This game has also been known as : Merlles, Merrills, Merreles, Merrels, Merrelus, Marels, Marelles, Marrills, Muhle, Muller, Morell, Morelles, Molenspel, Mills, Mylla, Mlynek, Mylta and Morris. It is simple board game for two players and is probably one of the oldest games still played today.
Boards have been found in and on many historic buildings throughout the world. Traces occur on objects from the first city of Troy and another from a bronze age burial site in Ireland. The earliest one that can be dated was found on the Gokstad Viking hip burial of B70 AD.
A board of this type has been found cut into the temple Kurna, Egypt in – 1440 BC although this may well have been done some time later. According to Thomas Hyde in 1908, the Chinese also played the game circa 500 BC.
A couple of centuries on, Ovid mentions the game in “Ars Amatoria”. Roman boards were usually made of wood or stone although the rich occasionally had boards made of more exotic materials. Trimalchio had one of turpentine tree and Martial speaks of an ivory board. The game was widely played in England in 1300 AD and visitors to the cathedrals of Norwich, Canterbury, Gloucester, Salisbury and Westminster Abbey can see boards cut into the cloister seats by monks.
The board consists of three nested squares connected by a line through ach of the four sides. Pieces are placed at he corners of the squares and the intersections on the sides. Nine pieces are needed for each player, for a total of eighteen pieces.
The key concept of the game is the mill; a straight line of three pieces of the same color along line on the board.
When a player forms a mill. that player can remove any one of their opponent’s pieces that is not also part of a mill. If all of the opponent’s pieces are in mills, then any piece may be removed.
There are two ways to win Nine Mens Morris; Reduce the number of your opponent’ pieces to two, or block all of your opponent’s pieces so they cannot move.
The game begins with an empty board. Randomly select a player to go first – possibly toss a coin. Game play proceeds in three phases. If a player forms a mill during any of the phases, that player immediately removes one piece belonging to their opponent. In the opening phase, the players alternate moving one of their pieces into an adjacent, unoccupied space. Pieces must move along a line on the board, and may never jump another piece. The ending phase begins when one player has been reduced to only three pieces. At that point, the player with three pieces may jump a piece to any position on the board.
The game ends when the winner reduces his opponent to two pieces – thus can no longer form mills, or blocks all of his opponents pieces from movement.
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