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:

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.

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:


*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!


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:


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:


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.


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

The Final Product:


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.



3 - 5

Number of Players: 2

Year of Publication: 1971

Creator(s): Mordecai Meirowitz (designer)

I’m The Real Mastermind:

It’s completely possible, and quite likely, that the first thing that comes to mind upon hearing the word Mastermind is the TV Quiz Show, and although there is a board game of this, this is not it. This game of Mastermind pre-dates the TV show (by 1 year) and is a very simple, quick and fun game that anyone can pick up. But I want it noted here that the version featuring in our photos is in fact the Junior Mastermind, version of the game produced for children, featuring small, brightly coloured jungle animals as the pieces and having only three holes across for the code, rather than 4.

What’s In The Box:

You can probably tell that we're missing some of the pieces...
You can probably tell that we’re missing some of the pieces…
  1. Green jungle playing board
  2. Rocky mountain section (used to hide the code)
  3. An assortment of 6 coloured animals
  4. 15 red creatures and 15 white creatures (supposedly)

Playing The Game:

Objective: to crack your opponents code before you run out of pieces, or to create a code that your opponent cannot crack.

To start the game you choose one player to be the code-maker, and one to be the code-breaker; then you position the board accordingly. The code-maker then takes a minute or two to secretly decide what the code’s going to be and put the pegs (or in our case little animals) in the shielded section of the board. After this, play starts.

It’s now the job of the code-breaker to pick out pegs (or animals), and position them on their side of the board in the order that they think the code is. The code-maker then uses their red or white creatures to signal which, if any, of these guess are right. To be right a piece must have both the correct position in the code (i.e. central, left or right hand end, from the point of view of the code-maker) and be the right colour.

So the first turn of the game might look something like this:

And they're all wrong
And they’re all wrong

Play continues in this manner until the either the code is cracked, or you’ve played to the end of the board. Like this:

And Dave wins
And Dave wins

Winning The Game:

Traditionally this game is played in rounds; the players decide before starting how many rounds are going to be played (always and even number) with the roles of code-maker and code-breaker alternating every round. The winner is the player with the most points at the end of this. Points are scored by the code-maker. S/he gets one point for each guess the code-breaker makes, and is given an extra point if the code-breaker doesn’t manage to accurately guess the entire code in their last move. Points are kept track of across the rounds and added up at the end.


For the Junior version of this game there isn’t a great deal of strategy required, but for the adult version (which has a four-peg code, rather than three, and one more option for indicating yes or no to part of a code) you can be a little more logical about it. Unless you’re a mathematician (which I’m definitely not, but the internet’s a wonderful place to learn things) you probably won’t be able to work out in your head the maths that accompanies this game, but the most important thing to remember is that duplicates are allowed in the code.

History and Interesting Things:

  1. The modern game, played with pegs, closely resembles a pen and paper game called Bulls and Cows that may be over a century old.
  2. The rights to the game have been held by Invicta Plastics since 1971, initially they manufactured it themselves, but have since licensed it to Hasbro, Pressman Toys and Orda Industries for production across the world.
  3. The 1973 edition of the game features a well-dressed white man sitting in the foreground with an attractive Asian woman standing behind him. Bill Woodward and Cecilia Fung reunited in 2003 after 30 years to pose for another publicity photo.
  4. In a standard set of the game, allowing a four-peg code, with six colour options, there are 1,296 different possible code patterns (including, and allowing for duplicates).
  5. In 1977 Donald Knuth showed that the code-breaker can solve in a maximum of five moves, using this algorithm.
  6. There have been computer versions of the game produced, as well as multiple different editions released.
  7. The difficulty level of the game is altered simply by changing the number of pegs allowed for the code, or the way in which the code-maker indicates a correct or incorrect guess.

To Conclude:

I like Mastermind a lot, it’s a simple game that’s good for burning time or just chilling out, it doesn’t require a lot of concentration, and it doesn’t take long to play. I’d strongly recommend teaching it to kids too, the length of time it takes to play is well-suited to the generally shorter attention span of kids. But don’t let the really little ones get their hands on it – swallowing one of those pieces could end really badly!


3 - 5

Number of Players: 2-8

Year of Publication: 1933

Creator(s): Charles Darrow (Designer) and Frantz Rey (Artist)


Monopoly is probably the first game that comes to mind when someone says to you “What’s a really old board game?” either that or Clue. I’m fairly sure that most of the world is familiar with the concept of Monopoly even if they’ve never played it, it’s just one of those games you know about. Now, in our house we have a slightly different approach to Monopoly. We collect it. I think the list is currently at Star Wars Original Trilogy Collectors Edition, Star Wars Episode I, The Simpsons, Lord of the Rings Trilogy Edition and Travel Monopoly. The copy of original Monopoly featuring in this post actually belongs to our sister and brother-in-law, and before them, our Grandma.

What’s In The Box:

The Stuff.
The Stuff.
  1. Game Board
  2. 16 Chance cards and 16 Community Chest cards
  3. Game Money in denominations of 1, 5, 10, 20, 50, 100 and 500
  4. 2 Spare (blank) Title Deed cards
  5. 32 Houses
  6. 28 Title Deed cards
  7. Two standard 6-sided dice
  8. 6 Playing Tokens
  9. 12 Hotels
  10. Rule book

 Playing The Game:

Objective: Buy and develop the most properties to either achieve Monopoly or bankrupt all your opponents.

Because the world is generally so familiar with Monopoly I’m going to try and keep this section brief. Essentially, to start the game you need to separate the Chance and Community Chest cards, shuffle them, and put them in their allotted spaces on the board. Then elect one player to be Banker, they’re in charge of making sure the correct amount of money goes in and out of the bank for the rest of the game. To start they deal out 2 x 500, 4 x 100, 2 x 50, 1 x 20, 2 x 10, 1 x5 and 5 x 1 to every player. Lastly you choose Tokens, put them on GO and then roll the dice to see who plays first. Highest roll starts.

