hist-games: Brandubh ("Black raven")

Damian Walker damian at snigfarp.karoo.co.uk
Fri Aug 11 23:16:39 PDT 2006

Quoting Mats Winther's message of Yesterday:

> The Brandubh representations on the Internet employ an awkward
> setup.

You'll find that there are two current ideas about the game of brandub. 
One, as you seem to adopt, as do I, is that the game is the smallest 
variant of tafl that we know of.  You'll see that your cross-shaped 
layout was mentioned in an article in Eigse: A Journal of Irish Studies, 
of 1946, by Eoin MacWhite.  His article is online, and is linked to
somewhere on the following site:


> I took for granted that it was correct until I learnt that there
> exists no historical information about the setup.

What you have seen is the setup for a completely different game, 
inspired by the same board.  People have claimed that that game is the 
true brandub.  In fact, if you look at the archives to this list, you'll 
see a post by Matthew Allen Newsome, on Thursday 3 December 1998, giving 
his opinion that brandub wasn't a tafl game at all.  Like you, I 
searched for historical evidence for his alternative proposal, without 
success.  It's an interesting and attractive game, but not, in my 
opinion, an historic one.  The game's requirement for a chequered board, 
and the lack of a chequered pattern on any of the Irish 7x7 boards found 
so far, seem to support me in this.

> I tried the natural
> setup, a cross, which works much better (the other one gives too
> big advantage to white).

On the site above you'll find three alternative layouts, but the cross 
shape does seem to give the best game, though I'll admit it's not as 
pretty as the others.

> What surprised me was how difficult this game is, despite the few 
> pieces and the small board.

It can be very challenging.  I played first against human players, but 
since then, I've been developing an applet which plays an average game 
as white.  Its weakness is down to my lack of AI programming experience, 
more than any complexity of the game, and the AI as it stands is not up 
to the task of playing black.  It can be seen on my personal homepage 
(see below).

> Tablut (9x9) is for masters.

Having played a few variants since I became interested in this game, I 
don't think the size of the board has a linear relationship with the 
amount of skill needed to play.  I think rather that the size of board 
shifts emphasis from short term tactics to long term strategy.  The 
smaller games are quicker and less daunting for beginners, though. 
I've yet to find a willing opponent for alea evangelii!

Damian - http://damian.snigfarp.karoo.net/

More information about the hist-games mailing list