Mancala World
Other Names: Okwe
First Description: Charles
Partridge, 1905 (General
Cycles: Two
Ranks: Two
Sowing: Single laps
Region: Nigeria (Aro Chu-

Azigo is a mancala game played by the Igbo in the southeast of Nigeria. It is also a generic term for closely related mancala games. The following variant has been observed in Aro Chuku ("People of God"), a village famous for its oracle which has miraculously survived the Biafran war. It was first described by Kenneth Calvin Murray, an African art collector and the son of the well-known English game historian Harold James Ruthven Murray in 1951.

Azigo boards are often carried by allegorical human figures, thus symbolizing the spiritual Igbo cosmos. It is a man's game usually played during the dry season.


"It's an adult's game, and when it is in process no one talks. Both the competitors and spectators remain mute, working with their eyes, heads and hands. Sometimes a champion is tied up until his wife comes, overturns the board, and says: Leave this nonsense thing and come home for dinner."

Mbonu Ojike


The Azigo board consists of two rows, each one with 20 holes. Each player controls the row on his side of the board.

At the beginning each player has 36 seeds ("Okwe") in his holes and ten seeds in reserve.


Initial Position

On his turn a player may either empty one of his holes or play any number of seeds of his reserve.

When he decides to empty one of his holes, he sows its contents to the right, one by one, into the ensuing holes of his row.

If the hole had several seeds, one seed is left in the hole.

If a player reaches the right end of his holes, he continues his sowing in his leftmost hole, then distributing his seeds again to the right.

When the player wants to sow from his reserve, he starts in his leftmost hole and then proceeds as described above.

If the last seed is sown into a hole (whether empty or not), which is opposite to an enemy hole containing one, three or five seeds, these opponent's seeds are captured.

In addition, the contents of any hole containing one, three or five seeds are captured as long as their holes form an unbroken chain to the left on the opponent's side.


South sows the contents of his leftmost hole.


He ends opposite to the hole which contains five seeds.


He captures its contents and also the seeds of the three holes to the left,
a total of 10 seeds.

The captured seeds are added to the player's reserve.

The game ends when a player cannot move. The player who moved last wins. Draws cannot occur.


An interesting variant from Item, Abiribi and Onafia:

  • Just one or three seeds can be captured.
  • When a player enters seeds from his reserve, he must enter all of them.
  • If a player reaches the right end of his row, he may either continue as described or he may sow the remaining seeds in his opponent's row cycling the board in a counterclockwise direction.

External Links


Basden, G. T.
Among the Ibos of Nigeria. London (England) 1921, 134-136.
Basden, G. T.
Niger Ibos: A Description of the Primitive Life, Customs and Animistic Beliefs of the People of Nigeria. Frank Cass Co. Ltd., London (England) 1966, 350-355.
Deledicq, A. & Popova, A.
Wari et Solo: Le Jeu de Calcul Africain. Cedic, Paris (France) 1977.
Murray, H. J. R.
A History of Board-Games other than Chess. Oxford University Press, Oxford (England) 1951, 187-189.
Partridge, C.
Cross River Natives. London (England) 1905, 8, 66, 210, 259 & figure 57.
Popova, A.
Les Mancala Africain. In : Cahiers d'Études Africaines 1976; 16 (3-4): 450-451.
Zaslavsky, C.
Africa Counts: Number and Pattern in African Culture. Prindle, Weber & Schmidt, Boston (USA) 1974, 121.


Adapted from the Wikinfo article, "Azigo", used under the GNU Free Documentation License.