When you start researching instead of writing…

The game “Nine Men’s Morris” was popular throughout Europe from roughly the end of the Roman occupation up until Shakespeare’s time. The fourth book in the Stasis series is taking place in Ireland, and a few of my characters decided to have some polite (sort of) conversation over a game, and one of them let me know that this is what they were playing.

Naturally, I researched the rules, went to Hobby Lobby and bought materials to make my own game, and dug through my rock collection for samples of labradorite and rainbow moonstone to use as counters. Having played with my son this evening, I attest that the game is simple enough to allow for some conversation while playing, but strategic enough to hold a person’s attention.

Basic rules: Try to get three in a row. When you do, you take an opponent’s piece off the board. If your opponent has no legal moves (is boxed in) or has only two pieces left on the board, you win. Each player starts with nine stones. The game opens by players taking turns putting one of their stones on any unoccupied circle on the board. After placing all nine stones, on your next move, you slide one of your stones one space onto an unoccupied circle. You may not make the exact reverse of your last move on your next move (i.e., no sliding the same stone back and forth to keep making a row of three on alternating turns). When a player has only three stones left, on that player’s next move, the player may put one of those three stones on any open circle on the board.

(This is my excuse for not having met my NaNoWriMo word count today.)

Materials: 1/2 yd fake leather fabric, opaque metallic markers, ruler, hole punch, 3 meters cord, pinking shears, 9 stones of one color, 9 stones of another color.

Directions: double the fabric, cut out as big a circle as possible with the pinking shears, punch an even number of holes around the edge of the circle, and thread the cord through. Cut off the excess cord, set aside. (Your game board is now a drawstring bag.) Cut out a 9-inch paper square, fold it in quarters, unfold it, trace around it with the markers, mark the midpoint of each side using the fold lines of your paper square as a guide. Cut 1 1/2 inches from the outer edge of your square (to make a 6-inch square), center it, and trace around it and mark mid points. Do that one last time (the innermost square is 3-inches on each side). Draw four lines connecting the midpoints. Using a different colored marker, draw circles at all corners and midpoints. Let dry. Using remaining fabric and cord, cut a smaller fabric circle, and punch an even number of holes around the edge. This is your little drawstring bag to hold your stones. It goes inside your big drawstring game board so everything stays together when you’re not using it.