Traditional Board Games


From west Africa, Choko is a game of strategy played in the sand with sticks for pieces. It is a bit like draughts, but with the unusual twist that when you jump over an opponent's piece you can select a second piece to capture from anywhere on the board. It is also a game of placement: the board starts empty, and you can choose in your turn whether to place a piece or to move one already on the board. The only limitation is that, when your opponent decides to place a piece, you must do the same.

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 Choko

Rules for Choko
Choko is played by two people on a board of five rows of five 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. If one player places a piece, his opponent must then do the same, after which, the choice between placement and movement returns as described in rule 4.

6. A piece moves one square horizontally or vertically, to an adjacent square, which must be empty.

7. There are no diagonal moves in this game.

8. An enemy piece is captured by jumping over it and landing on the square beyond, which must be vacant.

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

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

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

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

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

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


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