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Qelat (Gabata, Magazeb)DLP Game   

Period Modern

Region Eastern Africa

Category Board, Sow, Two rows


Qelat is a two-row mancala-style board game that is played in western Eritrea. It is very similar to the Gabata game from Shoa in Ethiopia, which is one of the more widely played Gabata games in the region.


2x6 board. Play begins with four counters in each hole. A player picks up the contents of any of their holes and sowing them in an anti-clockwise direction, picking up the contents of the last hole in which his counters fall, and continuing sowing. This continues until the last counter falls in an empty hole. Then it is the other player's turn. A hole is captured when the last ball is dropped into an opponent's hole containing three counters, making it four. A player cannot then take from one of these holes that they have captured. Therefore, the player cannot begin a turn from their own captured hole nor can they continue sowing from it if their last counter falls into it. If the last counter of a sowing falls into an opponent's captured hole, one of those counters are removed from the board and placed in the store, and the sowing continues with the contents of any of the player's holes. Ownership of a hole continues even if it becomes empty. When a player cannot move (i.e., there are no counters in their holes except any that are in captured holes), the opponent continues to move until the player is able to move. Play continues until all counters are either placed in the store or in captured holes and thus cannot be moved. Players then count their pieces by placing four in each hole, and the player who has more than their original number takes ownership of one of the opponent's holes for every four counters more than the original number that have been taken. If no player took four more than the original, the player with three extra gets the hole, if each player has two extra they draw lots to see who gets an extra hole. Play then begins again as before. The game ends when one player owns all of the counters, and thus all of the holes.

Pankhurst 1971: 167-168.

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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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