Starting set up for a game with two players
Starting set up for a game with two players

Moving and Rolling Doubles:

Starting with the player who rolled the highest number players take it in turns to roll the dice and move the shown number of spaces around the board, moving clockwise. If a player rolls a double they may move, complete all actions associated with that move (buying property, collecting money on Chance cards, etc) and then roll again, and move again. However, if a player rolls three doubles in a row, they must go to jail. There are several options for things it’s possible to land on, the most common of which is a Property space.

Landing on a Property:

If you land on an unowned property you may buy it by exchanging the amount of money shown on the space with the Banker for the Title Deed for the property you landed on. However, if another player has already bought the property you land on you must pay them rent for stopping there. The amount of rent paid varies from card to card, increasing as you go further round the board. It also changes when a player owns all of a set of one colour of property, or develops the property by buying Houses or Hotels for it.

Chance or Community Chest:

There are three Chance and three Community Chest spaces around the board. If you land on one of these you must draw the top card from the relevant deck and follow all instructions on the back. Once completed you return the card to the bottom of the deck you took it from, unless the card specifies that it make be kept and used later, the only one of these in the decks is the Get Out Of Jail Free card. Once this has been used it is also returned to the bottom of the deck. Chance and Community Chest are a mixture of good and bad cards, they can be helpful things, like cards that allow you to roll again, or take some money from the bank. But they can also be bad, forcing you to pay taxes or go to jail, so landing on one is always a bit of a gamble. Unless the cards specifies money to be paid either to the bank or to another player, all money lost to these cards in placed in the middle of the board and can be claimed by landing on Free Parking.

I landed on Chance and had to pay a speeding fine to the middle of the board.
I landed on Chance and had to pay a speeding fine to the middle of the board.

Income Tax and Super Tax:

These are the only two spaces on the board that can force you to pay money, and this money is paid straight to the bank.

Jail and Go To Jail:

These two spaces are diagonally opposite to each other on the board. The jail space itself is most irrelevant to game play – acting as a space where nothing happens – unless you get a Chance or Community Chest card that sends you to jail, you land on the Go To Jail space, or you roll three doubles in a row. These are the only three actions that can send a player to jail.


Getting out of jail is slightly harder than getting in, you can get out of jail by doing one of the following: throwing a double on any one of the three turns following you being sent to jail, playing a Get Out of Jail Free card, either by already having it in your possession before you went to jail, or by buying it off another player for an agreed price, or, paying a fine of £50. If you choose to try and roll your way out of jail, but on your third roll do not succeed in throwing a double, you must then pay the fine.

All the various ways of getting out of jail.
All the various ways of getting out of jail.

After this is paid a players turn may continue as normal, moving and buying property. Whilst in jail a player may also collect rent, buy or sell properties and build Houses or Hotels. The only thing they really miss out on is moving and passing GO.


When a player passes or lands on GO at any point after the start of the game (with the exception of if they’re being sent to jail) they collect £200 from the bank.

Landing on GO!
Landing on GO!

Houses and Hotels:

A player can purchase these when they own all of one set of a property. For example, they own both Park Lane and Mayfair they would be able to purchase Houses, and then Hotels for them, like this:

Mayfair has a Hotel, Park Lane has three houses. The long and the short of it is that I'm screwed.
Mayfair has a Hotel, Park Lane has three houses. The long and the short of it is that I’m screwed.


Before buying a Hotel for a property a player must first buy four Houses. They cannot jump ahead a put a Hotel straight onto the most expensive property they own.

Free Parking:

When a player lands on Free Parking they can collect any money that’s currently in the middle of the board, this is a nice bonus, especially if it was mostly your money to begin with.

I landed on Free Parking, so I got to reclaim my money from the middle of the board.
I landed on Free Parking, so I got to reclaim my money from the middle of the board.

Winning The Game!

A player wins the game when they have either bankrupted all their opponents, or they’ve achieved Monopoly by buying every single property on the board. This is a simple objective that’s actually pretty hard to achieve. When we play we usually end up ascertaining a winner by cashing up at the point that everyone agrees they’re bored. The person with the most money (inclusive of property value) is then proclaimed the winner.

Players in debt to other players can mortgage their properties to the bank to try and pay off their debts, these properties are place face down in front of their owner, and can be bought back from the bank at a later stage of the game. Properties can also be given to a player as part of paying off a debt if you don’t have enough money.


  1. Buy as many properties as possible! I am deadly serious about this, if you don’t buy anything because you’re holding out for one particular property (which you may or may not land on, depending on the roll of the dice) and end up hoarding your money, it’s not going to do you any good. You’ll be able to just pay rent and taxes and such for a while, but then, as there are more and more spaces on the board that you have to pay to stop on, you’ll find that you fast run out of money. Buying up lots of properties also prevents your opponents from being able to complete sets of properties and therefore stops them buying Houses or Hotels. This gives you good trading leverage later in the game.
  2. Don’t be rash. If an opponent wants to trade a property with you, don’t accept whatever they offer first, see if they’ll give more, and if they won’t, keep it until they desperately need it. When this happens, you should be able to name your price.
  3. If you’re playing with someone who’s irritatingly good at this game, team up against them! Rope in all the other players and support each other with loans and stuff to try and bankrupt this one player. Once that’s done and they’re out of the game you can then turn on each other. Not very sportsman-like, I know, but hey, it’s a dog-eat-dog world out there.
  4. Other than that, don’t be too open about which properties you really want, if you’re trying to get a specific set for some reason, this only drives up the price if you want to buy or trade one off another player.

