Ayoayo Rules

by John P. Pratt
Sat 19 Sep 2009

Basic rules for all variations.

Fig. 1. Board before moving Pit 3.
A Nigerian version of Mancala which involves multi-lap play is called Ayoayo. It is played by the Yoruba. It is played on the same board as the Mancala games, and is very similar. The general method of picking all the stones out of one pit and sowing them one at a time counterclockwise was already covered in the page of Basic rules for all variations. Here are the specific other rules for Ayoayo.

1. The game usually begins with four seeds in each pit. More seeds can cause the game to last too long.

2. When the seeds are sown, the capture pit is not included. Figure 1 shows the board before the Lower Player plays his Pit 3. Figure 2 shows the board after that move. Pit 3 had 8 seeds, and they were placed in Pits 2 and 1 of the Lower Player, and all of the pits of the Upper Player. The capture pit was not included in the sowing. If there are enough seeds in a pit to go all the way around the board, then no seed is dropped in the original pit that is being played. In other words, the pit being played always remains empty after a move.

Fig. 2. After the move, but before continuing.
3. After the seeds are sown, if the last seed fell into a pit on either side of the board that already contained seeds, then all of the seeds are taken from that pit and sown again in the same manner. In the example being shown, both seeds would be taken from the Upper Player's Pit 1 and sown into the Lower Players Pit 6 and Pit 5. If that final pit was not empty before the move, then all of those seeds are removed and sown. This multi-lap play continues until the last seed falls into an empty pit. That ends the turn.

4. A capture is made when the last seed sown lands in an empty pit on the player's side, and there are seeds in the pit opposite. In that case all of the opponent's seeds in that opposite pit are captured, but not the final seed sown on the player's own side. If the opposite pit has no seeds, then the move is over and no seeds were captured. Also, if the final seed sown lands on the opponent's side, no seeds are captured.

5. A player who begins his turn when his opponent has no seeds to play should make a move to pass seeds to his opponent if possible. If that is not possible, then the player with stones remaining captures all of those stones for himself. In this game, one wants to have his opponent to run out of seeds first, but he needs to arrange his so that he cannot pass any to the other side.

The opponent can be left with no seeds to play by capturing all of his last seeds with the move. In other words, a player is not required to pass his opponent seeds if he can capture all of the opponent's seeds with his move. In that case, the player with seeds remaining, captures all of his own seeds also.

There is a penalty for failing to pass your opponent seeds if possible when the opponent will have none to play with on his next move. If it was possible to pass him some, and a different move was made so that he still has none, then the opponent with no seeds captures all of the remaining seeds of the player who failed to pass him some.

A Variation

I have seen rules given where the player's capture pit is included in sowing. In that case, if the final seed falls into the capture pit, the player's turn ends, rather than winning an extra turn as in Mancala. Allowing an extra turn gives too much advantage to the player. In some ways this might be a superior variation because it gets the game moving faster.