Mancala World
Other Names: M'pale
First Description: Abdul-
carimo Ismael, 2001
Cycles: Two
Ranks: Four
Sowing: Multiple laps
Region: Mozambique

Tchadji is a mancala game, which is played on the Island of Mozambique (Ilha de Moçambique in Portuguese, Muhipitti in Makua, the local language). It has been studied by Abdulcarimo Ismael, a mathematician from Universidade Pedagógica, Maputo. The game is mostly played by men. Tchadji is considered a sport and there are tournaments with referees watching the games. The game is also known as M'pale on the Island of Mozambique.

Minor variantions may exist all over the coastal areas of Mozambique (see below for a Tchadji variant of the Makua people). Tchadji is also very close to Mefuvha and Moruba and only differs by its initial position and particular length of the board.


Tchadji is played on a wooden board, which has four rows of eight holes each. A board with 4x12 holes has also been observed. At the beginning there are two seeds (Caesalpinia bonduc) per hole.


Initial Position

Each player only uses his side of the board, which consists of two rows.

At his turn a player takes the contents of one of his holes, which must contain at least two seeds, and distributes them, one by one, counterclockwise into consecutive holes on his own side.

If the last seed falls into a non-empty hole, its contents are distributed in another lap in the same direction.

The move ends when the last stone is dropped into an empty hole.

If the last seed is put into an empty hole of the inner row and the opposite hole of the opponent contains seeds, these enemy seeds are "eaten" (odjá).

Additionally, the seeds of the outer hole directly behind are also eaten and the contents of another enemy hole. The captures are removed from the board.

When a player has only singletons left, a situation referred to as ompwechá (ie. "divided into pieces"), he is permitted to move them, but only into empty holes.

The winner is the one who captures all the opponent's seeds.


Jordi Climent Tondo reported a similar game called M'palé, which is played by the Makua in northeastern Mozambique. Its rules are identical except for that only the contents of the two holes in the same file are captured and not that of a third hole too.

Statistical Data

Experienced players make the first move without counting, as they know beforehand what are the best moves. Usually the first move is made from the last but one hole in the outer row (the second from the right).

According to the study made by Ismael, a game lasts on the average 146 seconds or 38 moves per player. The shortest recorded game only took 62 seconds or 16 moves. The longest game was finished after 4 minutes 39 seconds and had 73 moves.


Ismael, A.
An Ethnographic Research on Mathematical Ideas in Tchadji: A Mancala Type Boardgame Played in Mozambique. Paper presented at the Board Game Studies Colloquium IX, Ouro Preto (Portugal) 2006.

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By: Víktor Bautista i Roca.
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