How to Play Oware

Oware is a strategy game for two players. It belongs to the wider family of mancala games, also known as count-and-capture games due to the peculiarity of their gameplay, consisting in the distribution of game pieces around the board and its removal from the board when certain conditions are met.

Equipment and Initial Setup

To play oware abapa you will need a game board and forty-eight game pieces, which are so-called seeds. Usually the board consists of two rows of six holes located at opposite sides. Two larger holes on the sides of the board are used to store the seeds players capture during the match. It is said that the bottom row belongs to the player who moves first, named south, and the upper row to the second player or north.

Oware board in its starting position

Oware board in its starting position
Each of the playing holes contains exactly four seeds.

In the starting position, each hole excluding the two largest ones (stores) contains exactly four seeds. In this position the south player will make his first move, followed by a move by the north player and so on until the game ends.

Goal of the Game

The goal of oware is to capture the greatest amount of seeds as possible. To do so, players make moves in alternate turns until one of them has captured more than 24 seeds. The player who captured more seeds than his opponent when the game ends wins the match. It may also happen that both players have captured the same amount of seeds at the end. In this case, neither player wins the game and the match is said to have ended in a draw.

Playing the Game

Each move of the game is done in three phases: collecting, sowing and capturing. During the sowing a player distributes the collected seeds along the board, and during the capture phase the player takes, if possible, the seeds found in the pits of the opponent.

Collecting Seeds

In the first phase of a movement, the player who is to move chooses one of the holes on his own side of the board and collects all the seeds on it, leaving the hole empty. Subsequently, these seeds will be distributed on the board during the sowing phase.

A player may collect the seeds from any of the holes that belong to him if it contains one or more seeds, only with the exception that after making the move his opponent must be able to play. Therefore, a move that would leave all the holes empty on the opponent's side is not legal.

Sowing Seeds

During sowing, the player distributes the seeds collected in the first phase along the board in a counterclockwise direction; dropping one seed in each of the playing holes until all the seeds are distributed. A player will never sow on the holes used for storage.

Animation of the sowing process in oware

Sowing process in oware
South sows 4 seeds, distributing them around the board one by one in a counterclockwise direction.

After sowing the seeds, the hole from which the player has collected seeds will be empty. It may well be the case that the player sows twelve or more seeds, in which case the player will sow them going round around the board, dropping one seed in each hole in every round, but never dropping a seed in the hole from which the seeds were collected.

Capturing Seeds

When the last sown seed is dropped in one of the holes belonging to the opponent, and after dropping the seed the hole contains exactly two or three seeds, the player will capture them. Taking all the seeds from the hole and saving them in his own store.

When the hole immediately to the right of the last pit from which seeds were captured contains also two or three seeds, the player will capture them too. And so on until the player cannot capture more seeds, always taking into account that players can only capture seeds from their opponents holes and never from their own holes.

Animation of the capturing process in oware

Capturing process in oware
After sowing three seeds, collected from the F hole, south captures 5 seeds from holes b and c.

Note that a player can never capture all the seeds of the adversary. If a player makes a move that would capture all the seeds on the opponent's side, that player will sow normally but will not capture any seeds.

End of the Game

Typically, the game is over when one of the players has captured more than 24 seeds or when both of the players have captured 24 seeds. It may also happen that a player cannot make any legal move on his turn, in such a case, each player captures the remaining seeds on their side of the board and the match ends.

A special situation is when the game enters a cycle, so that the same positions and movements would repeat indefinitely. If this happens, players may agree to end the game and each player will capture the remaining seeds on their side of the board.