Traditional Board Games


A modern wari set
A modern wari set

Wari is a game from the mancala family, in which pieces are moved around the board by lifting and sowing, i.e. lifting all the pieces from one of the holes, and dropping them singly in consecutive holes around a given route. Pieces are not marked as belonging to players; instead, players own all the pieces on their own side of the board.

Featured in A Book of Historic Board Games

This game is featured in A Book of Historic Board Games, by Damian Gareth Walker.  That volume, available as a hardback or paperback, covers twelve games in depth.  For each game there is an entertaining history, full rules, and a discussion of strategy, all in more detail than you'll see on this site.

In wari there are two ranks of six holes, each one having four pieces at the start of the game. Captures are made in wari by dropping one's last piece in an enemy hole leaving it with exactly two or three pieces; these are then taken and put in the capturing player's store. Wari is one of the simplest mancala games to learn, which has probably contributed to its modern popularity around the world.

History of Wari

By far the largest family of board games in the world is mancala, and wari is the mancala game best known in the Western world. Wari was played principally in West Africa, but has recently been widely publicised throughout the world through books and on the Internet.

Rules for Wari

Rules for Wari
1. The game is played on a board with two rows of six pits. Each row, and all the pieces it contains, belong to a particular player.

2. At the start of the game, each pit contains four pieces (see Illustration). All the pieces are the same colour, ownership of a piece being discerned by its location at a given time.

3. Players decide between themselves, at random or by agreement, who is to make the first move.

4. A player moves by choosing a pit on his side of the board, lifting all the pieces from it. Then, proceeding anticlockwise around the board, the player drops one piece in each consecutive pit until his hand is empty.

5. It stands to reason, therefore, that the player may not choose a pit that contains no pieces.

6. If twelve or more pieces were lifted, then the player when dropping the pieces will omit the pit from which those pieces were lifted.

7. A player must not make a move which leaves his opponent's pits completely empty (see also rule 11).

8. If the player drops the last piece from his hand into a pit on his opponent's side of the board, and that pit then contains two or three pieces, then those two or three pieces are captured by the player and removed from the board.

9. If the pit into which the previous piece was dropped is also on the opponent's side, and contains two or three pieces, then those pieces are also captured. This is repeated for each previous pit until: (i). the pit contains some other number of pieces, or (ii). the pit is on the player's own side of the board.

10. The game is over if one player has captured more than half of all the pieces. That player is the winner.

11. The game is also over if a player's opponent's row is empty, and the player has no possible move that provides his opponent with pieces to play. In that case, the player captures all remaining pieces and the game ends. The winner is the player who has captured the most pieces.

12. The game is drawn if both players have captured exactly half of the pieces.

Wari: try it out!


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