Three Men's Morris
|Setup time||< 1 minute|
|Playing time||< 1 hour|
Each player has three pieces. The winner is the first player to align their three pieces on a line drawn on the board.
The board is empty to begin the game, and players take turns placing their pieces on empty intersections. Once all pieces are placed (assuming there is no winner by then), play proceeds with each player moving one of their pieces per turn. A piece may move to any vacant point on the board, not just an adjacent one.
According to A History of Chess page 614, each player moves one of their pieces in turn, following one of two rules according to version; a player wins if thereby they get three pieces in a line:
- To any empty position.
- To any adjacent empty position, i.e. from an edge position to the center, or from the center to an edge position, or from an edge position to an adjacent edge position.
Harold James Ruthven Murray calls version #1 "nine holes" and version #2 "three men's morris" or "the smaller merels".
The earliest known board for the game includes diagonal lines and was "cut into the roofing slabs of the temple at Kurna in Egypt" c. 1400 BCE. When played on this board, the game is called Tapatan in the Philippines and Luk Tsut K'i ("six man chess") in China. It is thought that Luk Tsut K'i was played during the time of Confucius c. 500 BCE. Centuries later, the game was mentioned in Ovid's Ars Amatoria, according to R. C. Bell. In book III (c. 8 CE), after discussing chess, Ovid wrote:
- There is another game divided into as many parts as there are months in the year. A table has three pieces on either side; the winner must get all the pieces in a straight line. It is a bad thing for a woman not to know how to play, for love often comes into being during play.
Boards were carved into the cloister seats at the English cathedrals at Canterbury, Gloucester, Norwich, Salisbury and Westminster Abbey; the game was quite popular in England in the 13th century. These boards used holes, not lines, to represent the nine spaces on the board—hence the name "nine holes"—and forming a diagonal row did not win the game.
The name of the game may be related to Morris dances (and hence to Moorish). However, according to Daniel King, "the word 'morris' has nothing to do with the old English dance of the same name. It comes from the Latin word merellus, which means a counter or gaming piece."
- Six Men's Morris and Nine Men's Morris use six and nine pieces, respectively, and are played on different boards.
- In tic-tac-toe, pieces are placed (or marks are made) until the board is full; if neither player has an orthogonal or diagonal line at this point, the game is a draw.
- Achi, from Ghana, is played on the Kurna board. Each player has four pieces, which can only move to adjacent spaces.
- Picaria, a Native American variation invented in New Mexico, adds diagonal attachments to the central edge points, yielding four additional interior points each located between the center and corner points.
- Bell, R. C. (1979). Board and Table Games from Many Civilizations, volume 1. New York City: Dover Publications. pp. 91–92. ISBN 0-486-23855-5.
- Culin, Stewart (October–December 1900). "Philippine Games" (PDF). American Anthropologist, New Series 2 (4): pp. 643–656. Retrieved 2007-01-09.
- "Tapatan". Row Games. Elliott Avedon Museum & Archive of Games. 2005-09-12. Retrieved 2007-01-09.
- "Nine Holes". Row Games. Elliott Avedon Museum & Archive of Games. 2005-09-12. Retrieved 2007-01-09.
- King, Daniel (2003). Games. Kingfisher plc. pp. 10–11. ISBN 0-7534-0816-3.
- Bell, R. C. (1979). Board and Table Games from Many Civilizations, volume 2. New York City: Dover Publications. pp. 55–56. ISBN 0-486-23855-5.
- Simonds Mohr, Merilyn (1993). The Games Treasury. Shelburne, Vermont: Chapters Publishing. p. 28. ISBN 1-881527-23-9.
- Murray, Harold J. R. (1952). A History of Board Games other than Chess. Oxford University Press.