In probability theory, we often look at one's chances of winning a game. If each player has an equal chance of winning, the game is said to be fair. If the game is structured so that one player has a greater chance of winning, the game is said to be unfair. Games of chance, like throwing dice or tossing a penny are considered fair games, based on luck not on skill. We are going to discuss a game that has been played for many centuries in all parts of the world and is known by many different names. This is a fair game whose outcomes are based on skill and strategy rather than luck.
The African Stone Game or Mankala, known as oware or ware in Ghana, gabatta in Ethiopia, and Azigo in Nigeria, is called the world's oldest game. It has been played by kings and shepherds alike in parts of Africa, Asia, South America, the West Indies, and the Phillipines. Game boards for oware are often carved from wood or a hollowed-out goard. In ancient times, royal game boards were carved of ivory and lined with precious metals.
There are many variations to the game. The instructions for playing oware that are provided here are drawn from Africa Counts by Claudia Zaslavsky. See the reference list for complete information.
Sample Oware Boards
RULES FOR PLAYING OWARE
The Game Board
The game board for the two row version consists of a board that has two rows of six cups or hollowed out holes and two end pots. Egg cartons make excellent game boards. A large grid with 2 rows of 6 squares each can also be used. The pieces that are moved on the board were originally stones, but counters, pennies, lima beans, or macaroni work very well.
The objective of the game is to capture as many of your opponent's counters as possible (at least 25 counters). The player with the most counters wins. The end pots hold the captured counters.
Capturing the Opponent's Counters
Ending the Game
CONNECTIONS TO CHILDRENS' LITERATURE
Jacks is another popular childrens' game that is played, in different versions, all over the world. Jacks Around the World by Mary D. Lankford describes how many different cultures play this game.