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.

Update – We’re both back!

So as you’re all aware from Dave’s updates, I’ve been out and about in Europe for the last month or so with a friend. But I’m back now and we’re ready to get the blog back on schedule(ish) for the rest of the summer!

However, whilst on our travels, Rosie and I have come across, and played, many a game. Some that we’ve already reviewed, like Cripple Mr Onion. But other (more interesting games) that we found in hostels we stayed in, such as Pandemic! (Turns out we’re terrible at this game, we’re just too good at destroying all of humanity…) So below are a few photos of the game related things that we did:

This was waiting for us (by my bed) in the hostel in Stockholm, the first city we visited, because we’re both terrible at maths, we didn’t play it.

 

For some reason, it won't let me turn it the right way up...
For some reason, it won’t let me turn it the right way up…

In between Mathable and the next photo we also managed to play English Scrabble with a German Scrabble set. Needless to say scoring was interesting. Unfortunately, we forgot to take photos. 😦

Switzerland appears to have been the best country for board games in the hostels, most of the other places had chess, Copenhagen did have a few other interesting-looking games, but they were mostly in Danish, which neither of us could speak or read.

We found this in the hostel in Zurich:

PANDEMIC! It's a race to save humanity
PANDEMIC! It’s a race to save humanity

We freaked out a few people sharing the common area with us for the five hours that we spent playing this. Apparently we were taking saving the world from four deadly diseases far too seriously…

Also in Zurich I wanted to get this for Dave:

Because it's just beautiful, as chess sets go
Because it’s just beautiful, as chess sets go

But it was a little out of my price range. He got a bar of Toblerone instead.

From Zurich we headed to Bern, and in Bern we found (but didn’t get a photo of) a giant Nine Men’s Morris set, an outdoor one, like the chess sets they have in schools and parks. It was awesome. But we also managed to play Mastermind in Bern, albeit, with a set that was missing a few pieces…

Slightly makeshift game of Mastermind
Slightly makeshift game of Mastermind

Once again, we apologize for the slightly hiatus in posts, but we’re hoping to be back on track, spamming you all with geeky board game reviews within the next few days!

On the Ninth Day of Christmas My True Love Gave To Me…

… A Nine-Men’s Game, Apparently From Some Bloke Called Morris… – Nine Men’s Morris!

Nine Ladies (Morris) Dancing
Nine Ladies (Morris) Dancing

The Rules:

Nine Men’s Morris, is a very quick, easy to learn game. You play on a square board with three squares drawn on it, a big, a medium and a little one, all inside each other. These are connected by horizontal or vertical lines in the centre of each side. Each player starts with 12 pieces in either black or white and the objective is to make a line, either horizontally or vertically (but not diagonally), of three, called a mill. Once a player has created a mill, they can remove one of their opponents pieces from the board. Play continues in this manner until one player has less than three pieces left. It’s so simple that even Aunt Jean could learn it, although you may run into some trouble explaining why the three-in-a-row are called mills…
Each player takes it in turns to place a piece on the board, either on one of the points in the middle of the side where the squares are connected, or on a corner of one of the squares. Then you move one piece one space per turn to try and make your lines of three. Easy, right? If you wish for any more info about this game, go to our previously published post, here!

For Christmas?

Definitely! It’s quick, fun, clever, and can be taught to people of all ages! (With the possible exception of children under the age of about 5 or 6, we wouldn’t want them eating the pieces, now would we?) This game probably takes about 5 minutes to play, so you could even set up some kind of tournament with all the relatives that visit you around Christmas time.

Happy ninth day of Christmas!!

A Fairly Quick Game – Nine Men’s Morris!

