Bao - Mancala

Name ID 45

See also

Huxley, Elspeth Forks and Hope

Bao board in the crater

Mr Fosbrooke showed me ... a rock from whose flat surface had been scooped a double line of shallow depressions, made for the game played all over Africa, played for many centuries and known by many different names. The Swahili word is bao, which simply means board, in which the shallow holes are often made: though they can be just as well marked in the dust under a shady tree. Into these depressions you drop beans or pebbles to a fixed number, and your object is to capture your opponent's counters. The rules are far too complicated for me, at any rate, to grasp. Men will spend hour after hour at bao, like chess players, and indeed it is a kind of African chess.

These depressions in the rock must have been made long before the coming of the Maasai who, according to the latest reckoning, did not enter the crater until about 1850. The earliest inhabitants, peoples called Iraqw and Tatog, have disappeared.

Extract ID: 99

See also

Bell, R.C. The Boardgame Book

Rules of Mancala

Mancala is the general name given to a large group of games. The main features shared by all members of the Mancala group is that the board consists of two, or sometimes four, rows of shallow depressions into which a number of counters, mostly pebbles or seeds, are placed. These are then redistributed by each player in turn.

Rules (based on observations in Egypt by Edward Lane in the 1830's)

1. The board is made by hollowing two rows of six shallow circular depressions: one row for each of two players.

. . f e d c b

A . . . . . . . . . . . .a

. . B C D E F

2. 72 pebbles or counters are used. One player, without counting them out, places about half in each row, either in the middle hollows of each row, or in the hollow which is in each players extreme left.

3. The other player picks up all of the counters from any one of his pits, and sows one in each pit rotating from left to right along the rest of his row, and then down his opponents row, continuing until all of the counters have been placed. A to F, F to a, and f to A.

4. If the last counter is sown into a pit already containing one or three counters, the player bears off those two, or four, (including the newcomer), and any counters there may be in the pit opposite. If one or more of the immediately preceding pits contains two or four counters, he bears off these too, together with any counters in the pits opposite.

5. If the last counter of a lap falls into a pit with an even number of counters already in it, the player lifts all those counters out, and sows them, rotating from left to right around the board.

6. If the last counter of a lap falls into an empty pit, that turn ends.

7. Each player plays in turn, continuing until his last counter lands in an empty pit.

8. If there is more than one counter in a player's row, and his opponent has none on his side, the player must put one of these counters in the end pit of his opponent's row on his opponents extreme left. However, if there are only two counters left on the board, they become the property of the first player to get them both in his row.

9. When there are no counters left in play, the round ends and each player counts the counters in his possession. The difference between the two numbers is the score for that round.

10. A new round begins, and play continues until one player has a score of sixty.

More complex forms of Mancala, involving four rows rather than two, are played in East and South Africa. (rules are given)

Extract ID: 100