History and Interesting Things:

  1. The first version of the game was designed by an American, Elizabeth Magie, and patented in 1904 under the name The Landlord’s Game.
  2. It was originally intended to show the consequences of Ricardo’s Law of Economic rent and Georgist concept of a single tax on land value.
  3. The game went through so many changes and revisions between its original publication and the Monopoly that we’re all familiar with now that by the 1970’s it had become popular folklore that Charles Darrow was the sole creator of the game.
  4. This was so much believed that it was printed in the rules for a fair few years as well as in a book about Monopoly printed in 1974, and was cited in a book about toys as recently as 2007.
  5. No family I’ve played this game with has ever played it the same way, or followed all the rules, for example, in our house we have a rule that if you pass GO you collect £200, but if you land on GO you can collect £400. I  believe this rule was invented by our mother as a way of getting her more money when she was losing to her various children.
  6. When playing the long version of the game it can literally go on for days. Our record was 5 days, a game left out on the living room floor for almost the whole of a rainy half term.
  7. I don’t think I’ve ever played a game where someone’s managed to achieve Monopoly. We’ve all gotten bored and gone away before that happens.
  8. When Ralph Anspach created Anti-Monopoly in 1973, Parker Brothers tried to sue him for copyright infringement, the case went to trial in 1976, but in 1979 Anspach won on appeals, the ruling being that the Monopoly trademark was generic, and therefore unenforceable.
  9. There have been several video game versions of Monopoly. I remember that we used to have a PC game of Monopoly, which was one of the only things we were allowed to do on the computer when we were small.
  10. http://

To Conclude:

One of the most classic of classic games, really good fun for all ages, but can be the cause of a vast number of arguments. If you haven’t played it, you should, at least once. There’s a reason this game’s sold so many copies and been reproduced in so many countries and versions – because it’s awesome. Having said that, I have only rated it 3 out of a possible five on our ratings at the top of the posts, this is mostly because the game can take days, and games that have definite ends tend to be more desirable, and less overwhelming when you sit down the play them.

I read about the history of the game on Wikipedia (and we all know that it’s super-trustworthy information) here.

Stealth Chess

That Time I almost Lost at Chess…To a GIRL!…Who’s Younger than Me!

Luckily for me she backed herself into a stalemate and my pride was slightly less destroyed than it could have been. Like our Cripple Mr. Onion post this post is a bit of a bonus this month. Being a game invented by Terry Pratchett (well, more an adaptation of a classic game) we decided it needed a mention.

Being Stealthy at Chess:

Stealth Chess is much like normal Chess in the sense that all the regular rules of Chess apply and all the normal pieces are present and used. The game is altered by the widening of the board by one row on each side; these rows are called Slurks, and the addition of two pieces to each side which are Assassins. The Assassins start in the Slurks next to the Rooks, and only the Assassins can move in the Slurks. Unfortunately we did not have a Stealth Chess board lying around so we had to make do with a normal Chess board and imagine the additional rows, additionally the pieces that look very different to the others are pieces we borrowed from a different set to act as the Assassins.

Stealth Chess staring positions.
Stealth Chess starting positions.

Like in normal Chess all normal rules apply with the addition of the rules concerning the Assassins and Slurks. Assassins move one space in any direction but can move two to capture. Only they can move in the Slurks, and now you get the complicated bit; the Assassin can move as many spaces out of the Slurks as he has in the Slurks. To clarify, if over the course of 6 moves the Assassin has moved six spaces in the Slurks (including just backwards and forwards) the Assassin may move up to six space out of the Slurks, when exiting it, in one move and then an additional space to capture. So:

This white Assassin has moved three spaces in the Slurks:

So its in range of the Black (purple) Queen.
So it’s in range of the Black (purple) Queen.

So on exiting the Slurks it can capture the Queen like so:

So the Queen gets taken.
So the Queen gets taken.

Now the only point of ambiguity we have in this is “can the Assassin move through other pieces in this way?” Our answer was yes as, if you read the rules as laid out on Wikipedia here or the Discworld Wiki here, it describes the Slurks as another board under the existing board. So rather than moving down the side of the board it represents a space under the board which the Assassins move through and pop up to capture things. Additionally to all of this Assassins cannot take each other, out of professional courtesy.

The End and Other Things:

Normally I destroy my sister at Chess and our game of Stealth Chess was going the same way until I made one massive error and then it nearly all ended in tears. Except after a long time she managed to fight me into this position:

How it all ended.
How it all ended.

Which of course is Stalemate. However I think by the fifty-move rule it may have already been stalemate but that’s neither here nor there.

Anyway that’s the last time I lose concentration.

So a few last comments about Stealth Chess:

  • It’s given me an awesome idea for a two tiered version of Chess… Literally building two Chess boards that sit over each other.
  • Also to build an actual Stealth Chess board with the Slurks and proper Assassin pieces.

A couple of interesting “facts” about the game are:

  • On the Discworld it’s thought to actually be the original version of the game – “this belief is corroborated by the in-world discovery, in a tomb in Muntab, of a preserved corpse with an 8×10 board embedded in its skull and a pawn hammered up each nostril”
  • The master of the game in the Discworld is – ” Lord Havelock Vetinari, provost of Assassins and Patrician of Ankh-Morpork.”

All in all it’s an interesting adaptation of Chess and a bit difficult to get your head around if you’re so used to thinking about Chess in the standard way. It’s well worth a play, and you don’t even have to buy anything if you already have a Chess set and a bit of imagination!


3 - 5

Number of Players: 2

Year of Publication: Unknown

Creator: Unknown

Strategist? Don’t Plan Wars, Play Go!

Go is a strategic two player game which dates back some 3-4,000 years in age. It’s got initially very simple rules, but will probably take me the rest of my life to get anywhere close to good at it as it requires a dimension of thought I don’t believe I currently possess. I was introduced to it by a friend back in September, she tried to teach me the basics in a pub one evening, using a Chess Board and Draughts pieces. Needless to say, the outcome was a little interesting and involved me losing spectacularly and being completely confused for quite a while.

My copy of Go, the box is very 80's...
Our copy of Go, the box is very 80’s…

What’s in the Box:

As you can see, the contents of the box, is thoroughly unexciting.
As you can see, the contents of the box is thoroughly unexciting.

