After a fun few days of making my own toiletries, I’m on to the fourth and final week of my make do and mend challenge. This time my task is to make my own entertainment and find new, unusual or long forgotten pastimes with which to wile away my time, rather than just vegging out in front of the telly. Nowadays we are spoilt rotten. So much of our entertainment is hi-tech and there for the taking that we don’t need to use our imagination to find ways of passing the time. We can switch on the TV or radio, browse the internet or play with a computer game if we are bored. Yet it only seems like yesterday when back in the playground at school we were making up our own games and stories from thin air.
DJ – a board game lover – suggested I kick off my task with a game of Nine Men’s Morris. It’s an ancient pastime which dates back to the Romans and was the Wii of the Middle Ages, when the craze reached its height. Nine Men’s Morris boards have been found scratched into the cloister seats at numerous cathedrals around the UK and the game is even mentioned in Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
I’ve never been much of a board game fan, though. The problem is that I’m impatient, competitive and a sore loser, which doesn’t make for a good combination. Plus I tend to lose repeatedly because I lack the patience to spend hours developing the level of skill required to win. While we share many hobbies, DJ sometimes misses the days when he lived in a shared house with another board games nut, Pete. The two of them would happily spend all weekend playing backgammon or Risk. In contrast, I am so competitive that I once got the huff and stormed off during a drunken game of strip chess, which I also lost. But for the benefit of the make do and mend challenge, I decided to give it a go and see if my patience with board games has mellowed with age.
I was keen to make my own Nine Men’s Morris board, but DJ tactfully pointed out that perhaps I should wait until I decided whether I liked the game before I took the trouble to do so. I considered drawing one out in the soil in the back garden – DJ remembers seeing people in Africa when he was growing up playing a similar game called Mancala in the ground by the side of the road – but it kept raining. Instead I came across a board pattern on the internet and printed it off and we used different coloured beads (again, my collection of beads came in useful) as our markers or ‘men’. The board was a bit precarious but worked well enough.
Each player starts with nine markers and a board with spaces and lines as shown above. The players take it in turns to place their markers around the board and when they are all present, the players each move a marker in turn to a space along the lines. When a player forms a ‘mill’ – three adjacent markers in a straight line – he or she can remove one of his or her opponents’ markers. The game continues until the loser (me) has only two markers left or cannot move. Needless to say, I lost every single game DJ and I played although my strategy was beginning to improve slightly towards the end of the afternoon. DJ admitted that he was beginning to worry in one game when I managed to lift three of his pieces from the board, but soon he recovered his composure and helped himself to the rest of mine.
It’s a simple but absorbing game and I can see why it could become so addictive in the past. I really wish I enjoyed board games more because with something like this you could easily amuse yourself with a game anywhere in the world for no money whatsoever, wherever you are, as long as you can scratch out the board, have some counters to use and a willing opponent.
Do you enjoy board games? Which are your favourites? Got any other suggestions for my make do and mend entertainment week? Leave a message and let me know.
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