Hello, Chaz Marler from Pair Of Dice Paradise, and welcome to another installment of Board Games Throughout History, where we take a look at games that either had a significant impact on changing the course of human history, or are just really, really old.
Today, we take a look at an ancient Egyptian game called Mehen. At least, we think it’s a game. I say that because, according to Wikipedia, the rules and gameplay of Mehen are entirely unknown. The rules to Mehen seems to be one of the many secrets that the ancient Egyptians took with them, like how they built the pyramids, or where they hid all their Stargates. Another strange thing about Mehen is that it only appears to have been played during Egypt’s Old Kingdom, dating back from 3,000 to 700 BC. But, there’s no depictions of it in Egyption records after that during the Middle or New Kingdoms.
The game itself is played on a board that depicts a coiled snake whose body is often segmented into several rectangular spaces. Lion and lioness shaped pieces have also been found at archaeological sites containing Mehen, in addition to spherical player pieces as well.
Based on the presence of these pieces, the time period the game and its components date back to, and geographic location of the instances of Mehen that have been found, some believe that Mehen may have played similarly to an ancient African game called Hyena, or Hyena Chase. In Hyena, players have pieces that all start at a village at one end of a spiraling track. They then roll dice or sticks to move their pieces along the track to a well at the other end of it. In one version of the game, the first player to get their villager down to the well and back again then switches to a hyena, which moves at twice the speed of the other players and eats anyone it passes as it travels down the track, removing them from the game.
And the theory that Mehen and Hyena may both be versions of the same game is one supported by several researchers and gamers. For example, Board Game Geek user Daniel Thibault has posted a rule book for Mehen on its Board Game Geek webpage, which plays similarly to Hyena. But what do you think? Do you think that the ancient Egyptian game of Mehen was a derivative of Hyena? Have you played either one? In the comments, let me know what your experience with either of these game has been.