Mancala World
Inventor: Richard Hutnik,
Ranks: One
Sowing: Single laps
Region: USA

F.I.L.O ("First in, last out") was invented by Richard Hutnik (USA) in 2011. It is a rather unusual on-row mancala games with stackable pieces, which he designed for the "Half a Checkerboard Series". Hutnik also created numerous other games including several Chess variants, 3 on 3 and the Afro-Celt Mancala System.


F.I.L.O Board

F.I.L.O can be played on a board with a single track of 8 squares (instead of using half of a checkerboard - see image on the right), a "starting pool area" (to keep the player's reserve) and an "exit area" (similar to a store in other mancala games). In addition, a total of 24 (stackable) checkers is needed - 12 for each player in his respective color (e.g. white or black).

The gameboard is initially empty.

One player is sowing from left to right, while his opponent is playing in the opposite direction. The players sit on either end of the row, facing each other and always playing away from themselves.

To make a move is always compulsory.

The game is broken up into two phases: entry phase and movement phase.

Entry Phase[]

On his turn a player takes 1-8 checkers of his color from his reserve and sows them in his direction of play, one by one, on consecutive squares starting on the square nearest to him.

  • The checkers are sown on top of each single checker or stack already in place
  • A square, which has already been occupied by four checkers, is skipped.
  • It is not permitted to sow beyond the end of the row; i.e. if a one square already has a stack of four checkers, a player is only allowed to sow up to seven of his own checkers in a turn.

Moving Phase[]

The second phase begins after all pieces have entered the board.

On his turn a player a stack, which he controls (that is, a stack which is topped by one of his own checkers), and sows its contents, one by one, on the ensuing squares.

  • The lowermost checker is sown first, then the second lowest and so on.
  • Checkers are sown on top of each checker or stack already in place.
  • If the player encounters a stack of four, the piece is not put on that square but in the "exit area" off the board.
  • If a sowing is not complete, when the last square is reached, it continues on the first square.

Ending the Game[]

The player who moves last or is the first to have reduced his number of pieces to one or less wins the game.

In addition, there is a special "escape move":

  • the player making the escape move must be down to 2 to 4 pieces
  • these pieces must all be arranged into a single stack
  • this stack may not contain any pieces of the opponent

The stack is removed from the board, thus winning the game.

The escape move must be performed in the same turn the stack was configured. If the player forgets it, the stack can no longer be used for an escape move.

Solving the Game[]

On January 4, 2012, Ralf Gering showed that F.I.L.O is rather trivial to solve. No computer was needed, just half an hour of playtesting! In addition, two of the three winning conditions have been proven to be superfluous (i.e reducing one's pieces to less than 2 and the "escape move").

It is a second player win.

In the entry phase, the second player can force a board position, which guarantees his victory by simply putting just one checker per turn on the board. His opponent is forced to restrict himself to one piece per turn too unless he wants to lose at the end of the entry phase. This results in the following board position at the start of the moving phase:

4 W 4 W 4 W ...... ...... 4 B 4 B 4 B

(Notation: A - H, left to right; White is playing to the right, Black to the left.)

White to move, loses!

If A, then F, B-(1), G, C, H+

(1) If C (instead of B), then G, B, H, C, G+

If B, then F, A-(2), G, B-(3), F, C, H+

(2) If C (instead of A), then G, A, F, B-(4), H+

(3) If C (instead of B), then H, B, C+

(4) If C (instead of B), then A, B, C+

If C, then F, A-(5), G, B, H, C, F, G, B+

(5) If B (instead of A), then G, A, F, B-(6), H, C, F, G, H, A, G, B, F, C, E, B, A, C, H, E, G+

(6) If C (instead of B), then F, B-(7), H, C, F+

(7) If G (instead of B), then H, B, F, C, G+


Richard Hutnik proposed two rule changes to fix the game:

Proposal 1:[]

Instead of having phases, have them as move types. In the game, a player can perform an entry move or a movement move. The game would be the same otherwise, but the first move can be what is currently in the entry phase or the movement phase, and every turn following be the same way. To perform the escape move, no pieces would need to be in the start area.

Proposal 2:[]

Change in the end game conditions. The game can end when one player has no legal moves. The proposal is that when this happens (a player at the start of their turn has no legal moves), the game ends and the player who managed to get the most pieces off the board wins the game. In the case of the players escaping the same amount of pieces off the board, the player who has no legal moves at the start of their turn loses the game.

External Links[]


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