Mancala World

Boola → German, Portuguese.

First Description: Dr. Martin
F. Falkenstein, 2009
Cycles: One
Ranks: Two
Sowing: Multiple laps
Region: Kenya

Boola (probably from Rendille language: "booliya"= to capture, to take captive (after a raid: used of people only)) is a mancala game common among the Ariaal, Rendille and Samburu in north-central Kenya.

Women are not permitted to play Boola and the game should only be played outdoors. It is said that womenfolk have invented the game to send the men away to play under an acacia tree outside the village so that they could unhurriedly do their housekeeping. Before the hyenas start to howl in the dusk, one should have finished playing by all means.

Boola was first described by Dr. Martin F. Falkenstein, a 50-year old German from Bielefeld in the Yahoo! group mancalagames in July of 2009. The game is shown in a photo of Samburu men taken by Walter Driedger and published in 1971.


Boola is played on a board that consists of two parallel rows of 12 holes on each side. A player controls the 12 holes on his side of the board.

At the start of the game each player has 24 stones in his holes, which are distributed in the following manner:


Initial Position (schematic, stores don't exist in the Kenyan Boola boards)

On his turn a player empties the contents of one of his holes and distributes one stone in each of the following holes in a counterclockwise direction.

If the last stone falls in an occupied hole, the player takes its contents, including the last dropped stone, and continues to distribute the stones in a counterclockwise direction.

The last stone of the first lap must either fall into an opponent's hole or an empty one of the player's own row. Other moves are not permitted.

The move ends if the last stone is dropped in an empty hole.

If the last stone is dropped into an empty hole on the player's own side, he captures the contents of the opposite hole. The captured stones are removed from the board.

Players must move. The game ends, if a player cannot move on his turn.

The player who has still stones left in his row wins the game. Draws are impossible.


The opening move usually done by the Ariaal and Rendille is an exception: A stone is left in the previous-to-last hole (from which the move usually starts) and the move ends therefore in the first hole of the opponent. Then the opponent often shouts: "Seehche idaah!" (ie. "I say, move them all!"). However, it is also permitted to take all the stones or to start the game with the stones in the last hole.

Special Expressions

A player who captures lots of stones at his turn is called a "waraba" ("hyena").

External Links


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