Ross G. R. Caldwell wrote:I don't know anything about hnefatafl. Is the object of this variant the same as the regular game, but just with moralized pieces? Or are the rules different, actually involving the symbolism of the Evangelists? (e.g. all four have to be in place to win?)
I did not know anything about hnefatafl myself before finding out about this interesting variant.
The online rules for Alea Evangelii interpret it as a standard hnefatafl, only larger. From what I understand, the manuscript says nothing about the rules; it only describes how the pieces should be placed.
If the game was actually close to the standard, I guess one player would have had "Canon 1": the "King" and the 16 pieces around him. This makes the king weaker than in usual games (he usually has 1/3 of the pieces). Online rules
make the game more standard, assigning to the King a set of pieces from the different canons.
My idea is that, since each evangelist has a side of the board and a set of pieces of his own, I think that maybe the game was to be played by four players, each trying to surround the (unmovable) Trinity with four of his pieces?
Porro primarius unum Mathei et Marci et Luce et Iohannes votum vel unitatem trinitatis significare videtur - The "primary" man signifies the one purpose of Mt, Mc, Lc and Jo, or the Unity of the Trinity.
The four "varios viros"/variegated men (corresponding to the passion?) are assigned to Mark and John, apparently to compensate the fewer pieces assigned to them on the basis of the canons. This also seems to suggest that the balance between the evangelist was important.
I have a terrible time reading the manuscript. Thanks god there is a transcription online
Just to make things harder, I just noticed that the manuscript board is wrong (two pieces are missing).
Can you please help me with these two words? This one is the only piece which is not numbered with dots as belonging to a specific evangelist, nor marked with the Xth canon.