Talk:Nine Men's Morris

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Merging other Morris games here[edit]

The rules of Three Men's Morris, Six Men's Morris, Nine Men's Morris, Morabaraba and Shax are identical except for four minor things:

  1. Different numbers of pieces are used: 3, 6, 9, 12 and 12.
  2. Different boards are used.
  3. Some rules are different in Shax: mills formed during piece placement do not result in pieces being removed until all pieces are placed; if any mills have been formed at that point, each player removes an opposing piece, starting with the first player to form a mill, and it's then the turn of whoever placed the first piece; if no mills are formed in placement, the second player to place a piece is the first to move. Also, a player with no legal moves does not lose; their opponent is required to move to give them an open space, and if they form a mill in doing so they cannot remove one of the trapped player's pieces.
  4. "Flying" isn't allowed in 3MM (as far as I can tell).

These differences are too slight to warrant the existence of five separate articles. Since 9MM is apparently the most popular game (there are 2,910 hits on Google for "Three Men's Morris", 903 for "Six Men's Morris", 75,300 for "Nine Men's Morris", 757 for Morabaraba, and 15,200 for Shax game), it makes sense to merge the other articles here as sections. The article could then be moved to Morris games. — Elembis 02:29, 31 December 2006 (UTC)

Since Shax has different rules, not just a different board and a different number of pieces, I no longer think it should be merged. — Elembis 02:11, 3 January 2007 (UTC)

Cultural Distinctiveness of Morabaraba and Shax[edit]

The point about the ruleset similarity is largely correct, although there are a few additional differences worth mentioning. There are variations of Morabaraba (eg Sesotho Morabaraba) which are played on a different board layout. Also, if I understand it correctly, Shax has some differences around who plays first after the initial placement of the pieces, as well as when pieces which have been captured are removed after the first phase of the game. To capture these variations completely would probably bulk up the Nine Men's Morris article considerably, and make it more difficult to obtain clarity on the precise rules for each game. In addition, Morabaraba and Shax have completely different cultural heritages from the Morris games, and from each other - Shax, for example, is viewed by the Somali as part of their cultural heritage, while Morabaraba has long been used to teach Southern African herdboys tactical thinking. There is no place for this type of background in the Nine Men's Morris article, whereas the respective Morabaraba and Shax articles could (and should!) easily be expanded to take it into account. My recommendation, therefore, would be that at least Morabaraba and Shax be retained separately, and expanded to cover some of the cultural background (which is mostly not well-documented elsewhere on the Internet). I can see no reason not to merge the articles for 3 Men's Morris, 6 Men's Morris and 12 Men's Morris, but other people may have cogent arguments. If Morabaraba and Shax are retained as separate articles, it may be desirable to create a separate category for "mill games" (or "alignment games" as the folks over at DMOZ call it). Adamoell 12:07, 1 January 2007 (UTC)

I really appreciate your comment. I understand that Morabaraba and Shax have cultural impacts quite different from the Morris games; unfortunately, Shax doesn't mention its heritage much, and Morabaraba doesn't discuss its at all. This is probably because "Written references to shax are few and hard to find"[1], and while your page is excellent, reliable sources for Morabaraba may be similarly scarce. Since the rules of Morabaraba are identical to those of Nine Men's Morris (aside from the board variation you mentioned), and since I don't think Morabaraba currently contains any unique information aside from the game's names and the fact that pieces are referred to as "cows", I recommend that we merge Morabaraba and discuss it as much as we can in Nine Men's Morris#History; when we accumulate enough encyclopedic content on the game's cultural and historical differences, we can split it into its own article once again. I would suggest treating Shax in the same way, but I now think the rules of Shax are different enough that it would be awkward to continue to include it in Nine Men's Morris#Variants, so I say we leave it unmerged and simply list it in Nine Men's Morris#Related Games as before. Thanks for responding! — Elembis 02:07, 3 January 2007 (UTC)
Three Men's Morris and Six Men's Morris have been merged, while Morabaraba and Shax have retained their own pages. Thanks for the feedback! — Elembis 03:19, 13 January 2007 (UTC)

Inactivating pieces?[edit]

The following paragraph was recently added to the article:

===Making a 'Mill' and inactivating pieces===
When 3 pieces are used to make a mill, they become inactive and are required to move before being used in any new mill. This rule would negate the example given above. Two ways exist for tracking the 'inactive' pieces. Flip them over if using coins (recommended), or remember them (advanced play).

