Mangala or Um El Bagara
The Cow Game

(Northern Tribes)

Figure 4

[Page 140] The two players, A and B, have each five "houses ", usually hollows in the sand, each of which initially contains five counters (Fig. 4). The player to begin picks up the five counters of anyone of his own houses, and moving in the direction indicated by the arrows, drops the counters one by one into successive houses. Thus, if B should begin to play and should decide to start with the house marked [Page 141] X, the result of his first move would be as shown in Fig. 5.

Figure 5

It will be observed that if the contents of the middle one of the five houses be taken up, they can be distributed in either direction, at the player's choice, while counters from a house to the right of the middle one move to the right, and vice versa.

It is now A's turn to move, and, though the players are still only maneuvering for position, it is time to indicate their ultimate object. This is, that the last counter dropped shall fall into a house of the opponent's, containing already one counter or three counters. In either case the player removes from the board both the aforementioned last counter and the one counter or three counters on to which it falls. Moreover, if he scores with his last counter he is allowed to score with the penultimate counter also, if it falls on one or three; and if with the penultimate, then with the last but two also, if it falls on one or three; and so on.

Figure 6

Thus at a late stage of the game, illustrated in Fig. 6, if the player A moves with the contents of the house marked Y, he will "eat" all the contents of B's houses. At house Z he is said to have eaten a cow, and in each of the other houses, a calf.

A very important rule is that a single counter in a house cannot be moved. Thus the only way to protect a calf from being eaten is to make a move which leaves a second counter in the house with it. Anyone who cares to try it will find that a successful "end-game" depends solely on judicious appreciation of this rule. When all movement is over, each player removes such single counters as remain in his houses and the winner is the one who has taken most counters.

Last update January 6, 2010