Mancala World
First Description: J. H.
Chaplin, 1956
Cycles: Two
Ranks: Four
Sowing: Multiple laps
Region: Zambia

Kabwanga (a nickname for the hyena) is a traditional mancala game of the Bantu Botatwe ("Three Peoples") in Zambia, who are concentrated in the south of the country. The term "Bantu Botatwe" was introduced by Father J. Torrend, S.J., in 1921 to designate a closely related cluster of Zambian languages and originally comprised the Tonga, Ila and Lenje. Later authors included many more tribes, which they believed to be linguistically associated, such as the Kaonde, Lumbu, Mbala, Soli, Subiya and Totela, or thought that the term is obsolete.

Like many other four-rank games, Kabwanga was first described by J. H. Chaplin in 1956 in "A Note on Mancala Games in Northern Rhodesia".


Kabwanga is played on a board, which consists of four row, each with eight holes. A total of 38 seeds are needed.


Initial Position

On his turn, a player sows the contents of one of his holes, which has at least two stones, counterclockwise into consecutive holes, stone by stone, around his two rows.

If the hole, where the lap ended, was occupied, its contents are lifted for another lap.

If the lap ended in an empty hole and the hole ahead of it (i.e. in the direction of sowing) has two or more seeds in it, then these are sown in another lap.

If all the holes have singles except one which just two, this hole is called mutwi ("the head") and must be moved.

If a player has only singles left, he must if possible sow a single seed into an adjacent hole that is occupied.

The move ends, when the last seed of a lap is dropped into an empty hole and the following hole has less than two seeds seed in it.

If the last seed ended in an empty hole of the player's front row and the opponent's hole opposite to it was occupied, its contents are captured. In addition, any contents of the opponent's back row hole, which is in the same file, are also taken. If, however, the hole of the opponent's inner row was empty, nothing is captured. Although not explicitly stated by Chaplin, captures also might be allowed within moves, when a lap ended in an empty hole and the move is continued with the hole ahead of it.

All captures are removed from the board.

The game ends when a player has no stones left.

The player who has still stones at the end of the game wins.

See also[]

  • Nakabili, another mancala game of the Bantu Botatwe


Chaplin, J. H.
A Note on Mancala Games in Northern Rhodesia. In: Man: The Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 1956; 56 (12): 168-170.


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