Mancala World

Adji-boto → Italian.

First Description: Melville
J. Herskovits, 1928
Cycles: One
Ranks: Two
Sowing: Single laps
Region: Surinam

Adji-boto ("pebble boat") is a mancala game which is played by the Saramaccans who live on the upper Saramacca river in Surinam. The Saramaccans are a tribe of Bush-Negroes which was formed by escaped slaves. The first field study on the game was conducted by the American ethnologue Melville J. Herskovits (1895-1963) in 1928 in the village of Beidotti. The game resembles mancala games known in Benin, West Africa.

The game is used to entertain the dead during the ten-day period preceding burial in the kre wosu, or house of mourning. The play is only carried out during the daylight hours because in the night the yorkas, or ghosts of the dead, would come and play with us and eventually carry away our spirits.

The boards are only carved by old widowed men because this is a serious issue. They are made in two shapes, those having straight tops, and those in which the tops are curved. A village should have both types, so that if a person was fond of one kind of board dies, the people can play for a time on the other and there will be a lessened danger of his ghost coming to play with them. Although the Bush-Negroes are fine wood-carvers the Saramacca boards are of the roughest. This is because of the sacred character of the game which is not one which can be hurried in playing. It must entail some effort and even pain to bring it to perfection.


Adji-boto is played on a board called adji-bangi ("pebble stool") that consists of 2x5=10 holes. In addition, each player has a store called boto ("boat") at his right hand.

Each hole contains 10 stones called adji ("pebbles") at the start of the game.


Initial Position

Each turn a player distributes the contents of one of his holes, except one stone that remains in the hole, one by one, in consecutive holes in an anti-clockwise direction.

In the first ten moves of the game all of the ten playing holes must be played.

It is only permitted to play a hole which contains at least two stones.

It is not allowed to pass a move unless a player has no legal move left.

If the last stone ends (kaba) in a hole which precedes another hole or a continuous chain of holes that contains one, three or five stones (including any sequential combinations), these stones are captured and put into the player's boto. It is possible to capture on either side of the board. The only exception is the opening move in which nothing is captured. If a Bush-Negro captures he says: "I eat your children!" (Mi nyam yu p'kin kaba!)

The game is finished when both players can't move.

The remaining stones are captured by the player on whose side they are.

The player who has won most stones is declared winner. It is said that "the loser is killed!" (a kiri mi kaba!).

If both players captured the same number of stones the game is a draw.


Herskovits, M. J. 
Adjiboto, an African Game of the Bush-Negroes of Dutch Guiana. In: Man: A Monthly Record of the Royal Anthropological Institute 1929; 29 (No. 90): 122-127.
Herskovits, M. J. 
Wari in the New World. In: Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 1932; 62: 23-37.
Murray, H. J. R. 
A History of Board-Games other than Chess. Oxford University Press, Oxford (England) 1951, 203.
Russ, L. 
The Complete Mancala Games Book: How to Play the World's Oldest Board Games. Marlowe & Company, New York (USA) 2000, 14.


© Wikimanqala.
By: Ralf Gering.
Under the CC by-sa 2.5.