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Yehuda Berlinger
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Nine Men's Morris is another quick and dirty abstract that has past its prime (it is now solved), but holds some slight interest for a dozen or so playings until it is time to move onto something else.

The game board consists of eight lines on the compass points, with three nodes on each line: inner, middle, and outer. Nodes are connected by lines out from the center, and by three circles passing through inner, middle and outer nodes. Often these three circles are squashed into squares, without changing the topology (or game play).

Begin play by alternately placing one of your nine pieces onto a node. If, during this placement process you place a piece such that it forms a line of three of your pieces, you remove your opponent's piece from the game. This can be either on the lines out from the center or along the circles.

After all placement is done, the first player then moves one piece one space along a line to am empty space. Again, if he thus forms a line of three of his pieces, an opponent's piece is removed from the board.

Game continues until one player has only two pieces left. The other player is the winner.

The game falls into patterns very quickly. It can be played for analysis principals, but is not really much fun.
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Matthew M
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Re:User Review
Shade_Jon (#68427),

You forgot to mention that once a player is down to three pieces his movement is no longer restricted to the lines on the board - he may pick up any piece and place it on any empty node for his turn. This makes it easier to block and easier to get three in a row, but the trick is to be able to do both so as to catch up without allowing the other player to take the final piece needed.

-MMM
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Yehuda Berlinger
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Re:User Review
Octavian (#68531),

Holy comoly, I just reallized that I messed up my review competely. I wrote that you have to get three in a row: your piece, opp piece, your piece. You are of course correct. You have to get three of your own pieces in a row, which allows you to remove any of your opps pieces.

Sorry about that.

As to your comment, I don't recall that rule (moving anywhere when you only have 3 pieces). Is it a variant, or the standard?

Yehuda
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Matthew M
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Re:User Review
Shade_Jon (#68631),

I'm decently sure it's standard - at least it seemed so in the copy I had (from England, no less! ) It makes sense, too, as it gives the opportunity for the player who is down to mount a bit of a challenge before bowing out. I imagine among good players it becomes a matter of some importance as to how solid your own position is before taking your opponent down to three pawns.

-MMM
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Stratocaster, the sound of Joy!
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It is standard!
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Les Lauber
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Shade_Jon wrote:
As to your comment, I don't recall that rule (moving anywhere when you only have 3 pieces). Is it a variant, or the standard?
Yehuda
Given that there are no copies of original rules anywhere, there's no way to know whether it is variant or standard. However, it is extremely common. When I play Nine Men's Morris with people who know the game, we always have to establish whether we're using that rule.

I prefer to play without it. I find that it upsets the balance of the game in much the same way that "Money-in-the-Middle" does for Monopoly. It seems to punish the player who has the stronger play.

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I find the opposite... I like the rule, because you must not simply win, but win WELL. You need to have a thought-out plan to deal with the opponent acquiring the jump ability instead of simply nursing along a potentially slight situational advantage through to the endgame.

In Austria and Germany it seems to be a standard rule.
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George Husted
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Quote:
Nine Men's Morris is another quick and dirty abstract that has past its prime (it is now solved), but holds some slight interest for a dozen or so playings until it is time to move onto something else.
Technically you are correct. If both players play perfectly, the game is a draw.

The game was "solved" in October 1993 by Ralph Gasser using a computer. The estimated number of legal positions in nine men's morris is 10 E10 and the total number of possible games is about 10 E50. The average person has trouble remembering 13 numbers in sequence, so I think it is safe to conclude that while the game is "solved" for PCs, humans will still have quite a challenge in mastering all 10 x 10 to the 10th power possible game solutions and are unlikely to consistently play perfectly.robot

This quote should be taken into account before making a rash decision to bypass this classic game:

Quote:
I must admit that I have not examined the opening moves for any easily describable patterns. However, the examination of mid- and endgame databases has repeatedly shown optimal play to be beyond human comprehension. Therefore, I very much doubt that any such simple-to-describe strategy exists. ~ Ralph Gasser


http://www.ics.uci.edu/~eppstein/cgt/morris.html
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