SkillsThinking, planning and strategy skills.
Ages9 and older.
MaterialsCopy of game board (see diagram) or egg carton or 12 small containers, cups, or jar lids 48 playing pieces.
About the Game

Wari is thousands of years old. It is a version of Mancala. This thinking game originated in Egypt and is played in many African and Middle Eastern countries, as well. In poorer areas where players couldn't afford Wari boards made of wood or baked clay, they would make their own boards in the soft ground.

A version of Wari, called Awari, was brought from Africa to Surinam, in South America, by African slaves. To many, this game holds religious and spiritual significance. The game is played at funerals the day before the body is buried to entertain the body's spirit which has yet to "leave." At sundown, all play stops for fear that the ghosts will join the players and fly away with their spirits.

For spiritual reasons, men whose wives have died are the only ones allowed to make Awari boards. The boards are roughly hacked from logs. This is done on purpose to avoid bad fortune. The boards are smoothed to perfection over time by players' fingers.

Playing the Game

  1. Players pick a side and place four playing pieces in each of their six holes (see drawing).
  2. Play always moves counter-clockwise. Player one begins by taking all the pieces from any hole on his or her side and placing one piece in each of the next four spaces. Players take turns repeating this step.
  3. During a turn, if the last piece of a move is placed in an opponent's hole that has two or three pieces in it, the player captures all the pieces. He or she also wins the pieces in adjacent holes which contain two or three pieces. Captured pieces are removed from the board.
  4. If a hole contains 12 or more pieces, the player must "sow" them to different holes - always skipping over the hole they were taken from.
  5. If a player's holes are all empty, and his or her opponent can't fill them, the player wins all the pieces left on the board.

Winning the Game

Capture the most pieces and be the first to empty all your holes.

Game Board

Wari Game Board

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Last Modified: February 13, 2002 12:18AM Eastern Daylight Time