Mancala World

Latho → Italian.

First Description: Richard
Pankhurst, 1971
Cycles: One
Ranks: Two
Sowing: ---
Region: Ethiopia

Latho, a game of memory, is played by the Dorzé people who live in south-central Ethiopia. Among the Dorzé board games are exclusively played by men, who make use of wooden boards as well as holes dug in the ground. The boards are owned by the community and kept in houses by the public meeting meadows.

According to the American anthropologist Judy Olmstead

"it is considered not in good form for young unmarried men to play ... although in fact they do ... Old men especially play - little boys may as a favour play with the board after the men, but usually use holes in the ground. Young men also play. Playing takes place during free time."

Latho was first described by Richard Pankhurst as Game 65 in 1971. It is related to other mancala games such as Tagega III (same article, Game 54) of the Konso people, but is apparently rather different from the blindfolded guessing game of Aghadaghada described by Egharevba from Benin City, Nigeria.


The game is played on two rows, each of six holes. The initial arrangement of the seeds is shown in the following diagram:


Initial Position

One person, who knows the initial position, is blindfolded, and starts by agreement from the left-hand end of either row. While moving in an anti-clockwise direction, he specifies the contents of each hole, whereupon his opponent removes one seed from it, and, if successful, proceeds in this manner until the entire board is emptied.

If there are four seeds in a hole, the blindfolded player is supposed to say oydo éka, literally, "take (from) four"; when he is faced with three seeds héza éka ("take (from) three"); when two namo éka ("take (from) two"); when one isimo éka ("take (from) one"), and, on reaching an empty hole afo éka, i.e. "take nothing".

If the blindfolded player succeeds in removing all the balls without his making a mistake, he is considered the winner; if he fails the other player wins.


Egharevba, J. U.
Benin Games. Benin City (Nigeria) 1949, 14.
Murray, H. J. R.
A History of Board-Games other than Chess. Oxford University Press, Oxford (England) 1951, 180.
Pankhurst, R. 
Gabata and Related Board Games of Ethiopia and the Horn of Africa. In: Ethiopia Observer 1971; 14 (3): 192.


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By: Ralf Gering.
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