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Nsumbi (Sombi)




Eastern Africa, Middle Africa


Nsumbi is a four-row mancala-style board game played by the Taabwa people of central Africa. It is one of several games which are likely related, and called "Sombi" by P. Townshend.


4x8 board. Two counters in each hole. Players sow in an anti-clockwise direction from any of their holes. Singletons may not be sowed. Players capture when the sowing ends in a player's inner row and the opponent's inner and outer row holes opposite contain counters; these are captured and sown in the player's rows starting from the same hole that the previous sowing began. If the final counter lands in an occupied hole but capture is not possible, the counters in this hole are picked up and sowing continues. If the final counter ends in an empty hole, the turn ends. Variant: opening moves are simultaneous until one player makes a capture. Variant: Each player cannot make a capture on their first move.

Townshend 1977a: 23.


Townshend 1986: 110-112.

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Townshend, P. 1977a. Les jeux de mankala au Zaïre, au Rwanda et au Burundi. Les cahiers du CEDAF 3: 3–76.

Townshend, P. 1986. Games in culture: A contextual analysis of the Swahili board game and its relevance to vaariation in African mankala. Unpublished PhD dissertation, University of Cambridge.



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