Traditional Board Games

Games of Africa

The games on this page either came from Africa, or were adopted and widely played there. Some games, like nine men's morris, are so old that we really don't know where exactly they came from.


Achi is a three-in-a-row game. It is played on a grid of three rows of three points. Players each have four pieces which are entered onto the board, in turn, one at a time. Once all the pieces are placed, they move from one point to an adjacent point. All the while players are trying to form rows of three along a marked line, for doing so wins them the game. History of Achi Achi appeared in one of ... (read more...)


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 ... (read more...)


Dara is a row-building game from North Africa. Players enter their pieces one at a time, attempting to form a strategic arrangement. Once all pieces are placed, they move around the board, trying to form rows of three, which allows capture of an enemy piece. The first player reduced to two pieces loses the game. History of Dara There is an interesting family of games sometimes known as shiva, which are played across the Sahara and neighbouring parts of ... (read more...)

Dogs and Jackals


Dogs & Jackals is the modern name of this race game from ancient Egypt. Two players start at opposite ends of the track with five pieces each. These pieces are raced around the board, which certain spaces act as shortcuts or setbacks. The first player to get all his or her pieces to a designated exit point wins the game. History of Dogs & Jackals We do not know what the ancient Egyptians called this game. Today it has ... (read more...)



Fanorona is a game of pure strategy from Madagascar. Based loosely on alquerque, the game is notable for its unusual methods of capture. Whole rows of enemy pieces are captured by approach and withdrawal, where a piece moves up to touch the enemies or, when touching, moves away. The capture of whole rows of pieces gives the game a dramatic beginning, with a full board providing many targets for capture to each player. History of Fanorona The game dates ... (read more...)


Gabata is a three-rank mancala game from Ethiopia, first recorded in the nineteenth century. Players try to capture one another's pieces by lifting and sowing, as in other mancala games. It is characterised by a race at the beginning, players moving simultaneously until one player sows a piece into an empty hole. Pieces are captured when a piece is sown into an empty hole, all enemy pieces in that hole's column becoming captives. History of Gabata Mancala is a ... (read more...)



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 ... (read more...)


This family of board games is played throughout most of Africa, some parts of the middle east, and further into south-east Asia. Boards consist of a grid of holes, usually in a grid of two, three or four rows. Pieces are seeds, beans or stones which are piled into the holes in varying quantities. Players do not have their own set of pieces, but instead each player takes control of a particular half of the board and all the ... (read more...)


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 ... (read more...)



Mehen is a mysterious early game of the ancient Egyptians. It first appeared in about 3000 BC and continued until 2300 BC. While the extant boards could be taken for something other than board games, a number of wall paintings show the board in its proper context and make its purpose beyond doubt. No set of rules has survived for mehen. It appears to be a race to (or from) the centre of the board, which is in the ... (read more...)



Seega is a small battle game played in Egypt in the 19th and 20th centuries. Two players drop pieces onto a board, leaving only the central square empty, after which pieces are moved around the board from one square to the next. Pieces are captured by surrounding them on opposite sides, and the player who captures all of the opponent's pieces wins the game. History of Seega Egypt was a source of many interesting games in ancient times, but ... (read more...)



Senet is a race game from ancient Egypt. The board is a one-dimensional track that is folded in on itself, like that of snakes & ladders. Players race their pieces along the track according to the throws of casting sticks. There are safe squares and hazards along the way, and a piece may be knocked backwards if it is hit by an opponent. The pieces are borne off the board when they reach the end, and the first player ... (read more...)



Tâb is a war game from the middle east. Historically it was played a across the Islamic world, from West Africa to Iran in the east, and from Turkey in the north to Anjouan in the south. The game is played by two on a board of four rows of (typically) nine squares. Each player has nine pieces which move around the board as if it were a track, according to the throws of four casting sticks. Pieces do ... (read more...)

The Game of Twenty Squares


This is a race game, most popular in ancient Egypt but spread, and probably originating, all over the Middle East and the Indian subcontinent. The board is set out in two sections: a block of three rows of four squares at one end, and an 8-square extension of the middle row. It is supposed that two players each started their pieces on one of the short rows, and moved them onto the middle row in a race to the ... (read more...)

The Queah Game

Queah is a draughts-like game from Liberia. The board is a grid, usually rotated so that the playing spaces are interlocking diamonds rather than squares. Each player has ten pieces, four of which start on the board, the other six being entered each time a piece is lost. The pieces move around the board step-by-step, capturing each other by leaping. The player who captures all opposing pieces is the winner. History of the Queah Game The official name for ... (read more...)



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. In wari there are two ranks of six holes, each one having four pieces at the start ... (read more...)



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 ... (read more...)


This is a variant of the popular game of Alquerque, described elsewhere on this site. In the Sahara desert, the board was quadrupled to give the game of zamma, each side having 40 men. There is a common version of the board where some of the lines are omitted from the board. A difference between this game and alquerque is that men may only move forwards, or diagonally forwards, though they can capture in any direction as in alquerque. ... (read more...)


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