The village of  Ath Saidha, Bejaia, in Algeria where El Felja, the inspiration for Zhi Zhu, was found.  

Dahmane realized just how long this game had been a part of the culture there, and how important it had been to his forefathers. Then, upon researching it further, he realized how important this game was to the world's culture overall.  This gave him his inspiration for what would become 3-4-5 Games' second game, ZhiZhu!

When he returned for a visit to Algeria, Dahmane discovered some ancient El Felja boards carved into stone surfaces in tucked away places behind old stone walls and roughly hewn wooden doorways. Many boards were carved throughout the area, and acted as entertainment and meeting spots for generations of local people. 

Our latest game ZhiZhu! ​is based on one of the world's most ancient games, Nine Men's Morris (Merells). This was a game that spread across the world from the time of the Ancient Egyptians and went under many different names. The founder of 3-4-5 Games, Dahmane Dahmani, knew this game as El Felja while growing up in his native village Ath Saidha, Bejaia, in Algeria. 

The original Nine Men's Morris game and a rock carving where villagers played El Felja.

Chain It To Win It!

ZhiZhu! Game

After carefully studying El Felja and its mechanics, Dahmane felt that it was still an exciting challenge but needed to be adapted to make it more appealing to modern audiences. Out of that grew ZhiZhu!, with its rounded game space and updated rules. The changes Dahmane made bring new challenges and new fun, while still keeping the wisdom and the culture of the ancient world alive. 

The “ZhiZhu Game™” game was inspired by the Nine Men’s Morris which dates back more than 3000 years. Nine Men’s Morris was played on 3 concentric squares, whereas ZhiZhu! ™  (which means Spider in Chinese) is played on the 3 concentric circles, which look like a spider’s web. In “ZhiZhu!™” a player can make a Chain by getting THREE (3) pieces in a row on one of the eight straight lines, or FIVE (5) pieces in a row on one of the three concentric circles. When a player makes a chain of THREE of his/her pieces on a straight line, that player removes ONE of the opponent’s pieces from the board. When a player makes a chain of FIVE of his/her pieces on a circle, he/she removes TWO of the opponent’s pieces from the board. It’s easy to understand, but very challenging to do!

Game Content:  1 Board, 9 white pieces and 9 black pieces.

Getting Started: Each player starts with 9 pieces and the board starts empty. Players flip a coin to decide on who will go first.

Goal: The goal of the game is to create chains of 3 or 5 pieces in a row, or block the opponent from making his/her chain. When you make a chain you will be able to take other players pieces off the board. The winner is the last one left with more than two men on the board.

Phase One – Placement: Taking turns, each player places their pieces, ONE piece at a time, on any of the 24 vacant points (smaller circle) on the board. Chains may be made during this phase, and pieces may be removed accordingly.

Phase Two – Movement: After all the pieces are placed, each player takes turns sliding ONE piece along the connecting line to an adjacent vacant circle. During this phase is when most chains will be created, and players continue moving one piece per turn until a winner is established.

Capturing Pieces:  When a player has managed to make a chain of 3 (three of his/her pieces lined up in a row along one of the eight straight lines), he/she immediately removes ONE of the opponent’s pieces from the board. When a player makes a chain of 5 (five of his/her pieces lined up in a row on one of the three circles) he/she immediately removes TWO of the opponent’s pieces from the board.

IMPORTANT NOTES: You can not remove a piece that is currently part of a chain, unless there are no other pieces to be removed.
A player may break up his/her one chain by moving a piece out from the chain. However, the player cannot move the piece back to remake the same chain on his/her next turn.

WINNING: A player wins when his/her opponent has only TWO (2) pieces left on the board, or if the opponent is blocked (for example all the pieces are blocked and no moves can be made).

PLAY TIME: 15-30 minutes​

How To Play ZhiZhu!