Inside the box you’ll usually find:

  1. A board (I have acquired two boards for the game, as the one in the box is bent, and therefore, given the size of the pieces, fundamentally useless).
  2. The instructions, very handy for the point when you realize you’ve been playing one of the rules wrong for the entire game.
  3. 180 white playing pieces.
  4. 181 black playing pieces.

Playing the Game:

Objective: To surround empty areas of the board and capture your opponents pieces.

This is what our board looked like at the end of the game, for anyone who plays Go properly, it probably looks horrendous as this is only the third time i've played this game
This is what our board looked like at the end of the game, (you can’t really see the white pieces, but they are there) for anyone who plays Go properly, it probably looks horrendous as this is only the third time i’ve played this game

The Rules:

  • Players move by playing stones on the intersections on the board with Black playing first.
  • Once a stone has been played on the board it cannot then be moved unless it is captured – captured stones are removed from the board.
  • To capture a stone the opposing player must closely surround it, cutting of all its “liberties”. Liberties are the four lines extending out from the intersection a piece is played on. If all four of these are blocked on the next closest intersection, that piece is captured.
Three pieces placed in different locations on the board. Their Liberties are marked with small X's. This shows which lines must be blocked to capture a piece.
Three pieces placed in different locations on the board. Their Liberties are marked with small X’s. This shows which lines must be blocked to capture a piece.
  • Once a space like this has been created it is called an Eye, the space in the middle of the Eye cannot be played on by the other colour player, as this move is suicidal – your piece would be captured as soon as it had been placed – however, in the event that playing this piece caused one of your opponents pieces to be captured, thus freeing up one of the Liberties for the piece in the centre of the Eye this move becomes legal.
Here white has made three successful Eyes, the spaces in the middle cannot now be played in by black.
Here White has made three successful Eyes, the spaces in the middle cannot now be played in by Black.
Now black can play inside whites Eye because the move would result in capturing the left hand white piece, thus creating a new Liberty for the played piece
Now Black can play inside Whites Eye because the move would result in capturing the left hand white piece, thus creating a new Liberty for the played piece
  • Stones played on the edge of the board only have three Liberties and can be captured in the same way as other pieces.
  • A player can create an Army by playing one of their stones on the Liberty of another of their pieces, these are now connected and to capture them you must block all of their combined Liberties.
  • Armies can be continually extended by connecting Liberties but it’s important to note that diagonal connections do not count.
Here white has created two armies, although they are next to each other, the diagonal on which they are connected doesn't count
Here White has created two armies, although they are next to each other, the diagonal on which they are connected doesn’t count.
  • Once a player has created an Army, their opponent cannot take individual pieces, the Army must be captured as an entire unit, or not at all.
  • Any Army that encloses an empty space on the board must also be captured from the inside, once all external Liberties have been surrounded the capturing player must play a stone on the available intersection(s) inside the Army to remove it from the board.
White has completely surrounded Blacks army, all they need now do is play one piece in the remaining space inside the army.
White has completely surrounded Blacks army, all they need now do is play one piece in the remaining space inside the army.
  • If a position is reached where one player acknowledges that there are some stones on the board that cannot avoid being captured, their opponent can remove these stones as prisoners at the end of the game without needing to further occupy their Liberties, this can only happen if both players agree.
  • Ending the Game: Theoretically a player can pass a turn, by handing over one piece from their unplayed stock to their opponent as a prisoner. Once both player pass in succession, the game is over. However, in practice, the game usually reaches a point where all available territory has been securely surrounded by one player or the other and there can be no dispute about whether or not any groups of stones can still be captured. Now the game ends by mutual agreement, and points are scored to determine who wins.
  • Scoring Points: points are scored by counting up the number of empty intersections left on the board surrounded by each colour. Captured pieces also give a bonus of one point each and these two scores added together determine the winner.
  • Illegal Moves: There are only two illegal moves in Go; The “Suicide Rule” and the “Rule of Ko”. The Suicide Rule forbids a player to place a piece in a location that would cause it to immediately be captured, as I said before. The Rule of Ko is much more interesting, “Ko” is a Japanese word meaning “eternity”, this rule was invented to prevent the game reaching stalemate. This rule forbids a player to move in a way that leaves the board in exactly the same position as his or her previous move.


Go is essentially a tactical game, and therefore probably not one i’m going to excel at any time soon, but it is very interesting to consider the different angles of play. Interestingly, games like this (and also Chess) can reveal a lot about a person. Whether you play defensively, aggressively or recklessly, it can be a challenge to restrain your natural instinct towards your chosen method of going about things in the interest of actually winning the game.
Having played the game so few times there’s not much I can give in the way of tactics, but there is one type of play that’s so well-known and used that it’s more or less become a standing play, something that features in every game.

If one player has managed to create an Army, and there is an empty space inside this Army, they may intentionally place pieces inside the Army to create Eyes there. If a player manages to create an Army with two or more Eyes in the centre, this Army cannot be taken, as placing any piece here would be suicide and there is no way to simultaneously cut off all its Liberties.

Because Blacks army has two Eyes, there are now no circumstances under which it can be captured.
Because Blacks army has two Eyes, there are now no circumstances under which it can be captured.

History and Interesting Things:

  1. Although the game is thought to have originated in China it became really popular in Japan, where, in the early 17th Century, stipends were awarded to the four strongest Go players, by the Shogun. These were then later extended to their heirs, and so the four Go schools; Honinbo, Hayashi, Inoue and Yasue were founded.
  2. Over the following 250 years the four Go schools encouraged such rivalry that a ranking system was set up with nine grades of Go player, the highest of which is Meijin, meaning “expert”. This title was only held by one person, and only achieved if one player managed to out-class all their contemporaries.
  3. Meijin Dosaku is considered the best Go player in history, and was the fourth head of the Honinbo school, which was easily the most successful of the four, producing more Meijins than the other three schools put together.
  4. In 1868 professional Go was undermined in Japan as the Shogunate collapsed and the Emperor was returned to power.
  5. A game of Go once decided the future of Tibet when the Buddhist ruler at the time refused to engage in a battle and instead challenged the aggressor to a game of Go.
  6. Go is followed as avidly in the Far East as sporting competitions are in the West, professional players from Japan, Korea, China and Taiwan become national heroes in their home countries.
  7. By 500 BC in China, Go was already one of the “Four Accomplishments” that had to be mastered by a Chinese gentleman.
  8. In Europe the game was not played at all, despite having been described and written about by European travellers going to the Far East, until 1880.
  9. Britain has been playing Go for at least 100 years now, and currently our top ranking player is Matthew Macfayden (not to be confused with actor Matthew Macfadyen)
  10. Prior to the last 20 years, games of Go  were rarely played between Go masters of different nationalities, the game has been advancing hugely in recent years, in part thanks to the internet, there are many servers for Go players of all levels now, encouraging the continued growth of the game worldwide.

