Played in Sudan, the native name of this game is "l'ib el merafib", and is often known in English as "hyena" or "the hyena game". The rules of the game allow for little or no decision making, so this is evidently a game intended for young children.
The scenario is that each player's mother, as the pieces are called, must get safely from the start ("the village") around a spiral course to the well at the centre of the board, spend some turns washing clothes there, and return safely to the village. On the first mother's return a hyena is unleashed, which may prey on straggling mothers left too far behind.
History of Hyena
This game is of uncertain age. It was recorded in 1925 by R. Davies, a British anthropologist or ethnologist working in the Sudan. Davies noted that it was "both more ingenious and more amusing than any race game played with dice by English children which I have seen."
Rules for Hyena
These rules are paraphrased from those in R. C. Bell's book "Board and Table Games". Bell says that the board is drawn in the sand, and that there are a random number of playing spaces. His illustration shows 82, for a four-player game, including the well and the village.
1. The game is played on a spiral-shaped board of approximate 80 spaces. The start is at the outside of the spiral, and is the "village". The centre of the spiral is the "well".
2. Any number of players from two upwards can take part. Each player needs a single piece distinguished by colour or shape. The pieces, called "mothers", start the game in the village.
3. Movement is controlled by the throws of three casting sticks, i.e. sticks marked on one side and blank on the other. When thrown, the score is the number of marked sides falling uppermost, or six if all the blank sides are showing. A roll of 1 is called a "taba".
4. The beginner is chosen at random.
5. The current player throws the sticks repeatedly, until a 2 is thrown.
6. A mother cannot move before her player throws a taba. The following throws dictate how many spaces she may move.
7. Once out of the village, a mother does not move for a "taba". Instead, each player keeps a count of the number of tabas they have thrown; these are used as a kind of currency later in the game.
8. Two or more mothers can share the same playing space.
9. A mother must reach the well by an exact throw. If she falls short, her player may make up the shortfall by paying one taba per extra space. If the throw takes her past the well, the throw is lost.
10. After throwing a 2 and moving the mother as appropriate, the casting sticks are passed to the next player to take their turn.
11. Upon reaching the well, the mother must spend two tabas to wash her clothes. If the player does not have two tabas, then they must wait until the tabas have been gathered by the usual throws of the dice. During this time, throws of 2, 3 and 6 may be noted down for use on the return journey.
12. Once clothes have been washed, the mother must pay another two tabas to begin her return journey, gathering tabas if necessary as per rule 11.
13. A returning mother must reach the village by an exact throw, with the option to spend tabas as per rule 9.
14. On returning to the village, the mother's player has won the game, but play continues to determine the greater or lesser losses of the other players. The winning player instead sets free and controls the hyena.
15. The hyena leaves the village on a payment of two tabas. It moves at double the rate of a mother, i.e. 4, 6 or 12 spaces depending on the number thrown. Tabas are collected in the same way as for mothers.
16. On reaching the well, the hyena must pay TEN tabas for a drink before it is allowed to make the return journey.
17. If the hyena overtakes a mother on the return journey, she is eaten and her player suffers a greater loss.
18. The player controlling the second and subsequent mother to safely return to the village suffers a lesser loss.
Bell does not clarify whether the hyena, moving at double speed, must spend a taba per one or per two extra spaces at the well and the village. I would suggest the former: one space. Otherwise one must ensure that the board contains an odd number of spaces (including the well and the village) so that the hyena could reach it exactly.
Bell also does not make clear what happens to a throw which would carry a mother past the well or the village; I suggest here that the throw is lost.
Strategy in Hyena
According to the rules given by Bell, there is little or no strategy in the game. The only time that a player appears to have a choice is when nearing the well or the village; Bell does not specify that payment of tabas and extra movement is compulsory where the player can afford them. So a player with three or more tabas, falling three spaces from the well, could perhaps decide whether to save the tabas for another turn and leave the mother where she lands, or to spend them immediately to advance her to the well.
There is more room for calculation in deciding the number of playing spaces on the board at the game's start. Not only will this affect the length of the game, but it may also influence the chances of the hyena having any effect. A shorter course will allow more of the mothers to get safely home before the hyena has gathered its payment of ten tabas for a drink.