Mancala World
Other Names: Lochspiel,
Ogoro, Onjune, Otjitoto,
Owela, Thuskae, Uera,
Xoros, Wera
First Description: Johann
Georg Krönlein, 1855
Cycles: Two
Ranks: Four
Sowing: Multiple laps
Region: Namibia

The game of Hus (also called Xoros, Ogoro, Onjune, Owela (a minor variant), Otjitoto, Wera, Thuskae, Lochspiel) is played by the Damara (Berg-Dama), Namaqua, Herero, Kanyama, Ndonga, Kwangari, Mbukushu, Shambyo and Hei||om in Namibia. It is also spelled ||hūs.

The || at the beginning of the name is a click consonant found almost exclusively in Khoisan languages (also in Xhosa), which is similar to the sound which is made to hurry a horse.

Hus was first described by the Lutheran missionary Johann Georg Krönlein (1826-1892) in 1855. The game plays an important role in the myth of the first man |Gurihoeseb. He won so many games that he eventually destroyed the paradisiac unity between nature and humanity. The game might also be associated with rain-making as it is said that the game was played with copper pearls and the thunder storm being ǂEixa|kha|nabiseb is mentioned in the same myth. Copper symbolizes lightning. It is even claimed that the name of the game is not derived from the Nama word meaning "hole", but from a today obsolete expression for "cloud".


"There are often various options, and experienced players study several sequences in advance before selecting a particular stratagem."

S. M. Seftel (1995)


The game of Hus is played by two people on a board consisting of four rows of 8-16 holes (||huti). If the game is played in teams, some authors report boards up to 24 holes per row or even longer. Each player (or team) controls the two rows on his (or their) side of the board.

At the beginning all the holes in the back row and those in the right half of the front row of each player contain two stones (gomate; literally: "cows"). The other holes are empty.


Initial Position (4x12 Board)

Players take turns to move.

On his turn a player takes all the stones from a hole belonging to his side of the board, which contains two or more seeds (Afrikaans: "Een slaap, hy loop nie."), and sows them anti-clockwise, one at a time, into the ensuing holes.

If the last stone is dropped in an empty hole, the turn ends.

When the last stone falls into an occupied hole, its contents including the last stone sown are picked up and distributed in another lap.

  • If, however, this occupied hole is in the inner row and the two opposite holes of the opponent are occupied, the stones of these two holes are captured (||am). The captured stones are then sown in a new lap starting in the hole following the one that effected the capture.
  • If the inner hole of the opponent is occupied, but not the hole in his back row, only the contents of the inner hole are captured and sown. This is proven three times by an example game given by Wagner in 1917, despite a contrary claim made by P. Townshend.

When a player cannot move (ie, all his holes are empty or contain singletons), he has lost the game.


Children in Windhoek play Hus with an obligatory opening move:

  • Each player moves out his or her leading pair of stones on their first turn.


Seftel gave many hints for good play. He wrote:

  • A narrow-width game (such as an 8-hole wide game) gives too much advantage to the starting player who may devastate the opponent's front and back rows.(...) A 12-hole gaming board is minimal for adult play which does not lead to this early imbalance. A 16-hole wide game should be even better.
  • At an early stage of the game, there are often large concentrations of stones grouped in the front holes of both players. These (...) are vulnerable to quick capture, and players usually switch temporarily from attack to defence, for a turn or two, so as to transfer stones into other less vulnerable holes.
  • Stones in back-row holes are temporarily safe from capture when protected by an empty front hole.
  • The dynamics of the game [makes it sometimes] necessary to transfer stones to the front-row for a fresh round of attacks.
  • Experience will show that it is wise to watch the situation at the opponent's right-hand end of the front row (left-hand, seen from your side). (...) [You will either try] to mop up these dangerous attackers as they arrive to the front, or else to flee from them if this is more prudent.

Hus Puzzles

Problem 1


Hus 4x16: North to move!

Problem 2


North to move!

Problem 3


North to move!


Blankenspoor, J.
Cultural Games of Namibia. In: The Big Issue February 12, 2007.
Gallagher, M. & Harlech-Jones, M.
It Costs Almost Nothing: Beneficial Indoor Games from Rubbish and Recycled Materials. John Meinert Printing, Windhoek (Namibia) 2007, 94-95.
Gordon, R. J.
Mines, Masters and Migrants: Life in a Namibian Mine Compound. Ravan Press, Johannesburg (South Africa) 1977, 126.
Krönlein, J. G.
Berichte der Rheinischen Missionsgesellschaft. Barmen (Germany) 1855: 281.
Luca, C.
La semina e il raccolto: Diffusion, Reaping Mancala e Hus. In: Il Fogliaccio degli Astratti 2006; 31 (March): 1-2.
Nujoma, S.
Statement by His Excellency President Sam Nujoma on the Occasion of the Official Inauguration of PACON House and the Launch of the Owela Game. Windhoek (Namibia) 1st July 2002.
Russ, L.
The Complete Mancala Games Book: How to Play the World's Oldest Board Games. Marlowe & Company, New York (USA) 2000: 111-112.
Schmidt, S.
Einige Bemerkungen zum "Loch"-Spiel (Mankala) in Südwestafrika. In: Journal - SWA Wissenschaftliche Gesellschaft / Scientific Society (Windhoek, Namibia) 1974/75; 29: 67-77.
Schultze, L.
Aus Namaland und Kalahari: Bericht an die Kgl. Preussische Akademie der Wissenschaften zu Berlin über einer Forschungsreise im westlichen und zentralen Afrika, ausgeführt in den Jahren 1903-1905 von Leonhard Schultze. G. Fischer, Jena (Germany) 1907: 313-315.
Seftel, S. M.
||Hūs.: An African Game for All Races. In: Mitteilungen Namibia Scientific Society 1995; 36 (1-2): 6-10.
Townshend, P.
The SWA game of ||hūs (das Lochspiel) in the wider Context of African Mankala. In: Journal - SWA Wissenschaftliche Gesellschaft / Scientific Society (Windhoek, Namibia) 1977; 31: 85-98.
Vedder, H. H.
Die Bergdama. Friedrichsen, Hamburg (Germany) 1923; 1: 95-96.
Viereck, A.
Was sind das für Löcher im Boden? In: Allgemeine Zeitung (Windhoek, Namibia) 1955; 11. März 1955.
Viereck, A.
Was sind das für Löcher im Boden? (Nachdruck). In: Mitteilungen - SWA Wissenschaftliche Gesellschaft / Scientific Society 1972; 12 (10-11): 6-10.
Voogt, A. J. de.
Mancala: Games That Count. In: Expedition 2001; 43 (1): 38-46.
Wagner, P. A.
A Contribution to Our Knowledge of the National Game of Skill in Africa. In: Transactions of the Royal Society of South Africa (Cape Town, South Africa) 1917; 6 (Part 1): 47-68 + Plate XIII XVII.

See also

External Links

Solutions to the Hus Puzzles

Problem 1

1. 15 17
2. ad libitum - South can no longer move.

Problem 2

1. 1! Everything is captured.

Problem 3

1. 1 1A
2. 1 32
3. ad libitum

If A: 32, then 2. 1!


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