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I have a feeling that both the Blacklist and Vikings will be superb tonight.

Here we go…


I’m not going to Ireland to do this, but you gotta admit, it looks like a fun gig.

Looking for some extra work? ‘Vikings’ need 8,000 extras for filming in Ireland

Ever fancied joining a viking army? Now you can. Here’s how to apply…

Vikings, the hugely successful History Channel production that is filmed in Ireland, has announced a casting call to find a minimum of 8,000 extras to work on its forthcoming season, which will be filmed here.

The Canadian/Irish production recently began its third season and will begin filming the fourth in Ireland in April. The producers have today announced they are looking for extras to take part, and the selection process will be held in Dublin, at the Film Base in Temple Bar, and at the Grand Hotel, Abbey St, in Wicklow.

We covered the application process last year, and you can learn a bit more about what life as an extra on Vikings is like HERE

The work is casual and temporary, but with 8,000 spots to fill it would appear you’ll have a good chance of getting the call sometime between April and December, when filming wraps up.

Those interested can attend the open casting days, with the events page on the Vikings Extras Facebook page offering the following advice to applicants turning up to stake a claim.

They are mainly looking for adults aged 16+
People from all ethnic backgrounds are required
You do not need an appointment
You only need attend one day of auditions
Each person who attends will fill out an application and have a photo taken
The process will take roughly 20 minutes
When you head along, have your measurements to hand. E.g. Height, chest, dress, shoe size etc. (You’ll need them for the application form)
No need to bring a CV or headshots, but the team will accept them if you do have them with you
There’s a long list of specific skills and appearances they’re looking for, including: Fishermen, carpenters, skilled swords people, bowmen and women, ship hands, Latin speakers, tree surgeons, and males with long hair and beards (you can find a full list of these – and there are plenty more – on the Vikings Extras Facebook page).

Full listing

There will be 3 x Extras Open Casting days in 2015 – 2 days will be held in Dublin and 1 day will be held in Wicklow. Details are below


FILMBASE, Curved St, Temple Bar, D2

Tuesday 31st March 2015 between 9.30am -4.30pm

Wednesday 1st April 2015 between 9.30am – 5pm


The Grand Hotel, Abbey St, Wicklow Town

Wednesday 7th April between 10am – 6pm

Check out the Vikings Extras Facebook page for more information

And if you haven’t seen Vikings, here’s a taster


Yes I would. Scandinavia was a hotbed of technological innovation and experimentation at that general time. Metallurgy, ship-building, social organization, navigation and exploration.

I consider it the early Northern Technological Renaissance.

Which reminds me, the premier of The Vikings is on tonight.

This is superb work by the way.


Norwegian Artisan Creates 3D Printed Replica of 6th-Century Sword

You probably wouldn’t consider 6th century Scandinavia a hotbed of anything, much less technological and artistic innovation, but that’s precisely what was happening in that region of the world as a result of increased migration in an era that’s actually called “the Migration Period.” From around 400 to 550 CE (Common Era), the northern migration of Germanic tribes, following earlier encroachment by the Romans, brought a great deal of change to Scandinavia–now Denmark, Norway, and Sweden–a region that was predominantly tribal and populated with small farms and settlements. This is the epoch that gave birth to the Vikings and it began with an influx of ideas from the south.

The hilt of the original, 6th-century sword.

One modern-day Norwegian paid homage to that long-ago period of awakening in his home country by replicating an artifact from that era of burgeoning technology and artistic mastery: Teacher, game developer, and 3D design- and printing enthusiast, Nils Anderssen used his expertise to produce a stunningly accurate reproduction of a 6th-century, double-edged, iron sword with a bronze hilt, which was originally crafted in Snartemo in Southern Norway. Anderssen used the cutting-edge technology of today to recreate a symbol of his country’s ancient, expert craftsmanship.

