5 - LANGO (UGANDA), CORO. The only difference between coro and omweso is that repeated captures are slightly more difficult; the contents of one’s own pit opposite the captured opponent’s are picked up with those of the two pits on the opponent’s side.

6 - LAMU, KOMBE.  The Lamu board contains one feature that is also found in Malawi: the pits with the black outline in diagram i. are carved square and are slightly larger than the others. Apparently during well-played games large numbers of seeds tend to accumulate there. There are also a number of specialized games which make use of these large pits. They might be compared to the various puzzle games based on chess. Unfortunately none of the rules are available. Both men and women play the game in Lamu.

Photo 5 - A kombe board from Lamu.

The board itself is generally quite large and solidly made. It consists of single slab of wood about 4 cm thick and 35 by 70 cm in area. The board may have two large pockets extending from one end. These play a role in some of the specialized games mentioned above but are not used in the regular game.

The seeds used are the seeds of the caesalpinia bonduc bush, a member of the pea family. They are about 2 cm across but oval and somewhat flat. They come in various shades of grayish-brown and green – rather pretty and looking a little like olives. Besides their convenient size, they have one great advantage over all other types -- the seed inside the shell is loose and rattles. This means that the seeds bounce very little when dropped and tend to fall ‘dead’. Two seeds grow together in a flat, brittle, thorny, reddish-brown pod about 4 by 7 cm. The pod grows on a bush. The Kampala seeds, by way of contrast, can be very troublesome if they bounce onto a hard floor from a table, and are very easy to lose. The seeds used in Nigeria are identical with those used in Lamu.

    

Photos 6 and 7 - Caesalpinia bonduc seeds and pods.

Diagram f - The favoured Lamu starting arrangement. The total number of seeds is still 64.
 
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There are two differences in the rules between kombe and omweso: In kombe, i) Only the contents of the opponent’s front row is captured. The conditions for capture remain the same. ii) Reverse moves are permitted for indirect captures. The ruling that one may not loop around the left end remains. It is also permitted to begin a move with an indirect reverse capture.

It is desirable to distribute the seeds in as ‘tricky’ a fashion as possible. For example, if a player knows that a handful will end in a given place, he will start there and distribute the seeds backwards. This combined with the requirement that the moves be executed as fast as possible can make it difficult for an inexperienced person to follow the game.

7 - MOMBASA, MONGALE.  This version differs in some details from kombe but they are not on record. The favoured starting position is:

Diagram g - The favoured Mombasa starting arrangement.
 
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8 - CONGO, MONGOLA.  Note that the board is only seven columns long. The starting arrangement is as shown diagram k.

Diagram h - The favoured Congolese starting arrangement.
 
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The game differs from omweso in two ways: i) When a handful ends in an empty pit, or one containing only a single seed, the player sleeps. However, this last seed is not placed in that pit but in the succeeding one. ii) there must be at least two previous occupants in the pit in which a handful ends in order to make a capture. A capture cannot be made if the seed making the capture should have landed in the previous pit but did not because it contained less than two.

9 - MAASI, ENKESHUI.  Enkeshui is the mankala game played by the Maasai. The description that follows is based on observations around Narok and Maasai Mara, around the town of Ngong, and Amboseli. It also illustrates one of the main difficulties in learning the rules of a specific variety from direct observation – namely, the difficulty in distinguishing the differences between rules, strategic considerations, and movements irrelevant to the actual course of the game. The board has two rows with eight, ten or twelve pits in a row. It may be significant that only even numbers are used. Among the Maasai the even numbers have female connotations and this might subconsciously be related to the symbolism of placing seeds in pits. Women do not play the game among the Maasai. Twelve is the preferred number of pits for each row but eight is common because that board is much easier to carry. Eight is also used by beginners.

Photo 8 - An enkeshui board from Kajiado, near Nairobi.

Diagram i - A popular Maasai starting arrangement on a two-by-twelve board.
 

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Diagram j - A popular Maasai starting arrangement on a two-by-eight board.
 

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The two zeros may be at either end of the board as long as they are at opposite ends. Both rows together contain 48 seeds. This is of interest because the number ‘48’ is considered to be ritually propitious. These ‘beads’ are traditionally stone pebbles, but in modern times may also be cast aluminium or carved plastic. The aluminium beads are hammered to make them round. The plastic ones are carved with a sharp knife and look much like dried seeds. An individual seed is called a ‘cow’, a cup is called a ‘boma’ (cattle coral or kraal), and a pit containing four seeds, as described in rule 2, below, is called a ‘bull’. To capture an opponent’s seeds is ‘to ‘eat’, and to complete a move and come to a stop is to ‘sleep’. The latter two terms are common to all East African versions.

