Mancala World
Other Names: béchi
First Description: 1913
Cycles: One
Ranks: Two
Sowing: Single laps
Region: Eritrea

Bechi is played by Kunama males, generally by boys and youths, in Western Eritrea. The game is related to the Sudanese Um el Bagara and the Ethiopian Alemungula. Bechi was first mentioned in a Kunama dictionary in 1913 and its rules were described by Richard Pankhurst in 1971.


Bechi is played on a board which has two rows each of four holes (ita; literally "house") with with six stones (ayla or "cow") per hole. Each player controls one row.


Initial Position

On his turn a player empties one of his holes and distributes its contents, one by one, into the ensuing holes:

  • The first counter is dropped into the hole which had been emptied.
  • A turn always starts from a hole, which contains at least two counters. Singletons cannot be moved.
  • The contents of the two left-hand holes are distributed clockwise, the contents of the two right-hand holes are sown counterclockwise.
  • The sowing ends after a single lap.

If the last stone falls into a hole making its contents an even number, these stones are captured provided the contents of that hole had already been moved. Captures can be effected on either row.

Should this hole be followed by an unbroken chain of holes, which also contain even groups of stones, these are also taken.

The move ends after a capture.

If a player cannot play, he passes until he can move again.

The game ends when neither players can move.

The remaining stones are appropriated by the player who owns their holes.

The player who captured more stones has won the game.


The game can also be played on a smaller board of just three holes per row.


Initial Position (Variant)

The stones in the central holes may be sown in either direction.


Curia Generaliza dei Fr. Min. Cappuccini (Ed.)
Vocabolario della lingua Cunama. Rome (Italy) 1913, 49.
Pankhurst, R. 
Gabata and related Board Games of Ethiopia and the Horn of Africa. In: Ethiopia Observer 1971; 14 (3): 169-170.


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