Mancala World
Fergen Goobalay
Inventor: (?), early 1960s
Ranks: Three
Sowing: Multiple laps
Region: Somalia

Fergen Goobalay, a Somali mancala game, was first described by Richard Pankhurst in 1971. His informant was Abdul Khadir Haji Abdulahi, a Radio Ethiopia entertainer from the Gabradarre area of Ogaden. He told him that the game is a modern form of Layli Goobalay, which was invented only in the last 10 to 15 years. It shows that innovative games also arise in traditional communities in Africa.

This mancala game is unique in its irregular arrangement of holes and seeds.


The board consists of two rows, which are split into two halves by a single neutral row. The number of seeds per hole varies between three and five depending on the position of the hole. The initial set-up of the board is shown in the following diagram:


Fergen Goobalay Set-up

On his turn a player distributes the contents of one of his own six holes one by one into ensuing holes (including the neutral ones), moving in an counter-clockwise direction.

If the last seed falls into a non-empty hole of either player, but not a neutral hole, its contents are distributed in another lap.

If the last seed is dropped into an empty hole on his own side, the player captures the contents of his opponent's opposite hole, unless it contained three seeds.

In this case, these holes are called layli goobalay and from now on belong to the player who formed them. Their contents are arranged in pairs of two.

In addition, the player who created a layli goobalay automatically becomes the owner of one of the central holes which he may freely chose usually taking the one with the largest number of seeds.

A turn or a lap may neither be started from a central hole, nor from a layli goobalay.

The game ends when a player has nothing left to play with.

The player who has more seeds in the end wins the game.

He owns:

  • the seeds he captured from enemy holes.
  • the seeds in his layli goobalay.
  • the seeds in his holes when his opponent cannot move.

The seeds which remain in uncaptured neutral holes are not counted.


Pankhurst, R.
Gabata and Related Board Games of Ethiopia and the Horn of Africa. In: Ethiopia Observer 1971; 14 (3): 181.
Pankhurst, R.
Board-Games of the Horn of Africa. In: Horn of Africa 1980/81; 3 (4): 41-45.


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