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RE: I need directions for an old Irish game please

Poster: harbink@wdni.com

Sim wrote:
>I am searching for an Irish game
>called Fidhchelf     (pron. fishell ?)

The modern spelling is Ficheail and can be pronounced fikyul or fikyal
(currently there are between 5 and 7 recognized dialects).  There is no
easy way of determining the actual 9th to 11th century pronunciation.

The only easy to access references to the game Fidchell  I have on hand
are the following:

1. Cormac's glossary (c. 900CE) - "Firstly the Fidchell is
four-cornered, its squares are right-angled and black and white men are
on it, and moreover it is different people that in turn win the games."

2. O'Donovan's "The Book of Rights" (1847) - "It was a board of silver
and pure gold, and every angle was illuminated with precious stones, and
a man-bag of woven brass wire.  Midir then arranged the Fithcheall.
'Play,' said Midir.  'I will not except for a wager,' replied Eochaidh."

All authors I have read relate Fidchell with what are generally termed
tafl games (pronounced tabl).  Tafl games consist of a king, and even
number of kings men, and twice their number in opposing forces.  The
object is for the king to make it to the edge of the board thereby
taking the field or escaping it (depending on who you ask :-)  Movement
is orthogonally (like the rook in chess).  Capture is custodial (on two
opposing sides) for all but the king piece which must be surrounded on
four sides or three and the throne (provided the throne is blocked
opposite the king.  The Irish Brandubh board is played with pegs on a
7x7 grid (an infuriating game), Welsh Tawlbwrdd on 11x11, Norwegian
Olafs Kongs Tafl on 13x13, and  Danish Hnefatafl on the lines of an
18x18 square board (place association is circumstantial based upon
archeological finds).  Additionally, Swedish Tablut (described by
Carolus Linnaeus in 1732) is played on raindeer hide board consisting of
9x9 squares.

Since Fidchell is an Irish game and the Brandubh board was found in
Ireland (7Oct1932) the two are often connected by those who like to name
things.  The Brandubh board is unique in that the four corner holes are
penned in with quarter circles.  This may indicate that the king-piece
must works its way to a corner in order to win.  Another version played
an 11x11 board with circles in the corners is sold by History Craft
Limited as "The Viking Game" (can be purchased from Arwen Myth & Music,
PO.Box 389, 100 Mile House, B.C. VOK 2EO - Canada).  This version is
popular in Blatha An Or and is the most even handed tafl game I have
played (though Tawlbwrdd and Hnefatafl are my favorites).

If memory serves there is an article on tafl in "Tournaments
Illuminated"  120 or 121 that may interest you.  General instructions
for tafl games can also be found in "The Known World Handbook" and "The
Compleat Anachronist" 4.  The bibliographies in those sources will also
help in a more in depth search.

BTW, you stated "I need to know HOW TO PLAY!!!"  Is there a story behind

Lord Rowan O'Sidhe
Gamesmaster, An Tir

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