I'm positive this rule is not always used (I've never seen it before). It contradicts the shuttle thing mentioned in the Strategy section. I've removed it from the article; if any sources can be found documenting this rule, it should be included in the article as an optional rule.--Niels Ø (noe) 07:02, 26 June 2007 (UTC)

German-same game, different name[edit]

This game is known as Mühle in Germany. Any good place to include this? Supermood00d (talk) 19:07, 19 April 2008 (UTC)

It's there, as it should be, in the form of an interwiki link to the german wikipedia article (in the left column under "languages"). This is not a dictionnary; we do not need a list of names in other languages. However, the game is called something meaning "mill" in several languages; this could be mentioned, esp. if we have an sourced explanation for those names.--Noe (talk) 09:55, 20 April 2008 (UTC)


When I learned to play this game as a child, I learned it as having a Viking origin. Though I fully expect this was a made up tidbit fed to a child, I wonder if there might be any truth to this. Anyone ever hear the Viking story as a source of this game? Wolf (talk) 15:39, 9 September 2008 (UTC)

The information in the article would seem to suggest a Mediterranean origin... AnonMoos (talk) 20:15, 9 September 2008 (UTC)
The Vikings did play this game, however they did not originate it, Boards have been found as far back as 1440 BC, in the temple at Kurna. (talk) 01:48, 12 September 2011 (UTC)


Revision 269129842 was not unfounded, although perhaps pedantic. Pedantic (from Latin paedere "to instruct") means bookish and concerned with rules. Regarding Merriam Webster's Dictionary of English Usage, I personally find M-W a bit wishy-washy on their usage notes. The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (4th ed.), however, provides the following usage notes (see few):

Fewer should be used for countable things "(fewer than four players)", while less should be used with mass terms or measurable things. However, less can be used with plural nouns denoting a measure of time, amount, or distance: "less than three weeks, less than $400, less than 50 miles", and in expressions like "no less than ~" or "~ or less".

Thus, the pedantic revision was correct. Wilhelm_meis (talk) 03:12, 10 February 2009 (UTC)

Not in my idiolect (which is the result of reading mostly classical English authors and living in Britain for several years), in which "no fewer than" is bad, stilted style in many contexts including this one. See here for a debunking of the "less only for uncountables" myth and an extensive quotation from the MWDEU entry. You will note that in contrast to the AHD entry that you quote, MWDEU justify their advice by giving a source that explains where the wrong advice probably originated, and Language Log adds a few more. In my opinion this kind of pseudo-correction is in very bad style and is problematic for the same reason that changing an article from one national variant to another without good reason is problematic.
The problem is not following rules, the problem is following rules about language that are incorrect and based on some influential individuals' personal preferences rather than observation of actual language use. No, let me correct that: The problem is not so much following such baseless rules as trying to enforce them.
I am not sure what you mean by "wishy-washy in their usage notes". MWDEU generally give very clear usage advice. Or are you just unhappy about their debunking numerous prescriptions and prohibitions, giving detailed justifications, instead of just copying them from other usage guides as absolute truths that just happen to be in conflict with what the best authors write?
If you still disagree I suggest that we continue the discussion at WT:MOS, as it has nothing to do with the subject of this article. --Hans Adler (talk) 05:20, 10 February 2009 (UTC)
We don't seem to entirely disagree. If you carefully read the whole comment I posted above, you will see that AHD does recommend "no less than ~" over "no fewer than ~". As for being prescriptive, any usage guide is inherently prescriptive by nature. As to the specific passage in this article, the statement in question is "fewer than... pieces" (not "no fewer than..."). What I meant about M-W is that I disagree with several of their assertions regarding usage, based on information from the OED and other reliable sources, but that is neither here nor there. I am not here to hand down correct usage by the hand of God, I am simply supporting a good faith style edit that was based on good usage. Wilhelm_meis (talk) 17:03, 10 February 2009 (UTC)

Help fix conflicting directions[edit]

Not being familiar with this game, I have to ask if someone could please fix the conflicting instructions? How can all 18 pieces be placed if removed pieces may not be placed again?

"If a player is able to form a row of three pieces along one of the board's lines, he has a "mill" and may remove one of his opponent's pieces from the board; removed pieces may not be placed again. Players must remove any other pieces first before removing a piece from a formed mill. Once all eighteen pieces have been placed, players take turns moving."