Rule 1. Although there are certain formalities involved in starting a game, let us suppose that player A starts. All moves will be described from A’s point of view. A picks up the entire contents of any boma on his own side of the board and sows the cows one-by-one counter clockwise as described in the previous section. If the handful ends in an empty boma on B’s side, the move is over and A sleeps. If it ends in an occupied boma on either side, the last cow and the entire contents of that boma are picked up and the move continues. Once a move is begun, no distinction is made between the two sides of the board and the sowing continues right across the boundaries until the player sleeps.   Rule 2. If the handful ends in a boma already containing three cows, so that it now contains four, that boma is termed a "bull" and belongs to the player that created it. It can no longer be moved and any cow that falls into it in passing, stays there. (This is the only version of which the author is aware in which one player can own a piece of ‘property’ on the opponent’s side.) The seeds in a bull can at any time be removed and placed in a less crowded bull or removed to any safe place away from the board. This does not affect the status of that boma as a bull belonging to a specific owner. Any move ending in a bull sleeps. It is also possible to form a pair of bulls if the last two a handful form three and four in adjacent bomas. The three and four may be in either order.   Rule 3. Assume A is playing. If a handful ends in an empty boma on his own side and there is at east one cow in B’s boma directly opposite, the contents of both bomas are captured by A and may be placed in any of his bulls or in a safe place away from the board. If B’s boma is empty, or is a bull, A sleeps.   Rule 4. If a capture is made as in Rule 3, and the boma in which the capture is made is followed by a continuous string of one or more empty bomas on A’s side, and each of these has cows in the opponent’s boma (on B’s side), then the contents of these bomas are also captured. Here is an example:   Diagram k - An example of a ‘continuous string’ capture.
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If the 2* is moved to the right the cows in all the bomas in red are eaten including the cow that landed in the boma marked 0*. A sleeps after the capture.   Rule 5. Once a player has gone completely around his opponent’s side of the board and returned to his own, he is allowed to continue that turn in either direction.   Rule 6. Unlike in draughts, a player is not compelled to make a capture if he does not feel it is strategically desirable to do so.   Rule 7. Games are often begun in the following ‘racing start’ manner: Both players start simultaneously from the far right-hand boma sowing the cows as fast as they can. The one who sleeps first or the one who goes farthest before sleeping, makes the first move of the regular game. The manual dexterity displayed during this procedure is highly valued. Which of the two is used to decide the beginner appears to be a local variation. The procedure is watched carefully by supporters of both sides as errors are easily made.   Rule 8. It is sometimes permitted that each player may make an advance move. This move allows a player to take the cows of any two of his bomas and redeploy them on his own side in any way he sees fit.   Rule 9. The game is over when one player no longer has an cows on his side with which to carry on the game. His opponent then places all the remaining cows on his side, as well as any he may have laid aside, into one of his bulls. The winner is the one with the most cows including those in the bomas that have become bulls on the opponent’s side. Bets may be placed on either side by placing a pebble or unused seed near the side of the board which the bettor favours. Series of games are often played and are organised in two ways: Firstly it may be agreed that the series should consist of a certain number of games and a record of wins and losses is kept with small twigs. Secondly, the cows won in one round are replaced on the board starting from the right. The player with a surplus removes them from the game while the player with the deficit must continue without them. The series continues until one player does not have enough cows to fill his right-hand boma. He is then the loser.

The most interesting thing about enkeshui is not the rules themselves but how the game is played. As with all things Maasai, it is generally a group effort with decisions made according to principles of egalitarianism and consensus. Each side consists of a ‘floating’ team of up to five players. This requires some explanation! Players may join in a game already in progress and may leave during the middle of a game they have started. One difficulty in learning is that once one has started a game, others will join in and eventually take over if, in their eyes, one’s own playing is not sufficiently competent. A team member may suggest a move by making a trial move which will either be allowed to stand or will be retracted and replaced by another move. Since this is occurring on both sides of the board, considerable confusion results. Cheating is common and often attempted. If it is detected by a member of the opposing team, he simply retracts the move. This may even give the impression that someone is playing on the wrong side of the board. A move may also be retracted if it is put forward by someone not sufficiently high ranking to participate other than as a spectator. This practice makes it extremely difficult for anyone attempting to learn the game. Many young Maasai today do not know how to play properly for this reason.