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Re: I need directions for an old Irish game please

Poster: fiacha@premier1.net

Greetings from Fiacha,

On Fri, 23 May 1997 DierdreOC@aol.com wrote:

> I am searching for an Irish game called 
> Fidhchelf     (pron. fishell ?)
> It may also have been known as
> Gwyddbwyll      (pron. gwythbyyl ?)      (Welsh)
> **I need to find out HOW TO PLAY!!!**

The quick answer is that it got lost and all we can be sure of is the

On the other hand, the best guess is that it was some variant of the
Viking game, hneffetafl which we believe to be a precursor of the Finnish
game of Tablut that Linneaus recorded. There is also the game recorded as
ALea Evangeli which is probably in the same group but we still don't have
a definitive set of rules.

Irish law required that fidcheal be taught to foster sons and it also
required that hospitallers have one set for every five guests (as well as
a set for some other game for every six guests) but it is clear that it
was a two man game. It is also clear that the pieces could be big enough
and heavy enough to do serious damage when picked up and hurled at an
opponent. Which also raises the point that people could get emotion about
winning or losing.

The only game board that I know of that turned up in Ireland is 7x7 but
the board is identified as having been made in the Isle of Man by the
Norse folk there. Thus this is a slim basis for believing that fidcheal
was a 7x7 version of Hnefetafl. The Welsh version is based on a slightly
confusing description of the board layout but I cannot recall the detatils
off the top of my head.

My own feeling is that to associate a name with a particular size of board
is a mistake. The Alea Evangeli description refers to a large set of games
being played with the same rules and the names the writer used suggests
that the game names usually named the opposing sides.

Rules - more or less as described by Linneaus
Take a square board with an odd number or squares to each side. There is a
singular chief piece that goes on the center square. Clumped around this
piece are a set of defenders. There are usually a few more than there are
squares along a side of the board and always an even number. The chief
piece and his defenders constitute one side. The attackers have a force
consisting of twice as many pieces as the defender but arranged in four
clumps, one at the center of each side of the board.

All of the pieces move orthogonally, i.e up down left or right, never
diagonally. The goal of the attackers is to capture the chief piece. The
goal of the defenders is to get the chief piece off the board. Pieces are
capture by moving next to an enemy piece when there is a friendly piece on
the opposite side of the enemy piece.

Only the chief piece can occupy the center square.

It takes four pieces to surround and capture the chief piece.

Additional rule choices
Can ordinary pieces travel through the center square?

Can the chief piece escape through any square on the edge of the board? or
and square that was not initially occupied? or only througbh the corner

Can the chief piece participate in captures?

Can ordinary pieces occupy the corner squares?

Can the center square be treat as a friendly piece so you can capture
pieces next to it? If ordinary pieces cannot enter the corners, can you
treat them the same way?

Can the edges be treated as friendly pieces so you can canture against
them? If yes, can you capture a piece against the edge if has not yet



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