It has certainly been possible before 3D printing to undertake a project like Anderssen’s, but it has been more expensive and far more time-consuming. Also, Anderssen, who has many talents, is not a professional goldsmith, so he was willingly heading into uncharted territory when he began his Snartemo Sword project. What he did possess was an enthusiasm for history and historical artifacts and, of course, a maker’s curiosity and ingenuity, so he began his project, spending a couple of years figuring out how to go about using 3D printing to create a believable replica.

Eventually, Anderssen uploaded the results of his ongoing project on his website, which prompted the National Museum of Art in Oslo, Norway to approach him about creating a replica of the sword as a companion display to the real sword (which, as we understand it, is part of the permanent collection of the Museum of Cultural History in Oslo). The museum insisted, quite reasonably, that the copy should resemble the original as closely as possible. Visitors would be able to handle the replica, so it needed to feel like the original sword as well.

Equipped with photos and measurements of the sword, Anderssen used 3D Studio Max to create his 3D design. “In Studio Max,” he explained, “I have good control over the thickness and size of the patterns and therefore avoided problems in printing.” The sword’s sharp edges were easily modeled in 3D Studio Max. His secret was to use “almost exclusively…the basic features of the polygon modeling tools…”

3D printed hilt

Without the capacity to 3D print in bronze himself, Anderssen needed to find a 3D printing service to help him undertake this major part of the sword project. He did his research and opted to enlist i.materialize, whom, he found, could print larger sizes than most other companies. Not unlike the original process of crafting the sword, Anderssen’s replica was created in parts. After he received the 3D-printed bronze pieces from i.materialize, he smoothed them and then had them gilded. He did make one important change: With his design, the hilt was hollow and later filled with wood to make the finished piece more stable and to facilitate easier assembly.

It isn’t clear how and where the blade was produced, but the various pieces of the sword were assembled by Anderssen and the results were spectacular. He had the pleasure after completing the project of seeing his replica placed next to the original sword, by far the greatest test of his success. As the photo emphasizes, the similarities between the reproduction and the original really are remarkable. What a brilliant means of both preserving history without compromising the physical state of an ancient artifact and allowing those of us who want to appreciate such objects to do so in a more interactive way! We hope that this becomes a trend with museums and archives; 3D printing certainly makes it plausible and far more budget-friendly.

both swords


Let’s hear your thoughts on Anderssen’s work in the 3D Printed Replica Sword forum thread on

3D Print (Left), Original (Right)


Venison with mead, haunches of boar and the occasional bowl of RISOTTO: The surprisingly tasty treats enjoyed by the Vikings revealed

  • Jesper Lynge, 44, from Aalborg is attempting to revive Viking food
  • Says they used spices and lots of vegetables as well as roast meat
  • ‘Beserke’ warriors would eat anything – including magic mushrooms
  • Others had considerably more refined tastes and loved barley risotto 

Jesper Lynge, 44, is a chef on a mission. But it’s not the pursuit of the perfect foie gras or uncovering the world’s tastiest oysters that gets him going. Instead, his passion is for Viking food.

Based at the picturesque Lindholm Høje just outside Aalborg in northern Denmark, Lynge, a red-haired giant of a man, looks every inch the beserker – and has learned to cook like one too.

But don’t expect charred cuts, industrial quantities of schnapps and barrels of pickled herring. The Vikings, says Lynge, not only loved spices, they were partial to a bowl of risotto too.

Man on a mission: Chef Jesper Lynge is attempting to revive Viking cuisine from his Aalborg restaurant

Man on a mission: Chef Jesper Lynge is attempting to revive Viking cuisine from his Aalborg restaurant

‘The menu during the Viking period was decided by the season, as they needed to take use of the available ingredients,’ he explains.

‘Lots of the food that is fashionable today is similar to what they ate. They ate lots of root vegetables, cabbage and lots of different types of wheat and corn – definitely not just meat.’

Indeed, so adept were the Vikings at preparing vegetables, many of the techniques they pioneered are still in use today, notably the method of fermenting cabbage used to make sauerkraut.

