Mehen or the Game of the Snake was a game played by the ancient Egyptians until around 1000BC. It is not known how the game was played and indeed more than most ancient games, theories for game play have varied quite considerably.
A game called 'The Hyena Game' was found being played on a Mehen-type board in the Sudan in 1921. This is a game for several players. Each player tries to get their 'mother' piece to the centre and back whereupon their 'hyena' piece is released. The Hyena piece then also travels to the centre and back but has the additional perk of being able to terrorise and eat the other player's mothers en-route. In lieu of few clues as to how Mehen was played, most modern reconstructions of the game have used the rules of the Hyena Game as their basis.
Masters Traditional Games compromised by producing 2 rules - one based on the Hyena Game which is definitely a valid game in its own right and then secondly a reconstruction designed to be as accurate as possible for the Ancient Egyptian game based on the best theories proposed up to 2009.
A Mehen board was in the form of a coiled snake partitioned into dozens of playing squares along the length of the snake's body. The head of the snake was often carved into the board and lay in the centre while at the outer perimeter of the playing area tail was sometimes drawn from the final playing square tapering to complete the board. The number of partitions or playing squares varied enormously but was typically
A typical Mehen board came with 3 pieces in the shape of a lion, 3 pieces in the shape of a lioness and 6 sets of differently coloured marbles - 6 of each colour. While the game is accepted as a race game, the accompanying accessories lie at the heart of controversy surrounding gameplay. Some archeologists believe that the marbles and the lions were playing pieces and the game was therefore for up to six players - these theories tend to use the Hyena Game as a model for game-play although some of the inconsistencies are troubling. A more recent viable theory proposes that the marbles were used as dice and that the lions alone were the playing pieces - this would make it more likely that the game was for 2 players. But this theory is belied by the fact that tomb artwork shows at least one instance of Mehen being played with marbles for the playing pieces.
The board should be a coiled snake with 60 - 100 playing squares. Irving Finkel's rules published in 1996 has a board with 88 playing squares.
Each player has 1 small piece representing a 'mother' and 1 larger piece representing a hyena.
Three throwing sticks are used for dice (although any binary dice will do including 3 coins). The dice score as follows:
|Throwing Sticks||If 3 coins are used||Mother moves||Hyena Moves|
|1 flat, 2 rounded||1 head||1||1|
|2 flat, 1 rounded||2 heads||2||4|
|3 flat||3 heads||4||8|
|3 rounded||0 heads||6||12|
The following rules are based upon the ideas of Edgar B. Pusch in regard of marble dice. In fact, Pusch believed that players dropped the marbles from one hand to the other while their opponent looked on rather than just hiding them in their fist but we have here opted for a more straightforward idea. The remaining rules are just designed to make the game fun with a small element of skill and a larger element of luck. The result is not a race game - it is a war game...
The board should be a coiled snake with 60 - 100 playing squares. 80 is a good number. Each player has 3 lion pieces and 6 marbles.
To decide how many to squares to move, a player secretly puts 0 - 6 marbles in his hand and then asks the other player to guess how many there are. The number of squares to move is the difference between the opponent's guess and the real number. For instance, if there are 0 marbles and the opponent guesses 5, the player moves 5. If there are 5 marbles and the opponent guesses 3, the player moves 2. If the opponent guesses the correct number, then the player is prevented from moving at all.
It is possible to play the game with three throwing sticks (or any other binary dice) instead of marble dice. But it does not give the same flavour of the game.
To begin with, lions are aiming to reach head of the snake where they will gain divine power from the God Mehen.
Once a Lion arrives at the centre, it worships Mehen in order to become a divine lion with great powers.
The winner is the player whose lions dispose of all three of the opponent's lions.
These rules are provided by Masters Traditional Games, an Internet shop selling quality traditional games, pub games and unusual games. For information on copying and copyright, see our disclaimer.
Our rules are comprehensive instructions for friendly play. If in doubt, always abide by locally-played or house rules.
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