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The Chief's Rule Book

How To Play Oware (Abapa)

Oware Abapa is considered the OFFICIAL standard for the purpose of international competition. It is for this reason that The Chief’s Table only uses data from Oware Abapa games towards player analytics and international leader boards. Therefore you must learn how to play Oware Abapa if you want to earn a seat at the chief’s table. Click here to learn more about the wider family of Mancala games. 

How To Play Oware Abapa - Board Layout

The board is divided into two parts, your side and your opponents side. The row of six cups closest to you is considered your territory. The bigger cup closest to you, or to your right side is also yours and serves as your capture pit. The same applies for your opponent. Their territory is the six cups and the capture pit closet or to their right hand side.

How To Set Up Your Oware Board

  • Place the mancala board between you and your opponent with the long side facing you.

  • Place 4 seeds in each cup, excluding the capture pits. This should total 48 seeds.

* You can use any small item as a playing seed as long as a decent amount will fit in the cups such as pennies, marbles, or even stones.

Deciding Who Starts First

There are several ways to decide who will take the first turn. This is an important consideration because the first player technically has an advantage. When playing The Chief’s Table the first player is decided by the “Guess Which Hand” challenge. Player have an equal chance to select who will hide the seed (players can select for either themselves or opponent to hide the seed) and the other player has to guess which hand its hidden in.

  1. A countdown will appear on screen and the first person to make a selection is the decision that will stand – The choices are you can either hide the seed or your opponent hides the seed.

  2. The player hiding the seed will have to choose a hand and their opponent must guess which hand the seed is hidden in. If the guessing player guesses correctly then they take the first turn, if they guess incorrectly, the player hiding the seed takes the first turn.

Players can use many different methods or rules to work out who plays first. A few suggestions include rock-paper-scissors, a coin flip, winner of last game starts, the choices are endless.

How To Play Oware Abapa - Taking A Turn

  1. Choose a cup from your own territory and pick up all the seeds in that cup.
  2. Begin to drop a single seed in each subsequent cup in a counter-clockwise direction around the board (including opponents cups). Continue this until you have no more seeds to drop. This is known as sowing.
  3. DO NOT include your capture pit in the sowing process.
  4. When sowing from a cup with 12+ seeds, the original cup should be excluded from that sowing cycle.
  5. How you proceed is dependent on where your last seed lands. Possible outcomes are capture or end of turn.
  6. Your turn ends once you have sown your last seed.
  7. There is no way to earn extra turns in Oware (Abapa).

How To Capture Seeds In Oware (Abapa)

You can only capture seeds when your last seed lands in YOUR OPPONENT’S TERRITORY and the criteria is met.

  • If the last seed you sow lands in your opponent’s territory and results in that cup having 2 or 3 seeds (after yours is placed), you capture all the seeds in that cup.
  • It is possible to capture seeds from multiple cups in a single turn. This is called a chain. If your last seed sown meets the criteria, and the cup previous to it also meets the criteria, you also capture the seeds from that previous cup too. This method of capture can continue for as long as the criteria is met, if the chain is interrupted by a cup that has more than 3 or less than 2, your chain capture goes no further. Also you can not capture seeds from your own side.

How To Win

The winner is the player who captures at least 25 seeds because at this point the player has won over half the seeds in a complete set.

  • You are not allowed to intentionally starve your opponent, so if they have no seeds whilst its your turn to play, you MUST play in a way that will supply your opponents territory with at least one seed. This is a compulsory move when its possible. If it is not possible for you to supply your opponents territory in a single move, then you capture the remaining seeds within your territories and the game is over. Players must still count their seeds to establish who has won.

  • The winner is the person with the most seeds in their capture pit after counting.