Making a board game

It’s been too long, so I’m diving back into IOS development and making a board game. I have a test app (not even close to the final thing) for working out the UI pieces of the game that I just got to a reasonable baseline (i.e. it builds, runs on iPhone and iPad, and can be OTA updated with TestFlight).

The game is Hnefatafl – not quite an ancestor of chess, but somewhat related. The board is 11×11, and the game is unusual in that it’s an asymmetric game. It’s harder to win as one player than the other.

I first learned about this game through a book (the Mabinogion) that had a reference to a game called Gwyddbwyll (from ‘the dream of rhonabwy’ – see how this crazy stuff all ties together?). Nobody really knows the details of gwyddbwyll, but there’s some reference to say its related to other games from that era – Irish and Welsh, all of which seem to be the asymmetric “save the king” tafl games.

Right now I’m building this on iPad and iPhone, but I’m not sure if I’ll release it under the iPhone – only because the squares are so damned small on that interface. I have a few ideas for how I want to make the interface function, and once I get beyond that I’m going to aim to make it a turn-based multiplayer game using Apple’s GameKit (just an excuse to use the new stuff, course). A multi-player only game seemed kind of limiting though, so I purchased a book on game AI (Artificial Intelligence for games) so that I could make a reasonable single-player game. It’s a darned good book – so we’ll see how I do implementing some of those algorithms in Objective-C. I bought the whole book for Chapter 8 (Board Games), and don’t regret a penny of the purchase.

Published by heckj

Developer, author, and life-long student. Writes online at

One thought on “Making a board game

  1. How is it going with this project for a board game? Just was curious to see that game on an iPad. I agree the iPhone’s screen size would be challenging for that number of squares. What other board games do you like on the iPad, if you don’t mind my asking.
    Thanks for the pointer for the book on AI /games.


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