Mancala World

Isolo → Italian.

Other Names: Isumbi
First Description: Assia
Popova, 1979
Cycles: Two
Ranks: Four
Sowing: Multiple laps
Region: Tanzania

Isolo (according to Kalumbete also called Isumbi) is the name of three related mancala games of the Sukuma in Tanzania. This rather difficult variant is played by boys.


The game begins with a special position:


The right to start the first game is determined at random. In the following games, players alternate.

Each player controls the two rows next to him. All sowings are only on the player's own side.

General Rules

On his turn, the player takes all the seeds from a hole on his side, which contains at least two seeds, and sows them counterclockwise, one by one, into the following holes.

If the last seed of a lap is dropped into an empty hole, the move ends.

If the last seed of a lap is sown in a hole that doesn't permit a capture, he takes all the seeds of this hole and keeps on sowing.

If the last seed of a lap falls in a hole of the inner row and the opponent's holes that are opposite have any seeds, he captures them. The captures are then sown in another lap starting at the same hole where the lap began that effected the capture.

If, on his turn, a player cannot move (he has no seeds or all of them are singletons), he has lost the game.


At the beginning of the game special rules apply.

The holes, which initally contain 17 seeds, are called ng'hana (privileged pits).

In the opening, seeds are sown only into the player's 14 leftmost holes, and the contents of the ng'hana cannot be captured.


Black holes used by South, White holes by North.

When a player decides to (or must) play the ng'hana his opening is over. Then his sowings go around all of his 16 holes and his seeds can be captured anywhere. However, he cannot capture the opponent's ng'hana as far as the opponent is still playing his own opening.

Preparing the Initial Position

There is a traditional method of preparing the initial position, shown for South in the following diagrams.


Two seeds are put into each hole.


All seeds from the outer row are put in the rightmost hole.


One seed is transferred from each hole of the inner row into the corresponding outer hole.


The player sows in multiple laps from the rightmost hole of the inner row till he reaches the ng'hana


One seed from the ng'hana is put into hole prior to the last one of the inner row, ie. its seventh hole.

See also


Kalumbete, B. B.
ISOLO, or Bao played by the Sukuma. April 1, 2001. [Published Email]
Popova, A.
Isolo: Jeu Royal des Sukuma. In: Cahiers d'Études Africaines 1979; 19 (73-76): 111-123.


© Wikimanqala.
By: Víktor Bautista i Roca.
Under the CC by-sa 2.5.