Games You Can Make At Home – Nine Men’s Morris

Approx. Time Required: 30 minutes

Where Did The Game Come From?

No one really knows; Nine Men’s Morris is in the running with Chess and Go for one of the oldest games in the world. A board for it was found cut into a wall in the temple at Kurna, in Egypt which dates to 1440 BC. The dating of this is dubious as to its accuracy however, as Coptic Crosses were also found carved there which could not possibly have been put there by the Egyptians of the time. However, this game has achieved worldwide popularity across the ages, with three variations existing; Three Men’s Morris, Six Men’s Morris and Twelve Men’s Morris.

You Will Require:

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The Stuff.
  • A large A3 or similar sized pad of paper (in which you can store all the games you make)
  • A ruler, at least 30cm in length
  • A pencil (I recommend a mechanical one)
  • Coloured pens/pencils (optional)
  • Time – about half an hour
  • Plenty of space – either a clear table or big wooden floor

The Process:

You should start by measuring out a square on your paper. I went for one that was 9″ x 9″ as it filled the space quite nicely without being too big.

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Standard, boring large square.

Because Nine Men’s Morris has three squares in it and I’m a little OCD, my next step was to ensure the proper spacing of the squares. So I drew two diagonal lines, dividing the square into four triangles:

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*NOTE: with a 9″ x 9″ square a regular 30cm ruler will not be long enough to draw these diagonal lines. I went hunting for something longer, and ended up using a box edge.*

Once the diagonal lines are drawn in you need to measure up them and make two marks; one for the middle square, and one for the inner square. I measured 2 inches up each each line, from the outside corners for the middle square, and then another 2 inches for the inmost square.

As soon as you have all the marks, simply join them up nice and neatly and there you have all three squares – nearly finished!

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Okay, there’s only a few lines left to draw before you have a complete Nine Men’s Morris board, but before you draw them you should erase the diagonal lines, leaving only the small cross that marks the middle of the board, like this:

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The small cross in the middle is very useful for drawing the last lines. The board needs vertical and horizontal lines that go through the middle of each side of the board, essentially dividing it in half along the horizontal and vertical middle lines, but leaving the center of the smallest square completely blank. The small cross makes this easier by showing where the middle of the board is, so all you have to do is lay your ruler straight across it horizontally, and then vertically, and mark the lines.

It should look like this:

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If you’re rushing to finish this then at the point you could declare yourself finished, and set about playing the game, but if you have a few more minutes, you should take the time to make it a bit prettier.

Finishing Up:

First thing’s first! Go over all your lines with your ruler and a black pen. This is the most important part of finishing up. Next go over the name of the game in nice colourful pens so that it stands out, and so you don’t forget which game it is in the future.

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Lastly, erase any still-visible pencil lines that mar the beauty of your finished game!

The Final Product:

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Okay, it doesn’t look like much I admit, but this game is really good fun – and quite challenging if your opponent is any good at it. The last thing you need is to either make or find twenty four flat tokens, twelve in one colour, and twelve in another (typically black and white similar to Checkers). I suggest buttons as an excellent substitute for actual tokens from another game. If you have any, a few large buttons would make perfect pieces for this game!

As with Snakes and Ladders you can make the game as colourful, or plain, as you like, there’s plenty of space around the edges for doodling or sketching, and you could even colour in the board if you felt so inclined!

I do intend to make copies of the three other variations of this game and post them here, although I may do them all in one post, as the the system will be fundamentally the same as how I drew out this one.

If you’re interested in how to play Nine Men’s Morris check out the full review post we wrote about it here.

One Last Note…

These posts are entirely non-profit, the idea behind them being to suggest creative ways that bring assorted games into the house if you don’t have the money/space to buy beautiful wooden, or printed copies. The games I am writing about are all old and in public domain.

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Breach the Keep – Under development!

