Traditional Board Games

Nine Holes

The most direct ancestor of today's familiar noughts & crosses is a more advanced game called "nine holes". Unlike noughts & crosses, nine holes cannot be played as a pencil and paper game, but requires pieces that can be moved around. This makes it a true board game. The board is usually, literally, nine holes cut in three rows of three, each hole big enough to take a pebble or other small piece. The rules of the game are as follows:

1. Nine holes is played by two players on a board of 3 rows of 3 spaces. The board starts empty, and each player has in his hand 3 pieces of his own colour, black or white.

2. Black beginning, each player in his turn places a piece from his hand into an empty place. This continues until all pieces have been placed, or until one player has formed a horizontal or vertical row of three. A player forming such a row has won the game.

3. If all pieces have been placed without forming a row of three, then each player in turn (beginning with black again) takes one of his pieces from the board and places it in another empty space. As before, a player forming such a row wins the game.

4. Note that in this game, diagonal rows do not count for anything.

The game is clearly related to three men's morris, though the pattern is easier to mark out, and movement is more free in this game. The board has been found carved into the cloisters of many monastic churches, and its play was recorded as recently as 1699.


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