Mancala World
Other Names: Ambala (?)
First Description: Joseph
Halkin & Col. Ernest Vi-
aene, 1911
Cycles: One
Ranks: Three
Sowing: Multiple laps
Region: D. R. of the Congo

Embeli is a mancala game of the Boa (also known as Baboa or Bwa) who play it in the area of Buta in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Libuali, their language, is spoken by about 200,000 people. Embeli is probably the same game as Ambala, which is played by the Bali near Bafwasende. It seems to be related to Imbelece.

The seeds of the Ngola tree (Pictantus makombo) are used as counters.


The Embeli board has two outer rows, each one with 10 holes and a central row with two holes at either end called nti ("head") and a large store in the middle. A player controls his outer row and the nti to his right.

At the start each hole of the outer rows contains four seeds. The nti are initially empty.


Initial Position

On his turn, a player distributes the contents of one of his holes, which had at least two seeds, one at a time counterclockwise into the ensuing holes.

Before a player continues his sowing on the opponent's side, he drops a seed into his nti. If the last seed falls into a non-empty hole, its contents are distributed in another lap.

If the last seed makes a four in the hole of his opponent, the hole is "closed" and a leaf will be put on it (according to Halkin and Viaene a "wife is made"). Then the four seeds are sown.


A nti cannot be closed, even, if the last seed makes a four.

Closed holes are skipped during sowing. If a player meets a closed hole on the opponent's side, one seed must be dropped into the store, before the sowing can be continued. Nothing must be done, if the closed hole is on the player's own row.

A move or a lap may not begin from a closed hole, nor from a hole, which contains a singleton.

A move ends, when the last seed falls into an empty hole or the store.

The player who could move last wins. Draws and ties are not possible.


Halkin, J. & Viaene, E.
Les Ababua (CdME). Brussels (Belgium) 1911, 451-453.
Townshend, P.
Les Jeux de Mancala au Zaïre, au Ruanda et au Burundi. In: Cahiers de CEDAF - ASDOC Studies. Institut Africain-CEDAF / Africa Instituut-ASDOC, Tervuren (Belgium) 1977 (3): 13-15.
Townshend, P.
Mancala in Eastern and Southern Africa: A Distributional Analysis. In: Azania: Journal of the British Institute in Eastern Africa 1979; 14: 115-117.


Adapted from the Wikinfo article, "Embeli", used under the GNU Free Documentation License.