Board Games at CYNINGSTAN
above the middle of the board. Traditional Board Game Series
(Second Edition)
4 Leaflet #56
The Traditional Board Game Series Leaflet #56: Alea Evangelii The Traditional Board Game Series Leaflet #56: Alea Evangelii

Illustration 1. by surrounding him on the other

INTRODUCTION & HISTORY 2. The king’s side takes the three sides (see Illustration 3 for
Corpus Christ College, Cambridge, board with the help of his guards, first move, play then alternating various examples of capture).
owns an interesting manuscript dat- while twice their number of attack- between players. 8. Dukes and counts are cap-
ing to 1140. One of the things that ers attempt to capture them. In alea tured by surrounding them with en-
Moving the Pieces
makes it interesting is that it depicts evangelii, the numbers are 24 de- emies on two opposite sides, hori-
a board game which, the manuscript fenders and 48 attackers, making 3. In his turn a player moves zontally or vertically. Two or three
says, was played in the court of this the largest hnefatafl game one of his pieces along a straight men may be captured simultan-
king Athelstan 200 years earlier. It known. line, horizontally or vertically as eously if each falls between the
calls the game alea evangelii, the Hnefatafl was popular in the shown in Illustration 2. moving piece and another enemy.
game of the gospels. British Isles until the coming of 4. No piece may land on anoth- 9. The fixed men in the corners
The game features a king in the chess, and was last recorded being er, nor is there any jumping. may be used to capture pieces by
centre of the board, and a large played in Wales in 1587. Alea 5. Only the king can land on either player.
number of men around him. This is evangelii itself is not recorded out- the central space, though other 10. A piece may come to rest
a kind of hnefatafl, a game brought side the Corpus Christi manuscript, pieces can pass through it. voluntarily between two others,
to the British Isles by Norse in- but this a board of 15 squares by 15 6. Only the king may move to without being captured.
vaders who settled mainly in the found at York suggests an English the spaces occupied by the fixed
Ending the Game
northern areas. In hnefatafl, a king preference for large versions of hne- men: see rule 11.
in the centre must escape from the fatafl. 11. If the king moves to one of
Capturing Enemies
the squares occupied by the fixed
HOW TO PLAY 7. The king is men, he has es-
Alea Evangelii is played by two castle, and four other points are captured by sur- caped the board
people on the in- marked with a rounding him on and wins the
tersections of a circle to aid the all four sides by game.
square board. The setting up of the counts. If he is 12. If the king
board has 19 lines pieces. One play- next to the central is captured by his
in each direction. er has a king and square or the edge opponents, then he
Sixteen points in 24 faithful dukes, of the board, he has lost the game.
the corners are while the other has may be captured
marked with fixed 48 rebellious
men who belong counts.
to neither side but
Beginning the
prevent others
from landing
Illustration 2: the moves of the pieces,
there. A gap in 1. The game showing how they are blocked by the fixed
the lines is the begins with the men and other pieces, and how a piece other
king’s space, or Illustration 1: alea evangelii set out for pieces set out as in than the king may not land on the central
play. space.

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