Mehen is a remarkable, 5,000 year old Egyptian game. It is the only widespread ancient game to utilize a spiral gameboard, making it one of the most unique games ever created. Sadly, Mehen has not been available to modern audiences for some time. Pandora Games is proud to reintroduce Mehen with all-new gameplay in a beautiful, handcrafted, limited edition set of the finest quality. We want this to become your most treasured game; one that you will be proud to display as a work of art and pass down for generations, as did the ancient Egyptians.
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 rules has 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. Mehen is easy to learn, but is unlike any game you’ve played before!
Can you think in spirals?
We didn’t just want to make Mehen available to modern gamers; we wanted to make a game set so beautiful that you would never want to put it away. You can even hang it on your wall as the ancient Egyptians did!
Our specially designed Mehen board, optimized for our new rules, is made from treated and finished hardwoods: cherry with walnut inlays for Mehen’s eyes. Our pieces are made from other high quality hardwoods: maple, walnut, and oak. All of our woods are sourced from the Western Pennsylvanian region. We work directly with sustainable tree farms and small mills to source the wood, and thus personally track it from source to finished product.
We have tested many materials and techniques before settling on our final design. We’re not cutting any corners to deliver the highest quality game to grace your table. Nothing is produced in a factory: all games will be made in our studio right here in Pittsburgh, PA.
As it was for the Egyptians, this will be an heirloom your family will treasure for generations.
We’ve developed two versions of the board, to support different numbers of players and different budgets. Our basic board can support 2-3 players. It is available in two award tiers, one with pieces for 2 players, and one with pieces for 3 players.
Our Deluxe board (pictured above) is 30% larger. Since the two boards are at the same scale (and the center area of each board is identical), the extra size takes the form of more spaces, necessary for 4-6 players. The deluxe board also makes for an even more impressive set piece on your table or on your wall. The larger board is compatible with 2-6 players.
The Deluxe set comes with the larger board, playing pieces for 6 different players, and a deluxe wooden box (pictured below) in which to store the game (the basic game utilizes a standard cardboard box).
Both sets are made from the same high-quality hardwoods and include a Barque of Ra board addition, four wooden throwing sticks (made from walnut and maple), and a printed set of our exclusive new instructions.
Our Mehen + Men reward includes everything in the Deluxe set, plus a second ancient Egyptian game! The second game is called Men (confusingly, pronounced the same as Mehen in English). It was roughly contemporary to Mehen, but even less is known about it. We’re creating a very limited set of copies using the same high-end hardwood materials and handcrafted production techniques. The gameboard is handmade from cherry, with walnut inlays, with walnut and maple playing pieces. This mysterious game will serve as a beautiful matched set with Mehen. Like Mehen, we’ve created a new set of rules that make this a fun and unique game to play.
Playing the Game
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—but it won’t be easy!
Mehen offers a great deal of player interaction and strategy, as well as quite a few surprises! It is suitable for both casual family play and more advanced groups. Some advanced rules are entirely optional, allowing you to scale the strategic complexity of the game to fit your group.
Note that our game set can also be played with other scholars’ rules if you wish, just as ancient sets could be played with our rules. Mehen boards were never standardized, and historical examples vary widely. We’ve designed ours with both gameplay and aesthetics in mind. For example, some ancient boards contained a squarish protrusion on one side. This was sometimes vestigial, in the shape of a turtle head, and sometimes larger and likely functional in that pieces could be placed on it. We call this addition to the board the “Barque of Ra,” and have created it as a detached part that can be placed anywhere along the edge of the board during play, and put away when the board is on display. It is used during the game to designate enlightened pawns, and also functions as a waystation for the first lion as it makes its way toward the board.
Mehen was developed by Dr. Zachary Horton and Jeremy Boyle. Zach is a game designer and professor of Game Studies, Media, and Literature at the University of Pittsburgh. His reconstruction of the game is based upon both historical research and his experience as a game player and designer. Jeremy is a professional artist with wide-ranging experience in wood-based art and design. He has developed the unique techniques used to bring this game to life, and will craft every copy of the game in his Pittsburgh studio. The third member of our team is Ellen Kruczek, who has conducted research, managed logistics, and helped to playtest the game and design its associated art. We are also grateful for all of our playtesters and other friends who have helped to bring this project to life.
Risks and challenges
There are only minimal risks associated with this project. Game development and design are complete. We have developed the techniques and procedures necessary to produce the game, and own the proper equipment for a production run. We have a good supply of materials as well. While any project like this could hit snags such as tool failures, we are in a good position to deliver this game in a timely fashion. Zach has run other successful crowdfunding campaigns in the past, and Jeremy has extensive experience making and selling high-end, handcrafted goods, so this isn't our first rodeo.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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