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Evidence in Eritrean Highlands

1 pieces of evidence found.

Id DLP.Evidence.652
Type Ethnography
Game Abalala'e
Date 1971-01-01 - 1971-12-31
Rules 3x6 board. Each player owns the row closest to them and the half of the central row to their right. Play begins with three counters in each hole. During the first phase of the game, the players race each other (i.e., do not take turns) to be the first person to drop the last counter into an empty hole. Play moves from left to right in the row closest to the player, right to left in the central row, and left to right in the furthest row. Upon reaching the final hole in the opponent's row, play continues with the first hole in the player's own row. In the first phase, Players take counters from the leftmost hole in their row and sow them in the appropriate direction. When the final counter lands in a hole with counters, they are picked up and sowing continues until the last counter is dropped into an empty hole. Play continues in phase two in the same manner as before, but the players take turns and the player who "won" the first phase plays first. Players capture counters when placing the last counter of a sowing into one of their own holes which is empty. If the hole is on the left half of the board, any counters in the two holes of the opponent facing it are captured. If the last hole is on the right half of the board, any counters in the opponent's one hole facing it are captured. The player then continues to move using the last counter placed which effected the capture, and placing it in the next hole. This move can result in further captures (if the hole is empty), continuation of sowing (if there are counters in it), or the end of the turn (if hole is empty and there are no opponent's counters to be captured). Play continues until a player has no counters in their holes. The opponent then captures the remaining counters. Players then redistribute their counters, three in each hole, starting from the leftmost hole in their row in the direction of play. The player with fewer counters distributes all of their counters on the board, even if they cannot place three in the final hole of the counting. The player with more counters then places three counters in the same number of holes as the other player, taking any remaining as their winnings. Play continues in this fashion until one player captures all of the counters.
Content "Gabata in the central highlands of Eritrea is played by males and females on boards, or in holes in the ground, particularly in the period of marriages, the latter taking place largely after the harvest season, i.e., between November and January. During the weeks after the marriage the young people associated with the event spend many hours playing gabata, but it would be unusual, at least in public, for the newly married husband and wife to play together, for to do so might appear too intimate or familiar. This highland game was played for the present writer by Abba Pawlos Tzadua of Serae and his colleagues Abba Zacharias of Akala Guzay both of the Catholic Cathedral in Addis Ababa, as wel as by several Eritrean students at Haile Sellassie I University, notably by Michael Yaqob of Akala Guzay and Gabra Sellasé Gabra Amlak of Serae, to all of whom, as to the other players mentioned later, the warmest thanks are due. This game, often referred to in Tigrinya as abalala'e, or "eating," is probably the game msot widely played in the highlands of Eritrea. It is played by two players on a three-row board of sixteen holes, half of which are considered to belong to each player. Each player owns the whole of the row nearest to him and half of the central row to the right. At the outset of the game three balls or counters are placed in each of the eighteen holes.Play then begins, by the two players moving simultaneously—more or less it should be noted, as in Ethiopian chess, or santaraj—with a view of racing each other to an empty hole. Each player would thus start by picking up the entire contents of the left-hand hole in his nearest row (i.e., PLayer A in hole 1 and Player B in hole 10), and would then distribute them one by one in the ensuing holes to their right. On dropping the last of his balls in his or her hand into any hole each player would pick up the entire contents of that hole, and distribute them in turn in the ensuing holes. He would thus move from left to right across his own row, from right to left along his half of the middle row, from right to left across his opponent's principal row, and finally from left to right along his opponent's half of the middle row. Having thus traversed all eighteen holes he would start again in his left-hand corner hole, and proceed as before, unless of course he has already stopped at an empty hole. Such hole was called kwah in Tigrinya, an onomatopoeic word symbolising the sound of the ball alighting on the board. The first player to come to a halt at this stage of the game would be the first to move, and thereafter—there is again a parallel with santaraj—the players would move alternately in accordance with the following rules. Each player would always start in one of his own holes by picking up its entire contents. Following the above specified direction of play he would then distribute the ball or balls he had in his hand one by one into the ensuing hole or holes, which, because of the previous play, now had an unequal number of counters in them. Should the last ball in his hand alight on an empty hole his move would come to an end, but if the last ball landed on an occupied hole he would pick up its contents and continue in this way until finally alighting on an empty hole. On thus stopping in an empty hole the player could under certain circumstances take, in Tigrinya balé, or "eat" the contents, of one or more of his opponent's opposite holes. The rules for such captures are as follows: 1. A player stopping in an empty hole is any of the three holes to his left, i.e., facing two rows of his opponent, would capture the contents, if any of the opposite holes in both rows of his opponent. 2. A player stopping in an empty hole in any of the six holes in the two rows on his right, i.e., facing a single row of his opponent, would capture the contents, if any, of the opposite hole in that single row, irrespective of whether he landed in the first or second row. After making such a capture or captures the player would continue his move by picking up the counter with which he had effected this gambit, and would place it in the ensuing hole. This latter gambit, depending on circumstances, would result in one of the following three situations: (a) the capture of a further ball or balls, if the counter again fell into one of the player's empty holes facing an occupied hole or holes on his opponent's opposite row or rows. (b) continuation of the move if the counter fell on an occupied hole, the contents of which the player would then pick up and redistribute. (c) end of the move if the counter landed in an empty hole (kwah) from which a capture could not be effected, i.e., because the opposite hole or holes on the opponent's opposite row or rows were empty, or because the hole in which the counter stopped was itself on the opponent's side. Players were entitled to count balls and holes in order to estimate how best to play. A player wishing to cancel and repeat a move, on account for example of a miscalculation, would say in Tigrinya aygushetoyn, i.e., literally "I must change," but a player could prevent this by saying "gushetoka," i.e., "you must not change." Play would continue until one player's side of the board was entirely empty and its owner was therefore unable to move. The other player would then appropriate the remaining balls, i.e., those in his holes, and add them to his previous takings. The two players would then count out their winnings by placing the balls they had taken, three by three, into the holes on their own side, and would do this by following the routine order of play, i.e., left to right in the first row and right to left in the middle row. If the two player's takings were not equal the weaker player would fill as many holes as he could, being allowed to occupy the last hole with two or even one ball if he did not have the requisite three. His opponent would fill the corresponding holes on his own side with an identical number of balls to those deployed by the first player and would put the remainder aside as his winnings. Part of the central part of the board would thus be left unoccupied but the holes in that area are continued to belong to their original owners, and were played over in exactly the same manner as before. Play would continue, round by round, until one or other player had captured all the balls, and thus driven his opponent from the field." Pankhurst 1971: 163-164.
Confidence 100
Source Pankhurst, R. 1971. Gabata and Related Board Games of Ethiopia and the Horn of Africa. Ethiopia Observer 14(3):154-206.

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