Board games are so important for green-minded people today. We are revolting against technology overuse, promoter and consumer culture. So this new but ancient game promoted on Kickstarter piques our curiosity: Mehen is a 5,000 year old Egyptian board game. It is the only widespread ancient game to use a spiral game board, making it one of the most unique games ever created.
Sadly, Mehen has not been available to non-ancient Egyptians for some time. Now you can play like the Ancient Egyptians, thanks to Pandora Games.
How does Mehen work?
The game is based upon the snake god, Mehen, who coils around Ra (the sun god) to protect him during his subterranean journey each night.
Mehen is a fierce, protective god, and a fitting deity for a perilous board game journey. The gameboard is a representation of Mehen’s coiled body, beginning at the tail and progressing to the head at the center of the board.
While a number of ancient boards and sets of game pieces have been recovered by archaeologists, no indication of the rules of the game have survived.
Previous scholarly attempts to reconstruct the rules have assumed that Mehen was played as a simple, linear roll-and-move game.
With a complex, innovative board that looks nothing like other roll-and-move games of the time, we think this is unlikely.
Accordingly, game designer Zach Horton set about producing a new set of rules for Mehen that take into account what we know from the archaeological record, what we know of the game’s spiritual significance, and the unique features of its board and theme to create an exciting, strategically rich gameplay experience that makes you think in spirals.
This mehen board on Kickstarter, is optimized to new rules and cherry with walnut inlays for Mehen’s eyes! Wood is sourced from sustainable tree farms and small mills.
A basic game of Mehen involves 6 pawns per player, plus a number of “lions” equal to the number of players. The pawns begin off the board near Mehen’s tail, while the lions wait off the board elsewhere. Players throw four wooden throwing sticks to determine their movement options for each turn. Each player moves two pieces on their turn: either pawns or (when available) lions.
While the pawns are attempting to reach the center of the board (Mehen’s head), where they can achieve enlightenment, lions are soon moving backwards, from the center toward the tail, devouring pawns!
As the game progresses, the journey becomes more and more dangerous for the pawns, and more strategically complex as players must find a way to approach the center while protecting themselves against lions.
At the same time, of course, each player must try to hinder the progress of their opponents, break up their opponents’ protective formations, and take advantage of fortuitous opportunities like forward slides and coil-to-coil jumps.
The god Mehen also has agency in this game: certain throws trigger Mehen’s actions, which can pull pawns to their doom if you haven’t planned ahead!
The first player to achieve enlightenment for three of their pawns wins the game.