Mancala World
La'b Madjnuni
Other Names: Mangala (?)
First Description: Stewart
Culin, 1894
Cycles: One
Ranks: Two
Sowing: Multiple laps
Region: Syria

La'b Madjnuni ("Crazy Game") was played in Damascus (Syria) in the late 19th century. It is not known if the game is still a popular pastime. The game was first described by Stewart Culin in 1894 who observed that it was a common game in Syrian cafes.

Culin didn't give playable rules and his description of La'b Madjnuni and La'b Rosëya, which is a simplified children's variant of the same game, appears to have many mistakes. A related game called Mangala has been reported from Gaziantep, Southeast Anatolia. Maybe this Mangala is even identical to La'b Madjnuni and all the differences between these two are artifacts created by Culin by his poor understanding.

La'b Madjnuni is related to the Egyptian L'ab al-Ghashim.


The board has two rows of seven holes, called houses ("bute").

The two players need a total of 98 counters, either cowrie shells ("wada") or pebbles ("hajdar"). At the beginning of the game, one player fills the holes with these counter as he wants, but he must place at least two pieces in each hole.


Possible Set-up

After that the game goes as follows:

On his turn a player takes the contents of his rightmost hole called the head ( "el ras") and sows them counterclockwise, one counter at a time. If the head is empty, the player takes from the next nearest hole in his row.

If the last counter falls in an occupied hole with two, four or more counters, its contents are distributed in another lap.

The move ends, when the last counter is dropped into an empty hole or a hole containing one or three counters.

If the last counter ends up in a hole which, after sowing, contains exactly two or four counters, the contents in this hole are captured with those in the hole opposite. Also, if there is a continuous line of holes with either 2 or 4 holes preceding the one where the capture has occurred, all the counters in those and their opposite holes are captured as well.

Culin claimed that a game ends when all the holes are empty. However, this rarely ever happens in actual gameplay and must be an error. It can be assumed that the game ends when a player is unable to move because his row is empty or when the seeds continue to circle around the board. The remaining counters might be awarded to the player who owns their holes.

The player who captured most counters wins the game.

See also


Culin, S. 
Mancala: The National Game of Africa. In: Report of the National Museum 1894, 597-611.
Güllü, A.
Mangala Oyunu Nedir?. In: Elbistan Kaynarca Gazetesi November 29, 2007.


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