- For other uses of the word see Thud
Thud is a board game devised by Trevor Truran and first published in 2002, inspired by the Discworld novels of Terry Pratchett. It bears a strong resemblance to the ancient Norse games of Hnefatafl and Tablut but has been radically redefined to be less one-sided. The two sides are dwarfs and trolls.
Overview of game-play
In the game, the objective is to eliminate as many of the opposition's pieces as possible. The two antagonists are the trolls and the dwarfs, the trolls being few in number (but individually very powerful), while there are a large number of dwarfs, but each individual dwarf is very weak and requires support from nearby dwarfs to be of use against the trolls. As in fox games, the two sides have different pieces with different movement and attacking styles.
Thud uses an unconventional, octagonal board divided into smaller squares, with only one piece allowed to occupy each square.
The game, supposedly called in Dwarfish "Hnaflbaflwhiflsnifltafl", represents the famous Battle of Koom Valley between dwarfs and trolls.
The game was first directly referenced in Going Postal, being played by Vetinari, and became a central concept in the immediate sequel Thud!. The release of Thud! led to a special Koom Valley edition of the game. The pieces of the Koom Valley version reflect the illustration on the cover of the novel Thud! drawn by Paul Kidby.
Terry Pratchett has devised a fictional history of how Thud was invented, which bears some similarity to the Shahnama theory of the origins of chess. In short, the clever dwarf who invented the game was asked by his king to name his reward. The answer was that he wanted his board filled with gold: One small gold piece on the first square, two pieces on the second, four pieces on the third, etc. Needless to say this is more than all the gold of the Disc combined. The king then got angry and threatened to kill the dwarf who was 'too drhg'hgin clever by half'. The inventor then hastily changed his reward to 'as much gold as he could carry', whereupon the king agreed and simply broke one of his arms.
The octagonal playing area consists of a 15 by 15 square board from which a triangle of 15 squares in each corner has been removed. The Thudstone is placed on the centre square of the board, where it remains for the entire game and may not be moved onto or through. The eight trolls are placed onto the eight squares orthogonally and diagonally adjacent to the Thudstone and the thirty-two dwarfs are placed so as to occupy all the perimeter spaces except for the four in the same horizontal or vertical line as the Thudstone. One player takes control of the dwarfs, the other controls the trolls. The dwarfs move first.
On the dwarfs' turn, they may either move or hurl one dwarf:
- Move: any one dwarf is moved like a chess queen, any number of squares in any orthogonal or diagonal direction, but not onto or through any other piece, whether Thudstone, dwarf, or troll; or
- Hurl: anywhere there is a straight (orthogonal or diagonal) line of adjacent dwarfs on the board, they may hurl the front dwarf in the direction continuing the line, as long as the space between the lead dwarf and the troll is less than the number of dwarfs in the line. This is different from a normal move in that the dwarf is permitted to land on a square containing a troll, in which case the troll is removed from the board and the dwarf takes his place. This may only be done if the endmost dwarf can land on a troll by moving in the direction of the line at most as many spaces as there are dwarfs in the line. Since a single dwarf is a line of one in any direction, a dwarf may always move one space to capture a troll on an immediately adjacent square.
On the trolls' turn, they may either move or shove one troll:
- Move: one troll is moved like a chess king, one square in any orthogonal or diagonal direction onto an empty square. After the troll has been moved, any dwarfs on the eight squares adjacent to the moved troll may optionally be immediately captured and removed from the board, at the troll player's discretion; or
- Shove: anywhere there is a straight (orthogonal or diagonal) line of adjacent trolls on the board, they may shove the endmost troll in the direction continuing the line, up to as many spaces as there are trolls in the line. As in a normal move, the troll may not land on an occupied square, and any dwarfs in the eight squares adjacent to its final position may immediately be captured. Trolls may only make a shove if by doing so they capture at least one dwarf.
The battle is over when both players agree that no more captures can be made by continuing to play, or when one player has no more valid moves to make. At this point the players count score: the dwarfs score 1 point for each surviving dwarf, and the trolls score 4 for each remaining troll, with the difference being the 'final' score. The players should then swap sides to play another round, and the sum of their final scores for the two battles determines the overall victor.
The basic overall strategy for the dwarfs to form a large group and for the trolls to try and stop them. It is normally better for the trolls to be widely spaced.
A dwarf's strategy does widely depend on how the trolls are advancing on the dwarf block. A good tactic therefore is to be prepared to sacrifice a few dwarfs to get in the way and slow down any trolls that are advancing into dangerous positions.
A troll's strategy can also vary but at the start of a match getting into shoving lines is regarded as the best tactic.
Koom Valley Thud
For the 2005 rerelease of Thud, Truran devised a substantially different game that could be played with the same board and pieces, known as Koom Valley Thud. Unlike the original release in which the publishers attempted to keep the game rules secret so that anyone wishing to play would have to buy the official set, the rules for Koom Valley Thud were posted on the official website  so that owners of the original edition would have access to the new rules.
Object of the Game
For the dwarfs to win they must move the rock to the far side of the valley (shown in dark grey on the layout diagram below). Ie onto any of the five squares on the opposite side of the board against which the dwarf commander is sitting. For the trolls to win they must capture the rock by placing three trolls adjacent to it (in any direction including diagonally). If neither side can achieve their objective the game is drawn.
Movement is the same as Classic Thud except that Trolls may now move up to 3 spaces in any direction (horizontal, vertical or diagonal).
Dwarfs may move the Rock instead of moving a dwarf piece. It may move only one square in any direction. To be moved it must be next to a dwarf and it must also be next to a dwarf at the end of its move.
A troll captures a dwarf by trampling over it. It moves in a straight line from a square next to the dwarf, through the square the dwarf is on and lands on the empty square immediately beyond. The trampled dwarf is removed from the board.
Several captures may be made in one move and a change of direction is allowed between captures.
Dwarfs capture a troll by moving a dwarf so that the troll is trapped between two dwarfs in any straight line (including diagonally). The three pieces, two dwarfs and a troll, must all be in line.
If the dwarf that has been moved also traps another troll between itself and another dwarf, that troll is also captured
Captures are only made when the capturing side moves a piece. The rock may be moved and come to rest next to three trolls. It can only be captured when a troll is moved.
- Official site, including Pratchett's Story of Thud (seems to not be valid anymore)
- Photograph of an official board at BoardGameGeek. This illustrates both what the official game set looks like, and the initial positions.
- ThudBoard by Marc Boeren is software for playing Thud.
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