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Eastern Africa


Isolo is a four-row mancala-style board game played by the Sukuma people in Tanzania. This game is typically played by boys.


4x8 board. Play begins with two counters in each hole. Opening moves: Players place all of the counters in the outer row into their rightmost hole. They then take one counters from each of the holes in the inner row and redistribute them into the outer row, one in each hole. Then, each player sows counters in an anti-clockwise direction beginning from the rightmost hole in the inner row, proceeding, picking up the contents of holes when the last counter falls into an occupied hole and continuing sowing. However, the final counter that would fall into the rightmost hole in the outer row (which should now contain 17 coutners) is not placed there, but rather on the second to right hole in the inner row, which should now contain one counter. Initial phase: In the initial phase, the rightmost hole in the inner and outer row for each player are out of play. All sowing and capturing only occurs on the remaining holes. Sowing occurs in an anti-clockwise direction. When the final counter of a sowing lands in an empty hole, the turn ends. When it falls into an occupied hole in the player's inner row and the opponent's opposite holes in the inner and outer row are occupied, these are taken. These are then sown in the player's holes beginning with the next hole after the one making the capture. If the final counter of a sowing falls into an occupied hole that cannot make a capture, then the counters in this hole are picked up and sowing continues. Second phase: The initial phase ends when a player plays from the rightmost hole in the outer row. This can be by necessity or by choice. Once this happens, that player must play in all of their holes. The opponent may remain in the initial phase after this point until they play from their rightmost hole. The same sowing and capturing rules as before. Play continues until one player can no longer move.

Popova 1979: 114-115.



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Popova, A. 1979. "'Isolo,' jeu royale des Sukuma." Cahiers d'études Africaines 19: 111-123.




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