Nine Men's Morris Board Game Rules

Nine men's morris with game pieces
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Nine men's morris, also called merels or mills, is an abstract strategy game that dates back to the Roman Empire. It is closely related to the board games morabaraba, three men's morris, six men's morris, and twelve men's morris.

  • Players: This is a game for two players.
  • Equipment: A game board and nine pieces for each player. Checkers or poker chips work well for the playing pieces, or you can use any similar tokens.
  • Goal: The goal is to get your opponent down to two pieces, or to block him from making any legal moves.

Setup for Nine Men's Morris

The board is made up of three concentric squares, with three points marked on each side of each square (the two corners and a midpoint). The same-side midpoints of all three squares are connected by a straight line. Twenty-four points are marked on the board, which are where the playing pieces are set or can be moved to.

Gameplay of Nine Men's Morris

The gameplay starts with the setup phase. You get to remove an opponent's piece whenever you create a string of three pieces on one line. As this rule is in effect during setup as well as regular play, you will need to be strategic from the first moment of the game. You can't remove an opponent's piece that is part of a three-piece string (or mill) unless there are no other pieces of theirs to remove.

Setup Phase: Players taking turns laying their pieces on vacant points. You each have nine pieces, so you choose from among the 24 points on the board to place your pieces. Each player alternates placing a piece. This is where you must use strategy, seeing where your opponent is placing a piece and where it will be advantageous for you to place yours. You want to block your opponent from creating a string of three pieces on one line, or they will be able to remove one of your pieces. You are also looking for your chance to create a string of three pieces on one line.

Regular Phase: After all 18 pieces have been laid down, the regular phase begins. In this phase, a turn consists of sliding a piece along a line to a vacant point.

Whenever a player creates a string of three pieces on one line, they immediately remove one of their opponent's pieces. (This can happen during the setup phase or the regular phase.) An opponent's piece that is part of a string may not be removed unless no other piece is available.

Note: Sliding a piece one space on one turn, then back to its original space on a subsequent turn is a legal sequence.

In a common variation, once a player has only three pieces left, they can move a piece to any vacant position on the board and not just to an adjacent vacant position.

Winning Nine Men's Morris

The first player to get their opponent down to two pieces or to block their opponent from making any legal moves is the winner.