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Gabata (Shoa and Adegrat) (Mengas)DLP Game   

Period Modern

Region Eastern Africa, Northern Africa

Category Board, Sow, Two rows


Gabata is a name for several mancala-style board games in the Horn of Africa. This is one of the more popular versions, played in central Ethiopia and the Adegrat region of Eritrea.


2x6 board. Four counters in each hole. The game begins with a stylised move. One player takes one counter from their rightmost hole, and holds in in their hand. They then take one counter from the next hole, moving in an anti-clockwise direction, and place it in the next hole. They then take a counter from the next hole after that, and placing it in the next hole, continuing until there is an alternating pattern of a hole with five counters followed by a hole with three counters. The original hole from which the first counter was taken will have four counters. The player will then place the first counter taken into the next hole in the opponent's row, causing it to hold four counters. This creates a weg, a hole captured by that player, which is involved in capturing (see below). Players alternate making this first move in subsequent rounds. The next phase begins once this stylised move is completed. Sowing occurs in an anti-clockwise direction. If the final counter of a sowing falls into a hole containing counters, these are picked up and sowing continues. A player's turn ends when the final counter falls into an empty hole. When the final counter of a sowing falls into a hole containing three counters, it creates a weg, and the turn ends. Players cannot sow from a weg they've captured. A player may capture counters from an opponent's weg when the final counter of a sowing falls into the opponent's weg on the player's turn. The final counter and one counter in the weg are captured. The player may then take the counters from any of their holes and sow from there. If a player cannot play, they must pass their turn, but may play again if this becomes possible in a subsequent turn. Play ends when there are no possible moves left on the board. Players then capture the counters in their wegs. A new round begins. The players fill as many of their holes with four counters as they are able. The player with more counters will capture as many holes from the opponent in which they can place four or more counters. If the player has three remaining counters after holes are filled with four, the opponent would cede their one remaining counter to the opponent to make four and the player captures one further hole. If there are two remaining, the players draw lots to determine which player owns the remaining hole. The player who played second in the previous round begins the new round with the same stylized move, and play continues as before after that. Play continues until one player owns no holes; the opponent wins.

Pankhurst 1971: 172, 174-176.


Horn of Africa

Ludeme Description

Gabata (Shoa and Adegrat).lud


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Pankhurst 1971: 172-176.

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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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