Traditional Board Games

Nine Men's Morris: a Worldwide Classic

Nine men's morris, by Oxbow Games and the York Archaeological Trust.
Nine men's morris, by Oxbow Games and the York Archaeological Trust.

Sunday, 26th June 2016

Nine Men's Morris is so old that it's impossible to say where it originated.  The earlest boards are estimated to date before 2000 B.C., and were found in Troy.  But boards have been found from Bronze Age Ireland and Egypt to 1st century Sri Lanka.  The Romans took it to various corners of their empire, and it is found in Viking Age Norway, Tudor England, Spanish America and Colonial Era U.S.  While there are older games, there are none whose rules have survived more than four thousand years.

When selecting games to include in A Book of Historic Board Games, one of my criteria that I have not yet mentioned is that I wanted to have games of many eras, from remote antiquity to the nineteenth century.  Nine men's morris therefore flies the flag for pre-classical antiquity.  Its long history provides plenty of interesting history to recount, too, not just its wide distribution but the periods of enthusiasm when its tactics were given in-depth analysis like those of chess.

I had lots of material to draw on, then, for the historical and strategic sections in the Nine Men's Morris chapter in my book, and the game was an obvious choice for inclusion.  If you're interested in the book, then please check out its page on Lulu.


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