Mancala World

Ba-awa → German.

First Description: Robert
Charles Bell, 1969
Cycles: One
Ranks: Two
Sowing: Multiple laps
Region: Ghana

Ba-awa is a mancala game from Ghana. Although it is played in the same region as Oware, the game is much simpler. In Africa, it is considered a game for women and children. The game is played by the Twi, an Akan people from Ghana. Ba-awa was first described in Europe by Robert Charles Bell in 1969 who had been taught the rules by S. Afoakwa in 1957. Related games are Jerin and Obridjie in Nigeria.


The Ba-awa board has six pits in front of each player, and (optionally) one pit at each end which stores captured seeds.

The only pieces are 48 undifferentiated seeds or other small objects. Typically, several games are played in a row. At the beginning of the first game four seeds are placed in each pit except the end pits. Subsequent games also begin with four seeds in each pit, however the ownership of the pits may have changed.


Initial Setup of the First Game

Players take turns moving seeds. At his turn, a player chooses one of the pits under his control. The player removes all seeds from this pit, and distributes them, one by one, in each pit counter-clockwise from this pit, in a process called sowing. Seeds are not distributed into the end pits. If the last seed falls in an occupied pit, then all the seeds in that pit including the last one are resown starting from that pit. These multiple laps continue until the sowing process ends, either in an empty pit or a capture of four seeds.

If a pit has exactly four seeds at any time during sowing, these four are immediately captured and won by the player who owns the pit. There can be many captures in a move.

If the last seed is sown into a pit which then has four seeds, these four seeds are captured by the moving player.

When there are just eight seeds left on the board, the player who began the game takes these and the game ends. In the next game, each player begins with a pit for each four seeds captured.

The nominal object of a match is to gain control of all the pits on the board; however, this is so difficult that the game is usually only played to ten or eleven pits.


The game can also be played by three players, each one starting with four holes. When the third player has been eliminated, the game develops into a battle between the two surviving players.


Bell, R. C.
Board and Table Games from Many Civilizations. Oxford University Press: Oxford (England) 1969 (Vol. II), 72-73.


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By: Ralf Gering.
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