Mancala World

Aw-li On-nam Ot-tjin → Italian.

Aw-li On-nam Ot-tjin
Other Names: Ot-jin
First Description: Carl
Sophus Lumholtz, 1920
Cycles: One
Ranks: Two
Sowing: Multiple laps
Region: Indonesia

Aw-li On-nam Ot-tjin ("play on-nam fish") is a mancala game that was first recorded by Carl Sophus Lumholtz, an adventurous Norwegian geographer and botanist who travelled between the years 1913 and 1917 in Borneo. It is played on an oblong boat-shaped block of heavy wood with two parallel rows of nine shallow holes and a large single hole at each end. With the Penihings the board is called tu-tung ot-tjin. The seeds put into the holes are usually the stones of a small fruit, but sometimes small pebbles are used instead.

There are just about 4,100 Penihings in Borneo today.


As shown in a historical drawing from Lumholtz, the board consists of two rows of nine holes and also a large single hole at each end. Each player controls 10 holes, nine of which are used for playing and one for collecting captured seeds. At the start of the game two to five seeds are put into each hole, three being the most common, five the most challenging variant.


Initial Position

Each player, at his turn, picks up the contents of one of his holes and distributes the seeds, one by one, in a counter-clockwise direction. (Many game books say "clockwise", but this is wrong.)

If the last seed is dropped into an occupied hole, its contents are lifted and distributed in a new lap until the last seed is dropped into an empty hole or a hole then containing as many seeds as each hole had at the start of the game. If the last seed is put into an empty hole, the move ends and nothing is captured. This is called onomatopoetically gok.

Drawing of an Ot-tjin board (Lumholtz 1920)

If five seeds were originally placed in each hole, then the players try to drop their last seed into a hole which already contains four seeds. This is called ára ot-tjin ("to make fish"). The "fish" (in this case five seeds) is put into the players store on his left and the move ends. Only one fish can be caught per move, which can be done on either side of the board. If the original number of seeds was another (2 to 4) then a "fish" is this number.

When a player cannot move, his opponent captures all remaining seeds. The player, who has caught more fishes, wins.

If seeds continue to circulate around the board, the game is considered to end without result and must be replayed. It is not considered a draw.


The Penihings have a game called ot-tjin (...). There are two players who sit opposite each other (...). The stake may be ten or twenty wristlets, or perhaps a fowl, or the black rings that are tied about the upper part of the calf of the leg, but not money, because usually there is none about. The game is played in the evenings.
Carl Lumholtz (1920)

Endgame Problem[]


Each player has caught eight fish (1 Fish = 5 Seeds). South to move! (Ralf Gering, 2003)


Gering, R. 
Otjin: Trying to Make Fish. In: Abstract Games Magazine 2003; 4 (14): 10, 15.
Lumholtz, C. 
Through Central Borneo: An Account of Two Years' Travel in the Land of the Head-Hunters between the Years 1913-1917. Charles Scribner's Sons, New York 1920.
Russ, L. 
The Complete Mancala Games Book: How to Play the World's Oldest Board Games. Marlowe & Company, New York 2000.


9! (8?/3 results in an easy victory for North)/8/8/1/5/4/4/6/2/3/6/2/5/5/4/4/3/3/7/7/6/6/5/5/ 4/4/8!/2/7/1/6/3/5/2/8!/8/2/7/1/6/3/5/2/4/4/3/3/8/7/7/6/6/5/5/4/4. No contest. The game must be repeated.


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