They also, says Lynge, liked a sweet and sour supper, combining savoury game meat such as venison with sauces made from foraged berries.

Nevertheless, not every part of the Viking menu sounds quite so tasty. ‘There was one sort of warrior called berserkere [beserkers] who would eat anything,’ he concedes.

‘These types of warriors were very special. They would have eaten everything they could get their hands on, including psychedelic mushrooms.’

Tasty: Despite their ferocious reputation, Mr Lynge says Vikings loved vegetables - and barley risotto

Tasty: Despite their ferocious reputation, Mr Lynge says Vikings loved vegetables – and barley risotto

Feast: Roast boar and venison were feast day favourites and awaited warriors in Valhalla

Feast: Roast boar and venison were feast day favourites and awaited warriors in Valhalla

Luckily for visitors to Lynge’s Viking themed restaurant, there are no magic mushrooms on the menu, although there are plenty of unusual herbs, many of which he grows himself.

There’s also ‘festive’ wild boar and ‘barleyotto’ – an early version of the classic Italian dish made with barley grains.

Fish, mostly taken from the icy North Sea waters off the Aalborg coast, is also a highlight, although this being Denmark, much of it is herring.

‘We do not use any ingredients that weren’t available for the Vikings,’ insists Lynge. ‘Many of the techniques they used, we do too.’

Lynge, who himself bears more than a little resemblance to the beserkers of years gone by, is certainly in the right place.

Denmark is famous for its Viking past and Aalborg, with its network of fjords, sandy bays and concealed islets, is no exception.

Further north is Skagen – known to the terrified English as ‘The Scaw’ – which, despite its picture perfect modern face, was, during the Viking period, the ideal jumping off point for raids on the Norfolk coast.

Lindholm Høje, where Lynge’s Viking eatery is based, was itself a Dark Ages settlement and was once directly on the coast, although the passing centuries have left it landlocked.

A cluster of what initially look like stone circles, it is in fact a burial ground where clan chieftains and slaves alike were buried with varying degrees of pomp and circumstance.

They were also buried with jewels, tools and crucially – for Lynge at least – their cooking implements, all of which have helped him build up a picture of the Viking menu.

It was, with its vegetables and grains, a varied one and one that was enlivened considerably once the Vikings worked out a route to Constantinople (now Istanbul) where they proved enthusiastic customers at the city’s many spice markets.

‘They travelled to Constantinople regularly,’ explains Lynge. ‘It all began with Halfdan Skallesmækker, who travelled there and brought home a lot of fine spices.

Delicious: This sweetheart cabbage and berry salad (recipe below) is a Viking classic

Delicious: This sweetheart cabbage and berry salad (recipe below) is a Viking classic

Food fit for Thor: Venison with ham and mead (recipe below) was another warrior favourite

Food fit for Thor: Venison with ham and mead (recipe below) was another warrior favourite

Remnant: Mr Lynge's restaurant is based at Lindholm Høje, an important Viking site in north Jutland

Remnant: Mr Lynge’s restaurant is based at Lindholm Høje, an important Viking site in north Jutland


Fiery portents, a dragon seen streaking across the Northumbrian sky and whirlwinds lashing the coast could mean only one thing to the fearful Anglo-Saxons watching the heavens in 793 – doom was imminent.

And doom duly came in the shape of the Vikings, who between 793 and 1066 were a hazardous part of life for the Anglo-Saxons.

Beginning with the Lindisfarne attack, their power and influence grew and by 849, the year King Alfred the Great was born, they held much of the north and east.

Although King Alfred managed to halt their advance, raids didn’t cease until after the Norman Conquest.

And while the Vikings may be gone from British shores, their influence does live on in our culinary traditions as well as the English language.

Beserk, which means murderous rage, comes from the Anglo-Saxon ‘beserker’ or clad in bear-skin – an early term used to describe the Vikings.