For the Super-Interested…

So that’s the end of this somewhat lengthy post about Go. It currently rates 3/5, not because it’s anything less than a brilliantly concieved game, but because the tactical development involved in learning to play the game is complicated, and I think that to play well, one would actually have to study the game. So learning it is quite an undertaking, for the willing individual.

If anyone’s interested enough to actually want to learn how to play this game properly (something that i’m now trying to achieve), you could watch this video:

Further Reading:

Here’s where you’ll find all my history points, and more!

And HERE is where i’m trying to improve my limited ability to play this game!



4 - 5 Strike Thro

3 - 5

Number of Players: 2

Year of Publication: 1995

Creator(s): Bryn Jones and Michael Woodward Creations (Designers), artists are unknown

Steven…Sorry, I Mean OSKA:

While this months theme is “Old (usually) Wooden Games” OSKA doesn’t exactly fit that theme. It really all comes down to your idea of old, if you’re ten years old and 1995 seems like “FOREVER AGO” and “BEFORE I WAS EVEN BORN!” then OSKA is old, but if this is not the case then there’s every chance you remember 1995 and so it doesn’t seem that old. It does have an earlier history than its publication but that still only dates back to the 1950s, which some of you also may possibly be able to remember. See the history section for more information.

Our copy of OSKA with borrowed Pieces.
Our copy of OSKA using borrowed pieces.

What’s in the Box:

A picture lovingly borrowed from just to show you what a real complete copy would look like.
A picture lovingly borrowed from just to show you what a real complete copy would look like.

In a normal OSKA box you find:

  1. One wooden board
  2. Eight pieces. Four red and four blue.
  3. And it should have an instruction booklet to remove any ambiguity about the brief instructions on the back of the box, (see section “Playing the Game) but there isn’t one.

However our copy came from a charity shop (one of the best places to buy games if you were unaware of this). So in the box there was just the board with no pieces! So we borrowed four white and four brown pieces from a game of  Draughts!

Playing the Game:

Normally here I would give a brief outline of the rules but as the rules to OSKA are already brief I have copied exactly what it says on the back of the box:

OSKA is a speedy game for 2 players which is deceptively simple, using the Draughts (checkers) principle of diagonal movement and capture. BUT – keep well in mind the quirk that gives OSKA its bite. The winner is the player whose remaining pieces first reach the far side – the less pieces you have left, the easier this will be. The skill lies in when, or if, to capture, and when to force your opponent to capture you.”

The big problem with this set of rules is that there are more than one set of rules to Draughts. For example in English Draughts you can only take diagonally forwards (unless you are using a king) but in International Draughts it allows you to take diagonally backward. I have assumed that it meant the English Draughts; firstly because it initially refers to it as Draughts rather than Checkers and secondly, because OSKA was invented in England.

So let’s just clarify the rules:
  1. You set up your four pieces on the back row like this:

    Start Positions!
    Start Positions!
  2. We played white moves first but you could play either way, and if you’re playing with red and blue pieces you could play whoever is set up on the white section moves first.
  3. You move one pieces diagonally, the the other player does the same.

    The Game after one move each.
    The Game after one move each.
  4. You take a piece by jumping it, so this can only be done forwards and so long as the space the other side of it is empty. You do not HAVE to take as the rules state “when, or if, to capture”.
  5. The winner is the first one to have ALL of their REMAINING pieces to the other side, so if all of their pieces are taken except one and they get that one to the other side before the other player gets all four of their pieces across, they win.

Rules We Assumed:
  1. We rationally assumed that in the scenario that all your pieces are taken you’ve lost.
  2. We also assumed that if you both ended up with the same number of pieces in the end zone at the same time it was a draw. This CAN occur if one player while moving its last (or only piece) into the end zone takes the other players only piece that’s not in the end zone. However this is unlikely to occur, as in that scenario you can choose to move into the end zone without taking.
  3. We also assumed that if a similar scenario occurred and one person had more pieces than the other in the end zone they won.
A Little Help:

Just to help we filmed a video of the game play of OSKA to help clarify. Here it is! Our very first video blog… Sort of. Our real video blogs will happen when we get a much better camera but it’s a start!


Now while the game is simple (once you’ve clarified the rules) and fast, there’s a lot that could be said about the strategy. For starters you cannot afford to make mistakes, I know this can be said for almost all games but one mistake in OSKA and the other person most often enters a state where they can’t be beaten because all series of moves that follow result in their victory!

The key to the game, I believe, lies in forcing the other person to take you. You can create a series of plays where they have no option but to take you because they have no other available moves. And once you start to lose pieces you have an easier job than they do as you have less pieces to get across the board.

I could go on about strategy and start drawing diagrams and things of this nature (as that how “into” this game I have got, a game that less than a month ago I was unaware existed). But I will spare you all, however, in the future I may write a specific post on the dynamics and maths of the game, which everyone can feel free not to read.

History and Interesting Facts:

Unfortunately due to the obscurity of this game the history and fasts that are about to follow are mostly off the back of the box as there’s not much more information on the game out there. Which is a shame as it’s a good game.

