Traditional Board Games


Mefuvha is a mancala game played in the Transvaal. It is one of the most impressive looking mancala games, or in fact one of the most impressive looking board games altogether. It has four rows of twenty-eight playing spaces, 112 in all, and the game starts with 218 pieces on the board!

The object of mefuvha is to capture all of your opponent's pieces. Movement, as in all mancala games, is by lifting all the pieces from one playing space and dropping them individually into the spaces following, travelling in an anticlockwise direction along your own half of the board. Pieces of the opponent are captured by sowing the last of your own pieces in the space opposite.

History of Mefuvha

Some of the most impressive games played across Africa are the mancala games with four rows, or ranks, of playing spaces. Mancala is a family of games in which players lift all the pieces from a particular hole, and "sow" them around a particular path, dropping one piece in each hole along the route. Certain outcomes allow players to capture each other’s pieces.

Mefuhva is a four-rank mancala game from the northern Transvaal, and is one of the biggest games played. There are four rows of up to 28 holes, and the game starts with 218 pieces. There is a storage hole for each player's captures. Due to the extreme length of the board, some boards have four storage holes for the convenience of the players, one for each player at each end.

Rules for Mefuvha

Rules for Mefuvha
Mehfuva is played by two players on a mancala board of four ranks of up to 28 holes. It can be played on shorter boards with an even number of holes, some sets having as little as six holes per row, but it is more usual to play on boards of at least sixteen holes per row.

1. The game starts with all but four of the holes having two pieces each; the front left hole of each player is empty, and the hole adjacent to it has only one piece, as shown in the diagram.

2. Players sit opposite each other at the longer sides of the board (top and bottom in the diagrams). Each player takes ownership of the two rows nearest to him.

3. Players decide at random who begins the game.

4. On beginning his turn a player selects a hole at his side of the board containing two or more pieces, such a hole being said to be loaded.

5. He lifts all the pieces from this hole, and drops one in the next hole along a course that runs anti-clockwise around his side of the board, one in the hole following, and so in until his hand is empty. This is known as a lap.

6. If there were pieces in the last hole, before the last piece was dropped in it, then the player has another lap starting at that hole. All pieces are lifted from it, and sown along the course as before. The player continues playing more and more laps until he finally sows his last piece into an empty hole.

7. If at the beginning of his turn there are no loaded holes, the player may lift a singleton from one of his rows instead, i.e. a piece which is the only one in its hole.

8. A singleton may only be played into an empty hole.

9. After playing the final lap of his turn, and removing any captures, control of the game passes to the player’s opponent.

10. If the final lap ends at a hole on the player’s front row, and if there are pieces in the adjacent square in the opponent's front row, then a capture is made.

11. All the opponent’s pieces are lifted from that hole and placed in the player's store.

12. If the opponent had further pieces in the hole behind (i.e. on his back row), then those pieces are also captured and placed in the player’s store.

13. Furthermore, a player may select one other hole from the opponent’s side of the board and take the pieces from that hole also.

14. The game ends when one of the players is without any pieces on his own side of the board. His opponent is declared the winner.

Variation: in one source, the extra capture in rule 13 is not allowed.


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