Chiana (Manyanja)

Meredith G. Sanderson, Medical Officer, Nyasaland

Journal of the Royal Anthropological Insitute
London, 43, 1913, pages 726-736

[Note:The definitions are the same as for the game of Bau.]

[Page 734] This is the most primitive of all the games, and is usually played by children. It is of interest in that it is, probably, the common ancestor of the more elaborate forms.

A "board," consisting of any number of holes, may be used. The play moves round and round the board, only the outside holes being used, always in the same direction, i.e., from left to right along the side nearest the player, and from right to left [Page 735] along that nearest his opponent. There is thus no distinction of ownership between the sides of the board, only those holes actually occupied by his men belonging to a player.

The holes occupied by a player are always in series, and therefore only the last hole of such series can be moved. A move consists in spreading the contents of the last hole of the series as far as it will go, including one man to each hole seriatim. Only one hole can he so spread each move, unless the move results in the two front holes of the series containing one and two men, respectively. It is evident that to do this it is necessary that there be a singleton in the front hole of the series, before the move, and a number of men in the last hole equal to that of the holes constituting the whole series. In this event, the player must continue to spread the last hole of the series until he fails to attain this arrangement of the two front holes of his series. If, in moving he overtakes his opponent's series, he captures all those holes to which he has added a man; the hole next to (i.e., in front of) the hole or series of holes, so captured, then becomes the last hole of the opponent's series, and is spread at his move.

In commencing the game, four men are put into every hole in the back row of each player.

A singleton forming one of a series, and occupying the last hole of such series, is added to the contents of the next hole, which, becoming the last hole of the series is spread at the next move in the ordinary way.

If, however, the player be left with only one man, he may move it, two holes each move, so as to enable him to overtake his opponent.

No men are removed from the board, in which particular Chiana differs from all other games, except Bau.

The game is won by capturing all the holes occupied by the opponent.

The game above described is called Chiana wa Kunja to distinguish it from another form, known as Chiana wa Bwalo, in which the players have each their own side of the board, a front and a back row, as in the other games.

The play is the same, except that men are taken from the opponent by occupying holes in the front row opposite to those in which the opponent has men, and that men so taken are removed from the board. It will be seen, then, that the latter game occupies a position intermediate between Chiana wa Kunja and other games, and represents a step in their evolution.

Last update January 11, 2010