Nine Mens Morris, also known as Merrills, Mill and Merels, is an old English game that goes back to antiquity - evidence has been found for the game in Egypt. More recently, references in the works of Shakespeare have given it an image of the archetypal medieval board game. Like most of the best games, Nine Mens Morris rules are simple, the objective being to capture opposing pieces by forming lines of 3. But the game can require deep thought in order to win and so is entertaining for beginners and veterans, alike.
This game, with an ancestry so old it is another contender for the prize of 'Oldest game in the world', is known by a number of different names in England - Nine Mens Morris or Morelles or or Merrills or Merels or Mill or just plain Morris. Presumably an extension of the simpler Three Mens Morris, a Nine Mens Morris pattern has been cut into the temple at Kurna, Egypt (~1440 BC). Other boards have been found in Ceylon which were carved during the reign of Mahadithika Maha-Naga (9-21AD). European boards have been found in such places as the first city of Troy, within a Bronze age burial site in Ireland and at the Acropolis in Athens. The game reached its peak popularity in Europe during the Fourteenth Century.
As an old English game, it used to be played with black and white pebbles on a board marked out with a trowel dug into village greens as well as in Taverns on boards marked with chalk on a table. Shakespeare mentioned it in "A Midsummer Night's Dream" Act 2, Scene 2 - "The Nine Mens Morris is filled up with mud" which is what must have happened to the boards marked in the village green when it rained.