Nine Mens Morris

Traditional

Players
2
Age
5+
Time
5+
# Nine Men's Morris
# Strategy
# Ancient
# Tactics
# Mill Game
# Line
# action selection
# area control game
# bead relocating
# Capture
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How to set-up

1. Nine Men’s Morris is played on a board consisting of three nested squares with points along, and in the corners of, each side of the squares. Lines between play spaces indicate permitted moves.

2. Each player selects 9 BEADs the colour of their choice. All BEADs start off the board.

3. Players decide who begins the game by rolling a die.

How to play

1. In the first phase of the game players take turns placing one of their BEADs onto an empty point, trying to form mills; 3 of their BEADs in a horizontal or vertical line.

2. When a player forms a mill, they can remove any one of their opponent’s BEADs from the game expect a BEAD in a mill. If the opponent only has BEADs in mills, these can be broken.

3. Once a BEAD has been removed, from the board, it cannot be played again.

4. The second phase begins when all the BEADs have been placed on the board, and players take turns to move their BEADs to an adjacent empty play space, along the lines indicated, trying to form mills.

5. A player can break their own mill and then in a subsequent turn, move their BEAD back to reform the same mill.

6. In the final phase of the game, when a player has only 3 BEADs remaining, they may move their BEAD to any empty space on the board.

How to win

1. To win, a player must reduce their opponent to 2 BEADs.

2. A player can also win if their opponent can make no legal moves.

History

1. The earliest known board for the game includes diagonal lines and was cut into the roofing slabs of the temple at Kurna in Egypt c. 1400 BCE.

2. The game peaked in popularity in medieval England. Boards have been found carved into the cloister seats at the English cathedrals at Canterbury, Gloucester, Norwich, Salisbury and Westminster Abbey. These boards used holes, not lines, to represent the nine spaces on the board — hence the name "nine holes" — and forming a diagonal row did not win the game.

3. It has been speculated that its name may be related to Morris dances, and hence to Moorish, but according to Daniel King, "the word 'morris' has nothing to do with the old English dance of the same name. It comes from the Latin word merellus, which means a counter or gaming piece."