Other words inherited from the Vikings include the days of the week, most famously Thursday – or Thor’s Day.

‘This was the Viking’s first encounter with exotic spices like cinnamon, cardamom, star anise, ginger and black pepper.’

The Danes first encounter also proved to be the British people’s first encounter, as Lynge enthusiastically points out.

‘In the Nordic countries and in England, the same spices are still used today. Among other things, English blood sausage contains many of these spices, and you will also find them in Scottish haggis and Christmas cakes.

‘In Denmark, there’s a popular Christmas biscuit called the pebbernød, which can be traced all the way back to the year 1200.

‘At Christmas, it is tradition to make pebernød and another biscuit called brunkager, both of which contain variations on these warm spices, which is also the case with many British Christmas cakes.’

Spices, risotto and sauerkraut aren’t the only culinary traditions passed down by the Vikings, however.

Porridge too was a Viking favourite as was the classic roast dinner, although the beserkers, unsurprisingly, preferred Danish pork to British beef.

‘The pig is one of the most festive animals that were present in the Viking time,’ says Lynge. ‘This is evident in the mythology, most notably in the story of Frej – the god of fertility.

‘His transport animal is not a horse; it is a wild boar. Today, the ultimate Nordic feast dish is still roast pork. Or the Christmas ham.’

Like their neighbours, the Vikings were also fond of game and, come feast days, would tuck into Valhalla style banquets based on venison, poultry and even songbirds.

‘They also had rabbit, hare, birds and ducks,’ says Lynge. ‘They weren’t too bothered about what sort of bird they were eating. A bird was a bird.’

All change: Picturesque Aalborg is now a lively modern city but was once a Viking settlement

All change: Picturesque Aalborg is now a lively modern city but was once a Viking settlement

Remote: North Jutland's network of pretty bays and winding fjords made it the perfect haunt for Vikings

Remote: North Jutland’s network of pretty bays and winding fjords made it the perfect haunt for Vikings

The Skaw: Now a pretty fishing port, Skagen was once a jumping off point for Viking raids on England

The Skaw: Now a pretty fishing port, Skagen was once a jumping off point for Viking raids on England

Ancestors: According to Mr Lynge, 80 per cent of English people boast Scandinavian genes

Ancestors: According to Mr Lynge, 80 per cent of English people boast Scandinavian genes

While Lynge is yet to cook any songbirds, he does think the Vikings deserve more credit for their culinary traditions, many of which still influence modern British, Danish and Swedish dishes.

‘There’s a common cultural heritage,’ he explains. ‘Much of northern European culture has its roots in the Viking Age.

‘The British might talk about the Vikings attacking and being violent and that might be true, but 80 per cent of English people have Viking genes. In that sense, we are one common people.’

Nevertheless, the Viking menu certainly helped fuel the raiders, even if stories of mass schnapps sessions prior to battle are nothing more than a myth.

‘What made the Vikings such great and feared warriors was their perception of heaven and the afterlife,’ says Lynge.

‘They were not afraid of dying and they were especially not afraid of dying in a battle. Just imagine fighting against a big man, who believes that if he dies while he is giving his best in a battle, then he will be sent on to an eternal party.’

And with spiced venison and perfectly cooked roast boar on the party menu, you hardly blame them for looking forward to it.


Roast boar might have been the Vikings’ party food of choice but venison was almost as popular, as Jesper’s delicious recipe proves. Here’s how cooking like a Viking is done:


One venison filet

Four slices of mature ham or good bacon

250g butter

Handful of fresh mushrooms

300ml cream

200ml mead

Check the fillet for tendons and remove. Cut the meat into four pieces and wrap each one in a slice of ham, fixing it in place with a tooth pick.

Clean the mushrooms and slice or chop them. Next, brown 50g butter in a frying pan, then add the meat and cook to medium. Remove from the pan and cover with a paper towel and leave to rest while you make the gravy.

