Mancala World

Nakabili → Italian.

Other Names: Nakabile
First Description: J. H.
Chaplin, 1956
Cycles: Two
Ranks: Four
Sowing: Multiple laps
Region: Zambia

Nakabili is a traditional mancala game played by 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to be linguistically associated, such as the Kaonde, Lumbu, Mbala, Soli, Subiya and Totela, or thought that the term is obsolete.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, Nakabili was first described by J. H. Chaplin in 1956 in "A Note on Mancala Games in Northern Rhodesia". It is a variant of Mulabalaba.


The Nakabili board consists of four row with eight holes each. The game is played with a total of 58 seeds or 29 seeds per player.


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 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.

If the move was terminated in an empty hole of the player's front row and the opponent's hole opposite was occupied, its contents are captured. If, however, the opponent's hole was empty, nothing is taken.

If something was captured from the inner row, the contents of the opponent's hole in the outer row of the same file and those of any other hole he desires are also captured.

  • When a player captures for the first time, he is also entitled to capture the contents of two more holes.

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

  • Kabwanga, 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.
Russ, L.
The Complete Mancala Games Book: How to Play the World's Oldest Board Games. Marlowe & Company, New York (USA) 2000, 102-103.


By: © Alberto Bertaggia
Under the CC by-sa 2.5 license.