  1.  The game was originally devised by Bryn Jones in the 1950s.
  2. Bryn Jones was a miner so the game was originally played scratched into the dust on the floor of a mine at Lancashire Coalfields to pass time at breaks.
  3. In the early 1990s Bryn brought the game to Michael Woodward Creations.
  4. Woodward Creations annotated the rules and refined it into the more presentable format you find it in now.
  5. It can now be found as part of The Inventors Collection which is a gathering of games and puzzles from the worlds top game inventors.
  6. The game is made of eco-friendly wood.
  7. It can be considered as part of the Draughts family of games.
  8. Not really a surprise if you’ve read the post above, but the rules are ambiguous which unfortunately takes away from a very good and very fast game.

To Conclude:

This may come as little surprise to you (if you have read the above), I like this game! I’m a huge fan of Chess (as most sane people are) and similarly simplistic but complex at the same time strategy games make me happy. However as far as I’m aware there is no game as perfect as Chess and probably never will be. But OSKA falls into the category of games that are in the right ball park when it comes to your basic strategy game. I would even proclaim that it has a one up on Draughts as I maintain Draughts is too large and long a game to have such simplicity, in short it can become boring, which is why to every 100 Chess matches I have played I’ve probably only played half a Draughts game. This is where OSKA hits the nail on the head, its taken the same idea as Draughts and made it small, fast and above all FUN!

The biggest flaw I find with this game is the ambiguity of the rules and their phrasing. I am slightly ashamed to admit that we played the game wrong in two different ways before finally re-re-re-reading the paragraph on the back of the box and breaking it down to create clarity. First time round we missed the word “remainder” so we where playing first one to get one piece across…This version of the game is ridiculously flawed because the person who moves first (providing they’re not an idiot) will ALWAYS win! We also played that you HAVE to capture if you can capture and even after we started paying attention to the “remaining pieces” section of the rules we still failed to notice the “when, or if, to capture” phrase that implies you do not HAVE to capture. Anyway once we had figured it all out this game is a 4 out of 5 however the amount of time we wasted playing it wrong reduces it to a 3 out 5 (hence the top scoring). It could be argued that us playing it wrong is our own fault but I maintain the rules are needlessly ambiguous and if you don’t know what Draughts is they’re impossible to follow!

Additionally if anyone would like to buy the game check out HERE! – keep in mind this link is to an eBay sale so it won’t always be valid but it’s valid at the time of publication and will hopefully either be updated or removed when it stops being valid.

Shove Ha’penny/ Rebound

Shove Ha’penny:
3 - 5
Number of Players: 2/4
Year of Publication: Unknown

4 - 5
Number of Players: 2/4
Year of Publication: 1971

Sliding on down – Shove Ha’penny/Rebound:

Both Shove Ha’penny and Rebound are easy to learn, quick games. Rebound is included in this post, despite the fact that it’s not a wooden game, because it’s the game Shove Ha’penny developed into in the late 20th century.

What’s in the Box:

Well, in the box for Shove Ha’penny there’s a large-ish wooden board, an instructions card, and five half penny coins.
In the box for Rebound there’s a large plastic board, two elastic bands and eight (or sixteen in our case) ball bearings with coloured rings around them.

Shove Ha'penny
Shove Ha’penny

Playing the Game:

The objective of Shove Ha’penny is to be the first player to shove three coins into the same scoring area. In Rebound it’s to be the first player to score 500 points.

The Rules:

Shove Ha’penny:

  1. Players take it in turns to shove all five coins into the scoring areas.
  2. You must not touch the board with the hand you aren’t using to move the coins, if you do, you score zero for that round.
  3. At the end of your turn you must let the other player remove the coins from the board, if you take them, your score for that round isn’t counted.
  4. If a coin ends up off the board for any reason during your turn, that coin cannot be replayed and doesn’t count towards your score.
  5. Any coin that finishes outside the scoring area in any way is not counted and cannot be replayed.
  6. Coins on the line (even the tiniest bit) don’t count only coins between the two area lines count.
So the coins circled in Red don not count as score where as the coins circled in green are acceptable scores.
So the coins circled in Red don not count as score where as the coins circled in green are acceptable scores.


  1. Players choose a colour and take the four ball bearings with their colour ring around them.
  2. The game progresses in rounds, players take it in turns to play one of their ball bearings, they do this until they’ve played all four of them, then the round is over, and the points are scored.
  3. Any ball bearing that leaves the board is not counted and cannot be replayed, the same applies to a ball that passes out the other side of the scoring area into the trench space at the end of the board.
  4. Points are only scored when a ball is entirely in a zone if any part of it is in a lower zone it scores the lower (or no, if its hanging into the no score zone) points. If ball is still physically on the board and not in the pit is accepted as 100 point score.
The ones circled in Red don't score as either they fall short of the scoring zone or they fell into the pit. The ones circled in Green score, even if they over hang the end and the ones circled in orange score the lower points of the two zones they cover.
The ones circled in Red don’t score as either they fall short of the scoring zone or they fell into the pit. The ones circled in Green score, even if they over hang the end and the ones circled in orange score the lower points of the two zones they cover.

As far as strategy goes, there isn’t much that can be applied for these games, apart from being able to gauge well how much force is needed to get your pieces into their optimum positions. So basically having steady hands and a good gauge of force. It takes a few play of the game to get the idea of how much force you need and even after that some how your mind just keep forgetting.