3.5 - 5

Number of Players: 2

Year of Publication: -1400

Creator(s): Designer is unknown and Dieter Zander is the Artist

Having taken a quick break from this chain of posts to write about Elixir, I’m back on fast games! This one’s all about Nine Men’s Morris. Another very old game, a board for which was found cut into a wall in the temple at Kurna, Egypt, that dates back to 1440 BC (although there is doubt as to whether this is an accurate dating of the carving as Coptic crosses were also found carved here that could not have been put there by the Egyptians at the time). Anyone who’s played Assassins Creed III might be familiar with this game – it’s one of the mini games available within the game. Variations of it are also Three Men’s, Six Men’s and Twelve Men’s Morris. Unfortunately, we don’t yet have copies of the others, so this post will mainly (but with some references to the others) be focused on Nine Men’s Morris.

A Nine Men's Morris board and pieces before a game begins.
A Nine Men’s Morris board and pieces before a game begins.

It’s a very easy game to learn, each player has 12 pieces in either black or white. The board is comprised of three squares inside each other, each with intersecting lines midway down each side. White plays first and you take it in turns to place pieces on the corners of the squares or the midway points created by the intersecting lines. The objective is to create lines of three, either horizontally or vertically, called mills. Once a player has created a mill they are then allowed to remove one of their opponents pieces from the board. If a mill is created whilst players are placing their pieces the player who created it is still allowed to remove one of their opponents pieces.

A game where all the pieces have been placed just before the moving phase begins.
A game where all the pieces have been placed just before the moving phase begins.

After all the pieces have been placed players take it in turns to move. Each turn you may move one piece one space. You cannot move, or create mills on, the diagonals. A player who has achieved a mill or two when placing their pieces is going to be in a stronger starting position than their opponent, as they will have more pieces left to manoeuvre round the board.

When a player has lost so many pieces that they have three or less pieces left on the board they are then able to move their pieces anywhere. They are no longer restricted to moving one piece one space. They can move one piece from any space on the board to any other space. This makes it considerably harder for their opponent to continue to make mills. Once a player has lost all of their pieces, or both agree that a point in the game has been reached where neither player can win, the game ends.

The end of the game and black is the winner having reduced white to less than three pieces.
The end of the game and black is the winner having reduced white to less than three pieces.

History Things:

These first five points are all about Three Men’s Morris, not Nine!

  1. In line for “oldest game in the world” – with Go, Backgammon and Chess.
  2. Noughts and Crosses or Tic Tac Toe are the same as the variation of Three Men’s Morris that involves the use of the diagonals for making mills.
  3. According to Thomas Hyde the Chinese played it in 500BC.
  4. Ovid mentions it in “Ars Amatoria” – the Romans played on wooden or stone boards, although occasionally more exotic materials were used.
  5. Three Men’s Morris was widely played in England 1300 AD – boards can be found carved, by monks, into the cloister seats in Norwich, Canterbury, Gloucester and Salisbury Cathedrals, and Westminster Abbey.
  6. Other Nine Men’s Morris boards have been found in Ceylon – carved in the reign of Mahadithika Maha-Naga (9-21AD), and European boards have been found in places like the first city of Troy, a Bronze Age burial site in Ireland and at the Acropolis in Athens.
  7. The game reached peak popularity in Europe in the fourteenth century.
  8. In old England the game was played with black and white pebbles on a board that was drawn out on the village green using a trowel, or drawn onto a pub or tavern table with chalk.
  9. Shakespeare references it in A Midsummer Nights Dream in Act II, Scene I – “The Nine Men’s Morris is filled up with mud!” ~Titania – this must be what happened to the boards drawn on the green whenever it rained!
  10. A version of the game called Morabaraba which is played using the diagonals on the board is still very popular, and played to a competitive level, in South Africa.

Because the game was popular in Medieval England there has been some speculation as to whether the name “Morris” is related to the English Morris Dance. However, Daniel King says that it is coincidence- the word Morris in this context actually deriving from the Latin “Merellus”, meaning a counter or a game piece.

I have, once again, achieved ten points of history about the game! I wonder how long this is going to last…
Pretty much everything I’ve put up about the history of the game I found here.
But I supplemented some of the points with information from our trusty old friend Wikipedia!