Mancala World
Other Names: Naranj, Ohvalhu
First Description: Stewart Culin,
Cycles: One
Ranks: Two
Sowing: Multiple laps
Region: Maldives

Ohvalhu ("game of eight (holes)"), also known as Ohvalhu gondi, is a mancala game played on the Maldives. It is closely related to the Indonesian games of Congkak and Dakon, although it is not identical with either of them as has been erroneously stated by Alexander Johan de Voogt. Two Maldive game boards of the Museum of Archaeology and Paleontology, University of Pennsylvania, were depicted by Stewart Culin for playing the game of Naranj, probably the same game as Ohvalhu, in 1894.

The game has been solved by human players and it is a win for the first player in the first move.


Naranj Board (1894)

The rules are similar to Congkak except for the following differences:

  • Ohvalhu is played on a board with two rows, each one with six, seven, eight or ten holes. Eight is considered standard. At both end there are also large stores, each player owning the one to his right.


Initial Position

  • Each hole contains eight cowrie shells, if a standard board is used, otherwise the number of shells is adjusted to the number of holes in the row.
  • The opening is played in turns. There is no simultaneous opening move.

The game is usually played in rounds:

After a game has ended, the players fill their holes from the left to the right with their winnings, putting into each hole the original number of shells. Those holes, which cannot be filled are marked with a leaf and are skipped in the next round. The remaining shells are put into the player's store. The game is over when a player has not enough shells to fill even one hole.

External Links


Culin, S.
Mancala, the National Game of Africa. In: Annual Report of the U.S. National Museum 1894, 597-606
Donkers, H. H. L. M., Voogt, A. J. de & Uiterwijk, J. W. H. M. 
Human versus Machine Problem-Solving: Winning Openings in Dakon. In: Board Games Studies 2000; 3: 79-88.
Linders, L., van den Broek, E. & Voogt, A. J. de.
Mancala Games and Their Suitability for Players With Visual Impairments. In: Journal of Visual Impairment and Blindness 2010; 11.
Voogt, A. J. de.
Going Full Circle. In: The Geographical (London). 1998 (12).


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