History and Interesting Facts:

  1. It’s the smaller offspring of a game called Shovel Board and was played in taverns as far back as the 15th century.
  2. If a player managed to shove three coins into one “bed” or scoring area in a turn, he has scored a “sergeant”, if he manages to get all five coins into one bed, he has scored a “sergeant-major” or a “gold-watch”.
  3. Substances can be added to the board to lubricate it, any of the following have been commonly used; French chalk, black lead, beer, paraffin and petrol (although the latter two of these do make the game rather more combustible).
  4. Officially, one side of the coins used are supposed to be smoothed flat, this should be tails side, as, in England, it’s illegal to deface a picture of monarch.
  5. Because a coin only scores if it’s clearly between two of the scoring lines, the more expensive Shove Ha’penny boards had rails in the grooves of the lines that could be lifted out to determine if a coin scored or not. If the coin moved when the rail was removed, it scored nothing.
  6. Around Oxford, a variation of the game called “Progressive” is played, in which, a player is allowed to retrieve and replay any coins that score. Apparently with more skilled players this can result in the game ending before the second player’s had a chance to shove at all. I imagine this to be a depressing state of things if you lose the toss and are playing second.
  7. In Stamford, locals organize a “world championship” for the game Push-Penny which is much the same as Shove Ha’penny and this takes place during the Stamford Festival, at the end of June/start of July every year.
  8. We’ve posted these games together because they’re very similar, Rebound just appears to a be a more modern version of Shove Ha’penny, however, I can’t (although my search wasn’t very in-depth or long) actually find any documents that link the two games. So there you go. 🙂

To Conclude:

Both these games are good fun for two people, and are very easy to learn and play. however, of the two, I would say that I enjoy Rebound more, although Shove Ha’penny may well require more actual skill, as you’ve less space to push down, and are playing with pieces that’re less naturally inclined to slide. I recommend both, especially as games suitable for playing with children of any age!

For further reading, and a little more detail on my history points, go here.

Diving back to quick games: Mancala

3.5 - 5


Number of Players: 2

Year of Publication: 550

Creator(s): Unknown

So, having been pretty quiet for a while, I’m making a return to my quick games chain of posts, with Manacala. I’ve been playing this game my whole life, although, as children my brother and I played it as a mini game on an educational computer game we owned and it was called Mother Bird’s Eggs. I wasn’t introduced to it as a non-virtual reality game until a few years later.

The board, the pieces, and how to play!

Objective: The objective of the game is to have the most pieces in your Mancala at the end.

It ‘s a very quick game to learn, the board is (usually) made of wood, is oblong in shape and has several hollows carved into it. There will be one long hollow carved vertically into each of the short ends, so that they run parallel to the end of the board. Then there will be six small circular hollows carved into each long side of the board. Each of the circular hollows will then have three playing pieces placed in it before the game begins. Pieces could be anything, from small stones to pieces of glass, to counters you’ve borrowed from another game.

A Mancala board set up for play (with three "connect four" pieces used to make up for three missing dragon drops)
A Mancala board set up for play (with three “connect four” pieces used to make up for three missing dragon drops)

Each player plays to their right, so the long hollow on the end of the board to their right becomes their “Mancala”, similarly, the hollows on the side of the board you are sitting on, are yours – this is very important – you are not allowed to move pieces from your opponents hollows.  Before play begins you will determine who plays first and they will then choose one of their hollows, and move the pieces from it. To move your pieces, you pick up all the pieces from the hollow you’ve chosen and place one in every subsequent hollow (including your Mancala if you have that many, but excluding your opponents Mancala) until you run out. You may find, when moving pieces from a hollow containing a lot of pieces, that you place pieces in all of your hollows and then have to continue round to those of your opponent. This is often irritating, as you are providing them with the opportunity for more pieces, but is sometimes unavoidable.

A game in mid swing.
A game in mid swing.

Apart from what i’ve already described, there are very few rules to this game. If a player  is moving their pieces and, in placing them in the hollows, manages to place the last one in their Mancala, they take another turn. This can be both advantageous and disadvantageous as your opponent may have strategically stockpiled some of their pieces in one hollow, and, to force them to move it, you are trying to stall, by moving as few pieces in each turn as possible, so you would not want to be giving yourself extra turns if you can avoid it.

Taking Pieces:

Players may also take their opponents pieces. If, when you are moving your pieces, your last piece lands in one of your hollows, which is empty, and your opponent has pieces in the hollow directly opposite it, you take these, and place them in your Mancala.

Ending the Game:

The game ends when one player runs out of pieces in their six hollows. When this happens anything that remains in their opponents hollows is added to their opponents Mancala, and the number in each is counted. The winner is the player with the most pieces stored in their Mancala.

Someone quite obviously won that one!
Someone quite obviously won that one!

Due to a lack of photos of us playing the game (this has now been amended), this description has been pretty wordy, however, I hope it makes some sense and is even a little interesting. If you’re bored of game play info, keep going down to find out a little of the history of this very old strategy game!

History and Things (my 10ish interesting points):

  1. This is the only ancient game surviving in the world with an Arabic name – the name does not apply solely to this game, but to this family of games.
  2. It is possible that this is the oldest game in the world, one of the reasons for this being that it is simple and can be played using whatever materials are to hand – tribes in Africa would scoop out hollows from the earth and play on the ground with pebbles.
  3. Although there is now a generally played version of the game, with six hollows for each player and three pieces per hollow, the game can be played in many different ways as it has been played for thousands of years in Africa and the Middle East. Here each tribe would have a slightly different way of playing the game, varying from the number of pieces used to how many “ranks” (rings) there were around the board.
  4. Mancala is the most widely-known (at least in the Western world) name for the game, however, there are many others, a small sample here: Wari, Warri, Ware, Walle, Awari, Aware, Awaoley, Awele, Oware, Owari, and Wouri.
  5. The game is, and was, played for recreational purposes, but there are also some areas, such as the West Indies, that have associated it with religion. It was played in a house of mourning in the belief that the soul of the departed would be amused until burial.
  6. Despite its primitive origins, the game is completely mathematical, and some of the more complex versions of it have as much standing as Chess.
  7. Two-rank boards have historically been found North of the Equator, whilst the four-rank boards are found South of the Equator.
  8. Stone Mancala boards found carved into temples in Memphis, Thebes and Luxor date the game in Egypt back before 1400BC.

I made eight points, that’s not bad going. 10 may have been slightly ambitious of me…

For anyone interested I found a selection of my interesting history points here, and here! Happy reading and hopefully there’ll be some more regular posting going on from now on!

