Posted by: Wayne Robinson | February 16, 2012

Games – Morris

Copy of a Mary Rose arrow chest, 1545, with a morris board carved in to the lid

Equipment

Nine Mens’ Morris or Mill is played on a board consisting of three concentric squares connected by lines from the middle of each of the inner square’s sides to the middle of the corresponding outer square’s side. Pieces are played on the corner points and on the points where lines intersect so there are 24 playable points. In this version of the game, there are nine black and nine white counters.

Preparation and Objective

To begin with the board is empty. The basic aim of the game is to make “mills” – vertical or horizontal lines of three in a row. Every time this is achieved, an opponent’s piece is removed, the overall objective being to reduce the number of opponent’s pieces to less than three or to render the opponent unable to play.

Basic Play

Players toss a coin or have a fistfight to decide who will play white – white moves first and has a slight advantage as a result. Play is in two phases. To begin with, players take turns to play a piece of their own colour on any unoccupied point until all eighteen pieces have been played. After that, play continues alternately but each turn consists of a player moving one piece along a line to an adjacent point.

Whenever a player achieves a mill, that player immediately removes from the board one piece belonging to the opponent that does not form part of a mill. If all the opponent’s pieces form mills then an exception is made and the player is allowed to remove any piece. It is only upon the formation of a mill that a piece is captured but a player will often break a mill by moving a piece out of it and then, in a subsequent turn, play the piece back again, thus forming a new mill and capturing another piece.

Captured pieces are never replayed onto the board and remain captured for the remainder of the game. The game is finished when a player loses either by being reduced to two pieces or by being unable to move.

Alternative board layouts have been used over the centuries. One common pattern adds four extra diagonal lines to the basic board outlined above, the lines being drawn from the corners of the inner square to the corners of the outer square. Pieces can be moved and mills made along these extra lines in the usual way.

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