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Tony Chen
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Microbadge: Berkeley Board Gamers Meetup participantMicrobadge: University of California - BerkeleyMicrobadge: Calvin and Hobbes fanMicrobadge: Calvin and Hobbes fan
...LACONIC REVIEWER
Nine Men´s Morris is a perfect information game played by 2 players. Games last around 10 minutes. It is a very ancient game whose origin is uncertain.

Board Game: Nine Men's Morris


...LICENSED LAWYER
The game is played on a board with 3 concentric squares, and 4 lines connecting the midpoint of the 4 sides. Each player has 9 stones which are played on the 24 nodes. White goes first and black goes second.

The first phase consists in players alternating to place one stone at a time Go-style. This continues until both players have placed 9 stones each.

In the second phase, each turn consists of moving one stone to an unoccupied adjacent node. Adjacent nodes are those directly connected by a line, one step apart.

A mill is a row of 3 same-colored stones occupying nodes on the same line. When you place/move a stone to complete a mill, in either phase, you must take one opponent stone of your choice away from the board. The captured stone will not be played again.

There are two winning conditions. 1)The opponent has only 2 stones left on the board or 2)the opponent has no legal moves because all of his stones are trapped by yours.

special rule
When a player has only 3 stones left on the board, he can move a stone to any unoccupied node on the board.

draw rule
1)players move 50 times each without making a capture.
2)when the same board position is repeated 3 times

...AVID GAMER
Not saying that Morris is anywhere as deep as Go, Chess or even Othello, but it is a lot deeper than what appears at first sight. There´s a lot more to this game than a fancy take on tic-tac-toe.

The goal is not merely to create mills, but to create re-usable mills. To achieve this, one does not focus directly on making mills, but in establishing better mobility of one's stones. The idea is to trap/lock your opponent stones while you form a re-usable mill in an area blocked to your opponent. Put another way, you want to enclose an area and prevent your opponent from doing the same. More than a simple connection game, Morris is also a territorial game.

During the placing phase, I find each turn to be quite engaging and filled with dynamic choices. One must consider both the mobility factor and the connection factor. Very often taking an action in consideration of one compromises your interest in the other.

The moving phase is less interesting, because what happens here is largely dictated by what happened in the first phase. One downside to Morris is that it is very difficult for a player to mount a comeback. Once a player established more re-usable mills than his opponent, the rest of the turns are usually mere formality. But before that, the game is quite fun and intense.

...MATH PROFESSOR
placement phase
You can dictate where your opponent plays by threatening to form a mill. Use this tactic to force him play in positions with poor mobility.

It is frequently not profitable to complete a mill. The reason is that, although you get to capture an opponent stone, you may end up inmobilizing the 3 stones that form the mill (or even more). I call this a dead/trapped mill.

Therefore, even if your opponent doesn't block your 2 in a row, don't complete the mill unless 1)you are sure that he cannot kill it, so the mill will be re-usable, or 2)capturing an opponent stone gains you mobility in another area which makes up for what you lost from having the 3 mill stones inmobilized. Likewise, it is not necessary to block an opponent 2 in a row if you can kill the completed mill and gain mobility by doing so. But if you can block and gain mobility in one move, by all means do it without waiting for him to complete the mill.

In general:
-a re-usable mill wins you the game
-a dead mill lets you capture an opponent stone, but at the expense of taking away mobility from 3 of your stones.

A very general observation:
Eliminate opponent stones by trapping them on the board or by capturing, with the ultimate goal of achieving greater mobility. With greater mobility, automatically comes the opportunity to create re-usable mills. To sum it up in one sentence:

MOBILITY IS VITAL

Board Game: Nine Men's Morris


In the game above, black can threaten to complete 2 mills by playing in the top right corner of the middle square. Suppose he does, then white should block in the top left corner. Now, if black completes a mill by playing the bottom right corner and capturing the white blocking piece, white should respond by 1)replacing the captured piece and then 2)placing in the outer square on the right midpoint whenever he is free to do so. Now the 3 black mill stones are trapped.

Continuing the game, white places on outer square top right corner. Black will be forced to block in the bottom right corner. Then white plays in the inner square on the low midpoint. Black will be forced to block in outer square low midpoint. Now white plays in outer square lower left corner to trap 2 black stones.

Of course black can make his own moves and prevent the game from unfolding the way it did in our example.


moving phase
Be careful not to untrap opponent's mills.

Set yourself up for a sure victory before taking your opponent down to 3 stones because of the special rule.

opening
For both black and white, place the first stone in the middle square, on one of the midpoints. These nodes have the greatest mobility (4 liberties).

player advantage
Although the game's solution is a draw, I feel that black has the advantage. The reason is because he gets to place the last stone in the first phase. However, white has the advantage of making the first move in the moving phase, so the advantage is less obvious.

...COFFEE TABLE DECORATOR
Depends on which publication you have. As for myself, I only play online at ludoteka.com. Verdict: coffee table quality for the version in the first picture.

...QUIRKY MARSUPIAL
Who cares if it's solved? No one I know has the solution memorized, if it's even possible.

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Mary Megrant
United States
Portland
Oregon
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Thanks for the review.

I have just thrifted Mozog, a variant of Nine Man Morris. The first review of NMM had me yawning, but your review had sparked my interest in the game. I appreciate the analysis of the strategy of gameplay.

Mary
 
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Tony Chen
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Thanks, glad I could help.
 
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Tony Chen
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Oh man I haven't played this in a while. Well there's the 9 stones you place, and probably over within ten moves after that. So most games will be decided within 20 moves from each player (or less, 9 isn't uncommon), unless it's a very even game where both players are playing perfectly waiting for the other to blunder.

Note I said "decided". If you want to play the game to completion it takes more moves but those are quite trivial once the game has been decided.

I remember that the solution (perfect play from both sides) is a draw, in which case play could go on indefinitely.
 
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Michael Williams
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Saint Charles
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My daughter and I have been playing Nine Men's Morris for years now, and we still have fun despite it being "solved". We probably draw half the time. This, Chinese checkers, and Pente are probably our favorites.

We tend to like mobility games and games with multiple phases.
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