Getting A Feel For History – Escape From Colditz

5 - 5 - Strike Thro

3.5 - 5

Number of Players: 2-6

Year of Publication: 1973

Creator(s): Bob BrechinBrian DegasMajor P.R. Reid M.B.E., M.C. (Designers) and Antonio Catalán (Artist)

This one is not, under any circumstances a quick game, and is likely therefore, to be a long-ish post. The fastest time we’ve ever played it in is an hour, and that’s because we set ourselves a time limit. Otherwise the game could take days.
Escape From Colditz is a game set in the World War II prison camp at Colditz Castle. The idea for the game came from a plan formed by a group of British POW’s (Prisoners of War) to escape from Colditz using sheets and floorboards to create a glider. The game itself is a little more complicated than that, but that is the story the game is based on.
We used to play Escape From Colditz when we were younger, and we never had our own copy of the game. So recently my brother decided that it was a game we definitely needed, and he bought a copy. Since it arrived in the post we’ve played it several times with different numbers of players and different time limits.

Escape from Colditz box

Rules and Interesting Things:

This game was created by Pat Reid, a British Army Officer, and one of the few to successfully escape from Colditz Castle in World War II. The game is for 2-6 players, and the board is the floor plan of Colditz. The rule book tells us that the board is based on a true plan of the castle, but that was adapted to have all necessary features on one floor. This accuracy to Colditz is one of its most interesting features.

At the beginning of the game each player decides who they are going to play as, there are five escape teams to choose from, British (red), French (brown), American (blue), Dutch (orange) and Polish (green) and one player must play as the Security Officer (black). A different number of POW’s and Guards are allocated depending on how many players there are, as follows:
2 players: 8 POW’s and 6 Guards
3 players: 7 POW’s per player: 12 Guards
4 players: 6 POW’s per player: 14 Guards
5 players: 5 POW’s per player: 15 Guards
6 players: 4 POW’s per player: 16 Guards

The fact that the Guards are always outnumbered by the POW’s is historically accurate, as, during the war, the prisoners always vastly outnumbered the Guards. It was only by the harsh way of living, random public executions, and other similar means, that the Guards were able to keep authority over the prisoners.

Pieces are moved by the throw of two dice. A player may use all their moves on one piece or otherwise split the roll between as many of their pieces as they like. They have to move the whole number thrown and they cannot allocate any of their number of moves it to another player’s pieces. A double entitles the player to another roll.

There are five packs of cards involved in the game, Personal Civilian Escape kit, Escape Equipment, Escaper’s Opportunity, German Security and Do or Die cards. The Opportunity cards, Escape Kits, Escape Equipment and Do or Die cards are all only useful for the escapee’s, the only cards the Security Officer can use are the German Security cards.

To attempt escape, each prisoner must collect an “escape kit”, this consists of food, a compass, forged papers, and a disguise. Once collected this cannot be taken from you or lost in any way. The items collected as part of the escape kit do not exist as escape equipment. To obtain the escape kit the player must get four of their POW’s into the rooms in the castle that have the relevant symbols for each necessary item, they can then claim an escape kit.

To make a successful escape attempt each player must also collect other escape equipment, this can be rope, which comes in 30ft lengths, wire cutters, keys and forged passes. Ideally each player would have some of everything. To collect equipment a player must get their POW’s into a room with the symbol of the piece of equipment they want, they must have either two POW’s in the same room, or one in each of the rooms with that symbol, before they can collect the relevant equipment.

Start positions if playing with two people. EO is playing as Britain.
Start positions if playing with two people. EO is playing as Britain.

Opportunity and Security Cards:

Opportunity cards are specifically for the use of the POW’s. Likewise with Security Cards, which are specifically for the Security Officer. To collect a Security or Opportunity card a POW or the Security Officer must roll either a 3, 7 or 11. They are then allowed to take a card from the top of the deck before they continue with their turn. Opportunity Cards can be used as soon as they’ve been collected, or they can be held for later. However, each POW or Security Officer can only hold three at any one time. POW’s have an advantage over the Security Officer here, as, if playing with more than two players, they can choose to either discard one of their Opportunity Cards or they can pass it over to another POW. The Security Officer must discard a card if he/she has collected more than three. Opportunity Cards and Security Cards are incredibly useful, an Opportunity Card might provide a POW with a piece of equipment, or allow them to hide from the Security Officer at some point, it may even allow them access to a tunnel, which will aid their escape attempt. For the Security Officer, Security Cards are a little different, they may allow you to search a room (the SO cannot enter any of the rooms in the castle without the relevant card giving them permission to search it, meaning that POW’s are generally safe whilst in the rooms), or call Appel, which recalls every players pieces to their starting position, and other similar things.

Do or Die:

A Do or Die card is dealt to every Escape Officer at the beginning of the game, these are not read and are kept face down until they are used. Once an EO has decided to use their Do or Die card, they then turn it over and read it. It will tell them how many rolls of the dice they have to try and get one of their prisoners out of Colditz. The prisoner starts from anywhere inside the grey area of the board (the inner courtyard) and must reach one of the safe targets outside of the castle walls within the number of throws specified. The prisoner must leave through the main gate and pass and key points no longer effect them. If the prisoner does not manage to escape, they are “dead” and their whole team is removed from the board and from play.

There are even more rules to this game than i’ve mentioned in my brief (haha) overview here, however, you can gather the general outline of the game. It’s quite strategic, and definitely a challenging game for anyone! We thoroughly recommend it for hours of fun, we played the other evening and had a very silly argument, that anyone who has either of us on facebook may well have seen, about whether or not I, playing as the SO could continue to shoot one of his escaping prisoners if he was playing  a diversion card (one of the Opportunity Cards). I said no, therefore I won. He said yes, which would mean he had won.

Our unresolved ending.
Our unresolved ending.

This argument has no resolution so far.

All the information presented to you here came either from our experiences of playing the game, or from the rule book itself, if you’re interested, go find a copy!