Place 100g of butter in your pan and let it brown. Fry your mushroom until they take on some colour. Next, add the mead and let it reduce by a third before adding the cream. Reduce again by two thirds, before removing the pan from the heat and stirring in the rest of the butter.

Serve the meat in the pan and grin along with the Norse gods as you enjoy it.


1kg baby beetroots

100g butter

100g honey

Peel the beetroots and dry them. Melt the butter and honey in a frying pan, then add the beetroots, covering them completely in the mixture.

Bake the beetroots for approximately 45 minutes at 175 degrees. Check and turn the beetroots regularly.


400g sweetheart cabbage

Eight baby leeks or  one large one

One pear

A dash of apple cider vinegar

Small handful of blackberries and blueberries

3tbsp rapeseed oil

Sprinkling of chopped parsley

Salt and pepper to taste

Cut the sweetheart cabbage into 5mm slices and place in a large serving bowl.

Cut the pear into thin slices, add the parsley and drizzle both with apple cider vinegar before throwing all of it over the cabbage with the blackberries and blueberries.

Fry the leek in rapeseed oil with a pinch of salt until the edges turn brown and add to the salad as a topping

All dishes serve four

For more information on Aalborg, Skagen and North Jutland, see 


This is what living in the Viking age looked like

December 1, 2014 – 06:23

Explore one of northern Europe’s largest Viking settlements in Denmark through this digital reconstruction.

Video: The National Museum of Denmark and Fugledegård Information Centre

The largest treasure ever found in Denmark, a 1.83 kilogram heavy neck ring of solid gold, was ploughed up on a field near the lake in 1977.

After the discovery, the National Museum of Denmark began snooping around the area with metal detectors. But this was only the beginning.

“In about 1990, amateur archaeologists started using metal detectors in the field further north along the banks of the lake. Here they began to find jewellery and parts of weapons all the way along the edge of the lake. This is when we “woke up” started taking notice,” says Lars Jørgensen, research professor at the Danish Antiquity section of the National Museum.

More diggings revealed human sacrifices from the Viking Age. This was the first evidence of human sacrifices during the Viking age.

The Tissø excavations soon turned out to involve one of the largest Viking settlements in Northern Europe.

In the animation above, the National Museum shows us round the entire 50 hectare site.

Viking settlement in Northern Europe

Excavations were conducted every year at Tissø from 1995 to 2003. The result was an immense amount of discoveries.

“This is the best example if a Viking settlement we have in Northern Europe, primarily because it is so easy to dig,” says Jørgensen, who has been working intensively on the Tissø site.

Over the years more than 12,000 items have been found, and together they tell the story of a group of extremely wealthy men and women who inhabited the area for some 500 years between 550 and 1050 A.D.
But nothing beats the gold treasure that set it all going. Even today, the 30-centimetre diameter neck ring — better known as the ‘Tissø Ring’ — was the reserve of wealthy people.

In the Viking age, it was highly likely that a person had to be a member of the nobility to own such an extraordinary gold ring, and archaeologists have gradually become convinced that Tissø was the backdrop to a royal residence.
The aristocratic architecture of the buildings contributes to this assumption.

Sheds new light on similar finds

Two things make the Tissø excavations very special. One is that they have given archaeologists the opportunity to follow the comings and goings of a royal residence over a period of 500 years.

“The other interesting thing is that there is a wealth of ritual facilities, some of them in and around the chieftain’s residence, where we are certain that there are ritual buildings and sacrificial sites, and partly in the area as a whole, where there are several other ritual sites,” says Jørgensen.

This gold neck ring, weighing 1.8 kilos, was found on a field in Denmark in 1977. Made around the 11th century, it is some 30 centimeters in diameter. This amount of gold could buy 500 head of cattle in the Viking age. (Photo: Den Store Danske)

In 2011, archaeologists found a religious site at the highest point in the area. Here, the inhabitants ate ritual meals — and sacrificed jewelry and human bones.