Now… The totally unexpected and unanticipated game! That thing that no one has been waiting for! A look at the obscurest game of all…

Breach the Keep! 

Also widely known as that game I just made up that’s actually quite good, or so I think!

The Idea:

So one day I’m sitting there and I’m like “I should develop a board game” so I go and create a terribly complicated game about super heroes… Then a year later I come up with Breach the Keep after saying to my sister “we should develop our own board game!”. The initial idea was for the board, I thought it would be good to have a basic strategy game that did’t move in squares, so I came up with the idea of intersecting Octagons, Hexagons and Squares and drew this:

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My super wonky first prototype of the board!

What I was going to use it for exactly hadn’t yet come to me, all I thought was that the octagons and squares had to mean something different to the hexagons. So (naturally) I started thinking about war… Most strategy games seem to be based in some form or other on the idea of war. I started thinking about medieval war and how you had to advance step by step, taking your enemies castles and burning their villages (yeah not pretty but it was war). So I thought, what if the octagons where castles and you had to make your way down the board taking them as you go and holding them against your enemy and thus the initial idea was born.

Development:

Next I had to establish rules to the game, I had to work out how it should work and decide upon an objective. First I thought what if you just had to take all the other pieces? But then that seemed stupid, they (I have no idea who) always say the mark of a bad chess player is one who has to take all their opponents pieces before they can put them in check mate. So I thought what if, like chess, you had to capture their king? Then he could be in your Home Keep that, if breached, meant you lost. This seemed like a good idea so I went with it. We then had to test play (a LOT) to figure out how movement would work and how taking and breaching would work.

Yes those are Warhammer pieces, Draughts pieces and a few Othello pieces.
Yes those are Warhammer pieces, Draughts pieces and a few Othello pieces.

So test play ensued, using pieces borrowed from other games to try to figure out how many pieces were good, how much they could move, how they could move etc. This was a long and depressing process of trying out almost everything we could think of and debating if certain things worked or not. I won’t go in to detail here or you’ll get bored and if you’re still reading at this point you’re probably already bored enough. So in super short detail we came up with some great ideas for combining pieces so they could move further to make them more powerful and so great ideas to balance the breaching of a keep against the defense of it. We also decided that the board was too small so I created this one:

The basic concept of the board - It will be much prettier once it is done!
The basic concept of the board – It will be much prettier once it is done!

Which is still underdevelopment in a aesthetic sense but after much more trial playing we were rather happy with:

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So i started thinking what to do with it next. Obviously I wanted a real copy of it rather than something printed on A4 paper taped together and stealing other board game pieces to play. Additionally I needed it to be tested by a wider audience so I thought “why not start a blog and offer up ten free copies once you’re ready in exchange for feedback to see if it’s actually a terrible game and you’re just blinded by your own delusions!” and so here we are. However the game is still under development, the board is being made to look pretty, I’m busy creating box art and pop out pieces that can be used with the game when its distributed. Additionally we’re trying to make the rules as understandable as possible (I often complain about ambiguity in other rules so I’m trying to make these as good as possible, unfortunately, and as you might be able to tell, writing’s not exactly my forte).

Concept designs for the box cover and for the Octagons (keeps) on the board.
Concept designs for the box cover and for the Octagons (keeps) on the board.
A very basic and rough digital concept of the box art.
A very basic and rough digital concept of the box art.

And Now Let’s Briefly Ramble:

So hopefully the game will be ready in around one – two months and will be shipped to the first ten people who send their address to the given email free of any charge on the condition you give feedback and tell me what can be made better and what you would have done differently. Now you’re thinking “Damn it now I have to keep checking this thing before I can get free stuff… But I want free stuff NOW!”. Well tough! Patience is a virtue, well actually Aristotle wrote about Temperance rather than patience but it could be understood as the same thing… Anyway this is a board game blog not a philosophy blog… Although I should start one of those too because philosophy is the birth of all knowledge and knowledge is POWER!