Library celebrates Vikings with Viking Chess board making and playing

Scandinavian culture is a very popular part of life in this area and to help celebrate that and the growing popularity of Vikings and Norse mythology, the Minot Public Library will be hosting an event focusing on “Hnefatafl” or more commonly known as Viking Chess.

On Saturday, starting at noon in the Minot Public Library Makerspace, guests of all ages will get to create their own boards for the unique chess game that will be printed from the roll printer and placed on boards. Players will also be able to design a unique “king” piece that will be printed in the 3D printer at a later date.

Josh Pikka, who is the librarian in charge of the event, said Hnefatafl was a precursor to chess that was created by Vikings in Northern Europe around 800 A.C.E. and was spread around as they traveled with each geographical area having their own unique version of the game. It wasn’t until the later Middle Ages that chess took over in popularity.

“For our purposes, I decided to refer to it as Viking Chess since Hnefatafl is hard to say. The family of games is referred to as tafl games. Tafl was the Norse word for board or table, what we would call board games,” said Pikka.

As more people become interested in not only Viking culture but also Norse mythology, the game is starting to be rediscovered. Pikka said the game is even mentioned in the mythology in a Norse epic that talks about Ragnorak, the ending of the world as the Norse gods knew it. In the story a board and game pieces was left on the grass for the rulers of the new age to discover.

“I learned about the game when I saw many sets for sale at last year’s Hostfest,” said Pikka. “It is a simple game to learn and fun to play, but the strategies can become more advanced the longer you play the game.”

As a precursor to chess, Viking Chess has similar aspects but is also a very different game. Instead of equal pieces on each players side, one side has control of the king piece and the king’s 12-piece army while the other player takes control of the 24-piece army. The goal, according to Pikka, is to either capture the king or have the king escape to one of the corner pieces of the board, as it is originally placed in the center of the board. Each piece moves in straight lines and the only way to capture an opponent’s piece is to surround it with their own pieces.

The event is the first of its kind, although the Minot Public Library has been holding other board game-based events while also providing events that offer different programming and designing aspects like this one does. Pikka hopes to start a regular board game club for all ages to enjoy.

One of the reasons this event is being hosted, Pikka said, was because of the large interest in Scandinavian culture and in genealogy that people going to the library have. With the knowledge that people enjoy learning about their family history, he thought many would enjoy being able to experience a game their ancestors played that has spanned back over a thousands years.

“Learning about your past is a really important thing, but experiencing your past firsthand is even better,” he said.

It is recommended that anyone interested in coming to the event register by the noon start time on Saturday to ensure there is enough supplies for everyone. Pikka can be reached by email at or call 852-1045.