For the first time, archaeologists are reasonably certain they have proof that written reports of human sacrifices in the Viking age are authentic enough. Until 2011, it had been doubted whether there had been human sacrifices during the Viking age — the fact that they went about sacrificing real living people doesn’t exactly add clout to the Vikings identity.
“But after Tissø we started taking a look at some of old finds of human bones at Viking sites,” explains Jørgensen.

Vikings sacrificed small children

This led to the resurrection of an old theory about some peculiar sites — which resembled wells — at Trelleborg, one of Denmark’s six ring castles from the Viking age.

When the wells were excavated in the 1930s, the archaeologist involved suggested that they might’ve been sacrificial wells. But the theory was ignored — at least until the finds at Tissø gave grounds to reconsider them.

In the wells they found bone remnants of five people — four of them were small children aged 4 to 7.

Child sacrifices were ‘the ultimate’

Jørgensen explains that the Vikings’ belief in the Nordic gods was significant in relation to practically every activity in life, its everyday aspects as well as aspects of it concerning warriors in battle.

This is why the Vikings often sacrificed jewellery, weapons, tools and even animals to the gods to gain their favours. But human sacrifices were probably something very special, says Jørgensen.

“They constituted the ultimate sacrifice, especially when children were involved — they only did anything like that if they wanted to re-establish connections to the gods when things had gone seriously awry,” he says.


Read the original story in Danish on


And that ladies and gentlemen is how ya do it…

1000-year old Viking treasure hoard found in Scotland


Caerlaverock Castle in Caerlaverock, Scotland in 2014, near Dumfriesshire

View gallery

LONDON (Reuters) – A hoard of Viking gold and silver artifacts dating back over 1,000 years has been discovered by a treasure hunter with a metal detector in Scotland, in a find hailed by experts as one of the country’s most significant.

Derek McLennan, a retired businessman, uncovered the 100 items in a field in Dumfriesshire, southwest Scotland, in September.

Amongst the objects is a solid silver cross thought to date from the 9th or 10th century, a silver pot of west European origin, which is likely to have already been 100 years old when it was buried and several gold objects.

“Experts have begun to examine the finds, but it is already clear that this is one of the most significant Viking hoards ever discovered in Scotland,” Scotland’s Treasure Trove unit said in a statement.

The Viking hoard is McLennan’s second significant contribution to Scotland’s understanding of its past. Last year, he and a friend unearthed around 300 medieval coins in the same area of Scotland.

“The Vikings were well known for having raided these shores in the past, but today we can appreciate what they have left behind,” said Scotland’s secretary for cultural and external affairs, Fiona Hyslop.

The Vikings, of Scandinavian origin, made successive raids on Britain from the 8th to the 11th centuries, burying their valuables for safe-keeping, which have gradually been discovered by generations of treasure seekers.

A 10th-century Viking hoard was found in 2007 in northern England, while in 1840 over 8,600 items were found in northwest England.

The latest find, also containing a rare silver cup engraved with animals which dates from the Holy Roman Empire, and a gold bird pin, is the largest to be found in Scotland since 1891 and could be worth a six-figure sum, the BBC said.


I’ve been sick the past couple of days. Caught my wife’s cold. Didn’t sleep at all last night. Slept a little today.

On the upside of all of that I’ve been able to start my October Reading early.

I have four books in particular that I began last night and that I’m really looking forward to reading up until Halloween.

Sigurd and Gudrun – Tolkien’s retelling of the Volsungs. Seigfried was one of the first three books I ever checked out and read from the library on my own (in 2nd or 3rd grade), and I not long ago finished Tolkien’s alliterative rendering of The Fall of Arthur. Which was absolutely fantastic and has rekindled my interest in alliterative poetry. So I’m really looking forward to this. The magical sword Gram was the basis of the magical sword in my own writings, Wrothcholire.

