Mancala World
Dong Wo
First Description: Vernon A.
Eagle, 1999
Cycles: One
Ranks: Two
Sowing: Pussa Kanawa
Region: China (Yunnan)

Dong Wo ("move hole") is played by the Achang nationality in Dehong Dai-Jingpo Autonomous Prefecture. The game was first observed by Vernon A. Eagle in April 1996. His informant was male, 25 years old, and lived in Henglu Village, Jiubao Township.


The board has two rows, each one with five holes. A player owns the holes on his side of the board.

Each hole contains five small stones at the outset, except for the holes at one end of the board, which contain one large stone called laomuzi ("old mother") or simply muzi ("mother").

Dong wo 1.jpg

Initial Position

On his turn a player picks up the contents of one of his holes and distributes the stones, one by one, in either direction (clockwise or counterclockwise) into the following holes. After that the direction cannot be changed during the turn.

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

Players are not permitted to sow one of the muzi into a hole containing the other one unless it is a singleton, which is moved in the second or a lter lap. Moving a muzi-singleton in the first lap into a neighboring hole containing the other muzi is illegal.

The turn ends when the last stone 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.

A muzi that is sown into the hole containing the other muzi captures it. A muzi is worth 5 points.

The captures are removed from the board.

If at the end of the of the turn a player's "regular" holes are empty (these are the holes in his row, which weren't bought by his opponent) and his opponent has more than one stone in his holes (a muzi counts 5), he must put one stone into each of them from his winnings. He must do this no matter who is about to play next. If a player has not enough stones, he must borrow them from his opponent.

The round ends if, at the end of the move, each player has less than two stones and no more stones can be captured.

If one player has still a stone, while his opponent has nothing, he wins the round, otherwise the round is ping (even).

The winner of the round conquers a hole on the opponents side of the board. He may chose any hole except the endhole, which contains the muzi. After that the stone, which effected the capture of the opponent's hole, is placed in it.

Before the players start the next round, they fill each hole (except those they have won or purchased - see below) with five stones from their winnings. If a player lost his muzi, he must buy it back in exchange for 5 stones. If a player is lacking stones, he must borrow them from his opponent.

Holes can also be bought. For each hole a player must pay 10 stones and, in addition, he must have at least one more stone for each hole he buys.

However, if there are holes captured (won or bought) by the opponent in the player's own row, these must be bought back first. Again the player must pay 10 stones, but now he has to have a surplus of another 5 stones that must be placed into the hole. It is not permitted to refuse to sell.

Captured holes function similar to acquired stores. Usually they contain singletons. Any counter (stone or muzi), which is sown into the hole, is removed from the board and added to the player's winnings. The owner of the hole may remove the singleton in this hole at any time (no matter who is playing). He is also permitted to place a stone into it, again at any time, after it has become empty.

The owner of a captured hole may not play a muzhi into it unless it is unavoidable in the second or a later lap of a move.

A player may start his move by sowing the singleton of a hole he captured. The singletons in these holes move like those of any other holes and they can also be captured.

The game comes to an end, if a player is reduced to a single hole. Then his opponent is declared winner.


Eagle, V. A. 
On a Phylogenetic Classification of Mancala Games, with Some Newly Recorded Games from the "Southern Silk Road", Yunnan Province, China. In: Board Games Studies 1999 (1); 61-68.


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