Mancala World

Layli Goobalay (short board) → Italian.

Layli Goobalay
Other Names: Leelo Goo-
balay, Laylo Goobalay
First Description: R.
Pankhurst, 1971
Cycles: One
Ranks: Two
Sowing: Multiple laps
Region: Somalia

Layli Goobalay is a mancala game played by Somali people, especially in Somaliland (a former British colony).

The Somali name means "exercise with circles".


The rules are taken from


Initial Position

Each player owns the six holes on his side of the board.

A player picks up all the pebbles in one of his holes, and redistributes them into the holes by moving counter-clockwise around the board, from his own row to the opponent's and back again to his own. The player deposits the pebbles, one at time, in each hole that he passes over without skipping one, until the pieces are used up.

If the last piece is dropped into an occupied hole, then the player picks up all the pieces in this hole and restarts redistributing them in the same manner.

A move ends when the last piece is dropped into an empty hole or a pregnant hole. The move must be finished, before a player can capture pebbles according to the following rules:

  • No capture is made if the last piece is dropped into a hole in the adversary row.
  • No capture is made, if the last piece is dropped into a pregnant hole.
  • No capture is made, if the last piece is dropped into a hole of which opposite hole is empty.
  • Otherwise (the hole in which the last piece is dropped is in the player's row and it is not pregnant):
    • If the opposite hole contains one, two, four or more pebbles, then all these pebbles and the last pebble sown are taken and captured by the player. Both of the opposite holes, therefore, become empty.
    • If the opposite hole contains three pebbles, then one pebble is transferred from this hole to the hole in which the last pebble in hand was sown, making the contents of the both holes two pebbles. Each of these two holes become an uur (pregnant), which belongs to the player who turned them into uurs.

No pebble can be lifted from the Uur hole to initiate a lap or move, but pebbles are sown into them in the ordinary way, where they accumulate for the benefit of the player who owns the uur.

End of the Game

A game ends when one side is deprived of pieces (except eventually the uurs); therefore his owner is unable to compute a move in his turn. Each player collects then the contents of his uurs and the other holes in his row. The next game starts with the following disposal:

  • the player who harvested less pebbles puts first all his pebbles in his holes;
  • the player who harvested more pebbles puts the same number of pebbles in his holes in the same configuration as his opponent;
  • the extra number of pebbles remain in the store of the winning player.

The overall winner is the player who harvests more than 42 pebbles. In other words, a match ends when the adversary has not even one piece left to put in each hole at the beginning of a game.

For example, suppose that in a game player one has captured 32 pebbles and player two 16. The next game starts with following disposal: 3-3-3-3-2-2, which totals 16 pebbles on each side. The other 16 pebbles remain in the store of player one.

Minor Variant

Dr. Richard Pankhurst described the same game in 1971 as leyla gobale II (Game 36), but with five seeds initially in each hole.

See also

Another Layli Goobalay variant


Jama Musse Jama
Shax: the Preferred Game of Our Camel-Herders and Other Traditional African Entertainments. SUN MOON LAKE, Rome (Italy), 2000.
Jama Musse Jama 
Layli Goobalay: Variante Somala del Gioco Nazionale Africano. Ponte Invisibile Edizioni, REDSEA-ONLINE Publishing Group, Pisa (Italy) 2002.
Pankhurst, R. 
Gabata and Related Board Games of Ethiopia and the Horn of Africa. In: Ethiopia Observer. 1971; 14 (3): 181.


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By: Víktor Bautista i Roca.
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