Mancala World


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First Description: Henri
Alexandre Junod,
Cycles: Two
Ranks: Four
Sowing: Multiple laps
Region: Mozambique

Tchouba (anglicized Tshuba) is a mancala game played by the Thonga in Inhambane and by the Chopi in Zavala, Mozambique. It is the largest mancala game so far described, larger than Mefuvha and Nsolo. The game is played with the seeds of the marula tree (Scelocarya caffra) or nickernuts.

The game was first described by the Swiss Protestant missionary and anthropolgist Henri Alexandre Junod in 1898. A more complete description was given by Elísio Romariz Santos Silva in 1995.

The large version of the game (4x40) was shown at an international Bao tournament in the Netherlands and at the Afrikafest in Lissberg, Germany, both in 2010.


Tchouba is played on a four-row board, each having 16-40 holes (always an even number) called godi. There are two seeds in each hole. The largest variant is played with 320 seeds in 160 holes.

Each player controls the two rows on his side.


Initial Position (Most Challenging Board)

On his turn, a player empties one of his holes, which contains at least two seeds (known as gula), and distributes them, one by one, counterclockwise into the following holes of his rows.

If the last seed is dropped into an occupied hole, its contents are distributed in another lap.

The move ends when the last seed falls into an empty hole.

Singletons (called tchonga) may only be moved, if the player has no gula. A singleton must be dropped into an empty hole. If the following hole is not vacant, it is not permitted to start a turn with a tchonga.

If the last seed is dropped into an empty hole of the player's inner row, and the hole of his opponent straight opposite is occupied, the player captures (cubá) its contents.

In addition, he captures the contents of the enemy hole in the opponent's outer row of the same file and the contents of any two other holes of his opponent.

The captures are removed from the board.

The game ends, when, at his turn, a player can't move because there are no seeds left in his holes.


  • When Tchouba is played on smaller boards, e.g. 4x4, 4x8, 4x10, 4x16 or 4x22, the contents of only one hole are captured in addition to those of the holes that are located in the same file. If Tchouba is played on a 4x4 board, it is also known as Shimunana (from mune = four).

Tchouba Puzzles

Problem 1


"Capturing Race" (Tchouba 4x40): North to move! Either pit 21 or 23 can be moved. Which one wins the game.

Problem 2


"Protraction Strategy" (Tchouba 4x40): North to move! Either pit 21 or 23 can be moved. Which one wins the game.

External Links


Junod, H. A.
Les Ba-Ronga: Etude ethnographique sur les indigenes de la baie de Delagoa. In: Bulletin de la Société Neuchâteloise de Géographie 1898; 10 (5): 109-111.
Junod, H. A.
The Life of a South African Tribe. Imprimerie Attinger, Neuenburg (Switzerland) 1912, 314-318.
Santos Silva, E. R.
Jogos de Quadricula do Tipo Mancala com Especial Incidência Nos Practicados em Angola. Instituto de Investigação Cientifíca Tropical, Lisbon (Portugal) 1995, 140.
Wagner, P. A. 
A Contribution to Our Knowledge of the National Game of Skill of Africa. In: Transactions of the Royal Society of South Africa 1917; 6 (1): 47-68.

Solutions to the Puzzles

Problem 1

1. 23? 5
2. 24 6
3. 25 7
4. 26 8(x2+pit21&28)
5. 27 9(x1+pit29)

1. 21! 5
2. 24 6
3. 25 7
4. 28(x2+pit8&9)

Problem 2

1. 21? 6
2. 24 12(x1+pit22&24)
3. 30 7(x1+pit28&31)

1. 23! 6
2. 24 4
3. 21 7
4. 30(x1+pit5&8) 12
5. 25(x1+pit6&13)


Adapted from the Wikinfo article, "Tchouba", used under the GNU Free Documentation License.

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