Mancala World

Bay Khom → German.

Bay Khom
First Description: (?), 1990
Cycles: One
Ranks: Two
Sowing: Pussa Kanawa
Region: Cambodia

Bay Khom is a mancala game played by children in rural or urban areas during their free time in Cambodia. It is also much played during Chol Chnam Thmey (Cambodian New Year) to transform the dullest days into a memorable occasion.

Bay Khom is probably related to Ô Ăn Quan (Vietnam) and mancala games in Yunnan (China). Similar games may also exist in Laos.

In the west the game was first mentioned in the journal "Buddhism & Khmer Society" published by the Buddhikasamāgam Khmaer (Khmer Buddhist Research Center) and the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung, Bonn (Germany), in 1990. The Cambodian poet Yim Guechsè who lives in Berlin (Germany) wrote in 2008 the poem Hun Sen Leng Bay Khom ("Hun Sen [the Prime Minister of Cambodia] plays cheating Bay Khom"). There is even a cartoon by Bun Heang Ung ("Sacrava") that shows the cheating politician.

The board is either dug in the ground or cut into a board. The counters are small beads, stones or fruit seeds.


The board consists of ten holes are dug in the shape of an oval. Each player controls five holes.


Initial Position

Before starting the game, five counters are put into each of the two holes located at the tip of the board. Four counters are placed in each of the remaining eight holes.

The counters can be sown clockwise or anticlockwise, but the direction cannot be changed during the turn.

When the last seed is sown, the contents of the next hole are distributed in another lap.

The turn ends when the last seed is put into a hole, which is followed by an empty one.

If, after the sowing has ended, the hole following the empty one is occupied, its contents are captured.

If the hole of which the contents were captured is followed first by an empty one and then by an occupied hole, its contents are also captured. This continues until the last hole is either followed by two empty holes or a non-empty hole.

The captured seeds are removed from the board and stored until the game is finished.

The game ends when a player has no legal move and the remaining pieces are captured by his adversary. The player who has captured most pieces is the winner.

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