Nine Men's Morris
Category : Songs & Games
Published by Scotty on 2005/2/22
The Game of Merels or Nine Men’s Morris
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A little bit of history

Merrills 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 ship burial of 870AD.
In Britain, many buildings have boards in positions where play would be impossible, so it is assumed that stonemasons played on them before using the stone in the construction - an example can be seen on a pillar in Pickering Church (Yorkshire, England). Separate boards exist at Helmslev Castle, Whitby Abbey and the medieval village of Wharram Percy. An early wooden example was found cut into the top of a barrel on the Mary Rose

Rules of Play

Each player starts with nine pieces or men, off the board.
The players then take turns placing one man at a time on any unoccupied point on the board (a square in the board above). Once both players have placed all of their men on the board, they take turns in moving their men (one at a time). Men can only be moved to adjacent points along the marked lines. Only one man may be placed on any point. If a man is already on a point, another cannot be moved there.
The object is to form mills - a straight row of three of the player’s own men along a straight marked/connecting line. If a player succeeds in making a mill, they may remove an opponents man. Once captured, men cannot be brought back into play. Whenever possible the captured man should not be taken from an opponent’s existing line of three (mill).
Players must move a man if they can (even if it would be to their disadvantage). A player who cannot move a man misses turns until they can move again.
It is allowed to move a man out of a mill, then move back the following turn.
Once a player has been reduced to two men, and therefore is unable to form a mill which lets them capture their opponent’s men, they lose the game.


A common variation of this game is to require that one intervening move must be made before a piece may be moved back into the same mill. No such restriction applies if a mill is being formed along a different line, or using different pieces. In some variations if a player gets to a stage where he cannot move a man, he has lost the game.