What Games Did Vikings Play in Their Leisure Time

viking play games

Vikings had several ways to pass the time; games and entertainment were some of them. We know from archaeological findings that they played dice games, and board games, and even gambled during gatherings. They knew how to amuse themselves in the free time between their long trade journeys and raids. Their children too had their variants of games, which consisted of carved wooden dolls, simple ball games, and more. Here is a brief list of games Vikings enjoyed in their leisure time.


Hnefatafl was a board game played in the Viking Age, it was popular for hundreds of years in Northern Europe before it was supplanted by chess. Besides Hnefatafl being a strategy game played with gaming pieces, there is not much known about how it was played. However, we do know from excavated artifacts what some of the pieces of Hnefatafl looked like and the appearance of the board it was played on.

There is some information about Hnefatafl that did survive, first, it was similar to chess in the sense that it was a war game. Unlike chess, the two players participating in the game both had different objectives with one being a defender and the other playing the role of an attacker. The attacker’s goal was to capture the defender’s king piece, whereas the defender’s objective was to escort that piece to the end of the board.

Many scholars debate that games like Henfatafl weren’t played just for leisure. They were also a tool for the brave seafarers to practice strategic and tactical warfare. The game appears to have played a major role in shaping military strategies for the Vikings.

The excavated game pieces show each piece was elaborately crafted with attention to detail, something that we don’t see in chess. They were made from expensive materials like amber, whalebone, glass, and other high-quality materials. There are some unearthed pieces of this game that were carved out of ivory and walrus tusks. Henfatafl wasn’t just limited to the societal elite, it was played by the ordinary populace as well.

Rolling Dice

Rolling Dice was a crucial part of social and gambling games played by Vikings. These throwable objects have been around since the Bronze Age, and like every other culture, Vikings carved their unique history with them. Made out of fine materials, Vikings use dice for various board games and for aggressive gambling. Archaeological findings have shown various types of dice that these warriors loved playing and carving.

In Viking culture, dice games played a multifaceted role. These games served as a source of amusement during the extended darkness of winter evenings and on lengthy sea expeditions. Beyond mere entertainment, they fostered the development of strategic reasoning and an understanding of probability. Dice games also facilitated high-stakes gambling, where participants risked prized possessions and, in extreme cases, their liberty.

Much like Hnefatafl which you can play today online on various websites, which of course decide their own rules for the game. Gaming enthusiasts can play dice rolling, themed games, and innovative online slots at Ignition. These online platforms allow you to experience and learn about games in both a playful and serious manner where you can bet for real money, as they capitalize on the popular image of Norse warriors and Viking mythology.

For instance, popular slot titles like “Viking Age” and “Vikings Treasure” have been created based on archeological evidence and Viking symbols, offering immersive environments of how Viking games might have been played.

While the exact details of games played by Vikings may have been lost with time, new archaeological findings have helped connect the dots. The human imaginative power remains unfazed as we have seen with several Viking-inspired media products, including video games and TV series. Scholars like Martha Bayless argue, that trying out various rules for Viking games is one of the ways we can rediscover the ancient rules.



Outdoor Viking games involved competitive sports, ball games, skating, archery, sword play, wrestling and more. They used bone skates not only for fun but also to traverse long distances on snowy lands.


Viking skates were usually made of hefty bones from animals like horses and then joined together with a piece of leather. These bones were flattened from one side and the other was used to attach leather and ankle supports. Archaeologists have unearthed several of these bone skates from Sweden alone: they recovered nearly 700 Viking skates.

Vikings might not have invented Ice Skates, but they were largely responsible for popularizing these activities. Some Viking skis were made of wood but still retained their leather straps like their bone variants. Hunting while skiing was one of their favorite outdoor activities at that age.

Vikings also raced each other in speed skating where the winner would take home copper, silver, armaments, and other valuables. Archaeologists have discovered these skates in various places where Vikings were active. This further shines a light on the fact that Vikings had much more going on in their lives than people think.