Also, please clarify if corners count as "intersections"; I assume from context that this is the case, but would be good to make it clear. Thanks! Bill Whittaker (talk) 18:59, 24 August 2010 (UTC)

I'll try to clarify it here, but I don't think the article needs mending.
All 18 pieces have to be placed before they start moving, and you are right, some of them may be removed again before all 18 have been placed - so they may not all be at the board simultaneously. Still they have been placed, so the article is right.
And yes, the corners count as intersections. It says "24 intersections", so if in doubt, one might count them. Also, in the diagrams in the article, these 24 points are marked with bullets, and I think that should be enough. If you can think of a better word than "intersections", then fine, but I don't think it is worth it to write many more words in the ariticle to make this point more explicit.-- (talk) 20:15, 24 August 2010 (UTC)
Good to know. Thanks. I will change "intersection", which typically implies two lines crossing, to "spot", which is the term used in other related board games (e.g. Chinese Checkers). I'll also change wording to "Once all eighteen pieces have been used, players take turns moving." Bill Whittaker (talk) 17:52, 25 August 2010 (UTC)
The term "point" is used in six ref books I checked. Ok, Ihardlythinkso (talk) 12:44, 2 November 2012 (UTC)

Freeware Version[edit]

A freeware version of the game made by Carl von Blixen can be downloaded here: —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 02:59, 14 December 2010 (UTC)

And another, beefed up and prettier version of the game called Morris, can be found here: —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 22:56, 17 December 2010 (UTC)

Three Men's Morris?[edit]

On reading this page as an enquirer rather than a contributor, I noticed references to 'Three Men's Morris' in the second paragraph, and in the Related Games section where a few of the entries are referred to as being similar to 3 Men's Morris. However there's no mention of 3 Men's Morris in the Variants section, which left me rather baffled (there's an external link to learn of 3m.m. but the article introduction infers some sort of coverage). I presume the incongruity is a result of the article's wikevolution. Just pointing this out in case someone wants to smooth it out. It's currently a bit jarring, from my reader's pov. (talk) 03:39, 28 June 2011 (UTC)


My memory may be failing me, but I seem to recall there being an always-win strategy for the first player. (talk) 00:39, 29 May 2013 (UTC)

"In 1994 the ETH database was completed in Zürich, which contains the approximately 10 billion Morris positions relevant for actual play. The game was shown to be a draw with perfect play." -- Manfred Nüscheler, "Nine Men's Morris", Abstract Games, Issue 13 Spring 2003, p.22–24 Ihardlythinkso (talk) 03:31, 29 May 2013 (UTC)

Forming two mills in a single placement - remove one or two?[edit]

When played with beginners, the situation could occur, during the first phase of the game, that one player creates two mills in a single move. (Yes, it did happen.) The rules does not say anything about whether two or just one opponent men should be removed. Is there a common ruleset that defines this? — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 20:56, 31 March 2014 (UTC)

Worth clarification?[edit]

From the current article: If a player is able to place three of his pieces in a straight line, vertically or horizontally, he has formed a mill and may remove one of his opponent's pieces from the board and the game. Any piece can be chosen for the removal, but a piece not in an opponent's mill must be selected, if possible.

By my understanding, a mill can only be three spaces joined by one of the lines marked on the board. A literal interpretation of the text would imply that (using the notation of the diagram) d2-d3-d5, for example, is also a mill. Is it necessary to clarify to avoid this possible misunderstanding?

Conversely, is the clarification "a piece not in an opponent's mill must be selected, if possible" necessary? It seems obvious that one would in any case want to avoid removing a piece from a mill, allowing the opponent to remake the same mill next turn. Or are there situations where doing so as a deliberate sacrifice is actually correct? (talk) 18:35, 13 October 2015 (UTC)

On the first count I agree. The second one probably refers to the second phase of the game where taking a piece out of a mill would in mayn situations be very helpful. --2003:57:E972:1253:68EF:5013:CF7D:356 (talk) 15:42, 3 January 2016 (UTC)

Description of image[edit]

Even if it is Black's turn, White can remove a black piece each time a mill is formed by moving e3–d3 and then back again d3–e3. - it should be mentioned that in case of "flying" allowed this will stop once black gets the ability to fly, and if white actually plays like that, black may even get an easy win. --2003:57:E972:1253:68EF:5013:CF7D:356 (talk) 15:40, 3 January 2016 (UTC)

Ting Tang Tong[edit]

In 1939, a commercial, branded version of Twelve Men's Morris was created by the Alox Manufacturing Company, St. Louis, Missouri USA. Called Ting Tang Tong, it was made of heavy paperboard and featured Asian icons around the sides of the 12 x 12 inch board. (talk) 17:59, 7 January 2016 (UTC)