Mancala World

Anywoli → Italian.

First Description: Richard
Pankhurst, 1971
Cycles: One
Ranks: Two
Sowing: Multiple laps
Region: Western Ethiopia,
South Sudan

Anywoli (literally "birthing") is a mancala game of the Anuak who live in the Ethiopian province of Gambela in the far west of the country and across the South Sudanese border in Akobo, Pochalla and Jokau. They count about 78,000 people and are traditionally peasants, fishermen and hunters. The western part of their kingdom was annexed by the British in 1898, while the eastern part was occupied by Ethiopia with French help.

Anywoli is related to games played in Nigeria and Ghana such as Ba-awa and Obridjie. It was first described by Richard Pankhurst in 1971.


The game is played on a board which has 2x12 holes called oto (plural udi; meaning "houses"). Initially there are four seeds in each hole. The seeds are called nyibaré ("children of the board game").


Initial Position

Players take turns moving the seeds.

On a turn, a player chooses one of the holes under their control. The player removes all seeds from this hole, and distributes them, one by one, in each pit counter-clockwise in consecutive holes. Seeds are not distributed into the store. If the last seed ends in an occupied hole, then all the seeds in that hole including the last one are resown starting from that hole. These multiple turns continue until the sowing process ends, either in an empty hole or a capture of four seeds.

If at any time during sowing, a hole has exactly four seeds, all four are immediately captured and removed from play by the player who owns this hole. There can be many such captures during sowing. However, if it was the last hole sown into that had four seeds, these four seeds are captured by the player who was moving. After that the player is permitted to make another move.

A player must move if can, but passes if he has no moves.

Pankhurst described a lottery to determine who gets the last four seeds. If the players dislike this element of chance, they could agree to use one of the following rules employed in other games of the family (suggestion made by Ralf Gering, but not used by the Anuak):

  • The player who captured the last group of four but one, also gets the last four seeds and the game ends.
  • The first player who captured a group of four by placing his last seed in hand into a hole containing three seeds also wins the last four seeds.

The player who captures most seeds wins the game.

Endgame Problem


South to play and win!


Pankhurst, R.
Gabata and Related Board Games of Ethiopia and the Horn of Africa. In: Ethiopia Observer 1971; 14 (3): 203.


4!(a)/2/3/4/7/3/6/7/5/6/4/5/8/4/7/11/6/10/5/9/9/8/8/7/7/6/6/5/10/ 12 (b)/1/11/2/10/3/9/4/8/5/9/6/8/12/1/11/2/10/3/9/4/8/8/7/7/12/1/11/2/10/3/9/6/8/5/12/1/11/2/10/4/9/3/12/1/11/3/10/2/12/1/11/10/1/9/2/8/3/7/4/6/5/5/6/4/7/3/8/2/9/10/10/9/12/1/11/10/12/10/1/8/2/7/3/6/4/5/5/4/6/3/7/2/8/1/9/9/10/10/11/11/12/7-9-5-7-3-5-10/1/8/2/10/1/7/3/8/2/9/4/10/3/11 and South wins by 52 : 44 points.

(a) 3? is followed by 11/12/10-9-10/1/7/2/8/3/9/4/10/5/6/6/7/7/8/8/9/9/10/10/2/11/1/12/4-5-6-7-8-9-10/1/3/2/4/3/5/4/6/5/7/6/8/7/9/8/10/9/11 and North wins by 52 : 44 points.

(b) 10/1/9/2/10/3/8/4/9/5/7/9/8/8/6/8/7/7/10/1/9/2/10/3/11/3/8/4/9/6/10/5/11/10/11/2/10/2/6/1/8/3/11 - and South wins by 52 : 44 points.


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