Chanson de Roland – The Song of Roland (about Roland and the Paladins of Charlemagne) was the second book I ever checked out of the library to read on my own. I haven’t re-read it in years but I got a superb English Medieval Library copy of the work and look forward to it greatly. Roland’s sword Durandal also had a big effect on me (as did the Oliphant) while I was growing up and I also incorporated many of its properties into Wrothcholire.

The Princes of Ireland – This is historical fiction (a genre I greatly enjoy reading) and I have heard many very good things about the author, Edward Rutherfurd. I hope he is as good in his own way as Patrick O’Brian was with the Jack Aubrey books.

The Sagas of the Icelanders – I have recently been enjoying Mike Drout’s excellent lecture series on The Norsemen. When he got to the sections on the Vikings and the Poet Serial Killers it made me want to re-read the Icelandic Sagas. So I got a good copy that is a mix of the various types of Sagas. I haven’t started it yet but will tomorrow. I haven’t read the Icelandic Sagas since college. I’m interested to see what I will notice now I did not notice when I was a young kid at college.

Well, I suspect that my fiction and literature reading for October will be excellent indeed.

Good night


Hnefatafl is indeed an impressive (war) game, for many different reasons. Not least of all, to me, because as this article implies it is a game of asymmetrical warfare. But even going beyond that it forces the player to think not only of the immediate goal but of how (if he is a really good player) the pre-combat conditions (what they will face in the Real World) arose in the first place.

And if you know how the pre-combat/pre-game conditions arose then this gives you a great set of tactical clues about who to engage first (or not engage first, or maybe even not at all). The movement is simple as are the rules, but the tactical methods and implications are superb. What I like best about the game is how easily it translates from a tactical game environment to Real World applications.

In other words the game has immediate Real World applications.

Or put another way it is an early wargame version of a Game of Personal Advancement and Development with obvious, useful, and fundamental Real World applications.



Viking warriors storm into the torch-lit camp of a rival clan. Outnumbered, the ambushed Norsemen are far from their boats. Their one goal: flee to a nearby castle while keeping their king alive.

At first glance, Hnefatafl (prounounced “nef-ah-tah-fel”) might just look like a knock-off version of chess with Norse helms and impressive beards, but the game is at least 600 years older—already well-known by 400 A.D.—and is perhaps a lot more relevant to the conflicts of the 21st century.

“I love the asymmetry in this game. To win in this game, you absolutely have to think like your opponent,” emails Kristan Wheaton, a former Army foreign area officer and ex-analyst at U.S. European Command’s Intelligence Directorate. “Geography, force structure, force size and objectives are different for the two sides. If you can’t think like your opponent, you can’t win. I don’t know of a better analogy for post-Cold War conflict.”

The game is similar to chess, but with several important differences. Instead of two identical and equal opponents facing each other, Hnefatafl is a game where one side is surrounded and outnumbered—like a Viking war party caught in an ambush.

The game might seem unbalanced. The attacking black player has 24 total pieces—known as “hunns”—to white’s meager and surrounded 12 hunns. But white has several advantages.

White has an additional unique unit, a king, which must be surrounded on four horizontal sides to be captured. Hunns require being surrounded on two sides, and that’s pretty hard by itself. White’s goal is also simple: move the king to one of four corner squares known as “castles.” Black’s goal is to stop them.

Other rules? All pieces move like chess rooks. Black makes the first move. Black cannot occupy a castle, which would end the game in short order. But black can block off several castles by moving quickly, forming the equivalent of a medieval shield wall.

“If the king goes as hard as he can as early as he can for the corner and the other side is not really on its toes, the non-king side typically loses in just a few turns,” adds Wheaton, who now teaches intelligence studies at Mercyhurst University. “Among experienced players, however, this rarely happens.”

Hnefatafl starting positions with four corner castles. Kenneth Beckhusen/War is Boring photo

If lines are solid, they have to be flanked. Thus, it’s in black’s interest to force a symmetrical battle to force a likely win. If white can avoid engaging in a battle on black’s terms, then white’s chances of winning improve…

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