Traditional Board Games


Yote wooden board game with pebbles
Yote wooden board game with pebbles

Yoté is a game from west Africa. Its rules are a little like draughts, but it has a peculiar double-capture rule which allow the fortunes of the game to change rapidly. Another strategic twist is that the board starts empty and pieces are placed or moved at will. You do not have to wait till all your pieces are entered before you start moving them, but you can keep them in reserve!

History of Yoté and Choko

Yoté and choko are a traditional games played across west Africa. They are from a family of draughts-like games which have been noted in the west since at least 1879, but whose antiquity might be much greater. There can be quick and rapid changes of fortune in these games, owing to the fact that when a player captures one piece, he selects a second piece to be removed at the same time. These changes make them a good subject for gambling, and yoté is often played for stakes in Senegal.

Traditionally yoté and choko boards are a grid of holes scooped out of the sand. Yoté pieces are pebbles and pieces of stick, though shells and large seeds have also been used. Choko uses sticks of two different lengths and pieces. For more affluent players the board is sometimes made out of wood, with small holes made to hold pebbles as pieces.

Rules for Yoté

Rules for Yoté
Yoté is played by two people on a board of five rows of six squares, as shown in the diagram. Players may sit anywhere and are not assigned any side of the board as their own. Each player has twelve pieces which start in his hand. In keeping with tradition the pieces will be referred to as pebbles and sticks.

1. At the start of the game, the board is empty.

2. The player holding the pebbles goes first, after which the player with the sticks takes his turn, play then alternating between them.

3. Each player on his first turn must place a piece on any vacant square of the board.

4. In subsequent turns, a player may opt to place another piece if he has any left in hand, or instead to move a piece already on the board.

5. A piece moves one square horizontally or vertically, to an adjacent square, which must be empty. Some example moves are shown in the diagram.

6. There are no diagonal moves in this game.

7. An enemy piece is captured by jumping over it and landing on the square beyond, which must be vacant. This is shown in the diagram.

8. The captured piece is removed from the board and takes no further part in the game.

9. Having captured a piece, the player then selects a second enemy piece and removes it from the board.

10. As with movement, diagonal captures are not allowed.

11. This game does not have multiple leaps as some other games do.

12. The game is finished when a player has captured all enemy pieces, in which case he is declared the winner.

13. If both players are reduced to three pieces or fewer, the game is declared a draw.


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