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Rules of the game Brandubh v.1


Brandubh is the smallest member of the Tafl family of games. Its name means “Black Raven” in Gaelic (Irish), and it is known to have been played in Ireland at least a thousand years ago. Despite its small size, it is a tricky and interesting game, though short, and is quick to learn but difficult to master. It is played on a 7 x 7 board, with the corners and centre square marked – these are special squares.

The Aim of the Game

The two players have different aims in the game.

The white player wins by moving the king piece to any corner square.
The black player wins by capturing the white king.

The Pieces

The two players have different forces to work with.

White has a king and 4 warriors.
Black has no king, but 8 warriors.

Starting Position:

Movement of the pieces

All the pieces including the king move the same way – in straight lines forward, backwards, left or right, any number of squares. It's like the way rooks (or castles) move in chess. No piece may move diagonally or jump over another piece, and no more than one piece may occupy a square

Capturing Pieces
You can capture an enemy warrior by surrounding it on both sides with two of your own warriors. They must be standing on opposite sides, either in front and behind, or to the left and right, not diagonally. A piece that becomes trapped like this by an enemy move is captured and removed from the board. However, it is safe to move into a gap between two enemies without being captured. The King may participate in capturing, just like any other piece, and he may also be captured just like any other piece. It is possible to capture more than one piece at a time, but not if they are standing together in a row.

(In this example, Black moves his warrior from b2 to c2, capturing both white warriors on c3 and d2 simultaneously)

Special Squares

The central square (known as the “throne square” because the king sits there at the start of the game) and the four corner squares are restricted. Only the king may occupy any of these five squares, though any warrior may pass through the throne square when it is empty, without stopping on it. The king may return to the throne square after he has left it, if required. The king can be captured while on the throne, just the same as on any other square, by being surrounded on two opposite sides.

In addition, the four corner squares (but not the throne square) are “hostile squares”. This means that they can play the part of an enemy warrior of either colour for the purposes of capturing. Any piece, including the king, that is occupying a square next to the corner square, can be captured if an enemy piece moves in behind it, trapping it against the hostile corner square.


The game may end in a draw if:

either player is unable to move on his turn, because all remaining pieces are blocked in and unable to move,

a perpetually repeating series of moves means the game has reached stalemate by repetition,

both players agree to a draw at any time.

Note: the two versions of Brandubh differ in the following ways
Version 1Version 2
  • Throne square is not hostile

  • King may be captured on two sides
    even on throne square

  • Nothing special about the squares next to the throne

  • Throne square is hostile

  • King must be captured on 4 sides
    when on the throne square in version 2.

  • King must be captured on 3 sides (plus empty throne square)
    when on one of the squares next to the throne.