Number of players
Recommended age
Competition type
1 vs.1
Playing time
-20 min
Cost or investment
Free -

Brief description of the game

Oware Abapa is a game of the oware family of games, also called mancala games, “hole and seed” games. It is a turn-based 1 on 1 strategy game with a different piece capture system than the more widespread Mancala game and one that we should play before making the move to Oware Abapa.
Table of contents

Note 1

Abapa is the traditional variant of Oware played by adults and used in official competitions. We’ll refer to the game as Oware or Oware Abapa interchangeably.

Note 2

We suggest getting familiar with Mancala first, a very similar game but with simpler rules and dynamics.

How to play Oware Abapa

Things you need to know before starting to play

icon players

Number of players

Oware Abapa is a 1 vs. 1 game, so two players are required.

icon objects

What you need to play

The game is played with a special board on which there are holes (or cups) through which the game pieces move.

Forty-eight small pieces are used to simulate seeds to be sown in the 12 small holes, which in Oware are usually called “houses”.

The two large holes are used to store the captured seeds but unlike the Mancala they are not part of the game dynamics.

tablero de mancala
ico learn

Discovering the Oware-Abapa board

Yes, the board for this game can be perplexing. We’ll explain everything you need to know next.

Each player is associated with one of the groups of 6 houses:

Los seis hoyos pequeños del tablero de Mancala que están frente a cada jugador son sus hoyos o su zona de juego

If there are large holes on the board, each player will use the hole on his right to store the captured seeds.

El hoyo o copa de puntos de cada jugador es el que queda a su derecha en el tablero de Mancala
ico learn

Initial position of the pieces

Four pieces are placed in each of the 12 houses.

Se distribuye el total de piezas de forma uniforme entre todos los hoyos pequeños del tablero de Mancala
ico learn

Movement of the pieces

During a game of Oware the seeds are circulating in a counterclockwise direction. Certain configurations allow you to make captures, seeds that each player will earn. We’ll explain how shortly.

Los moviemientos en Mancala se hacen en sentido anti horario
turns icon

Who’s first?

It’s played in turns. The player with less experience playing Oware starts.

Goal of the game

icon goal

What do you need to do to win?

The first player to capture 25 seeds wins. How are seeds captured? We’ll explain it next.

“Oware Abapa” rules: playing a game

ico player

Let’s get started!

The player whose turn it is must choose one of their houses containing at least one seed. He takes the seeds and leaves them one by one in a counterclockwise direction (to the right) from the next house and until there are no pieces left in his hand. The large holes are not used.


Let’s see an example. Let’s assume that the red player has the turn and chooses the house with the red colored pieces.

El jugador selecciona uno de los hoyos del tablero

This is how the pieces would look like after their movement:

IMPORTANT: If at any point during the game, 11 seeds or more are captured, when reaching the house from which the seeds were taken, we must skip it so that it remains empty.

icon rules

Rule 1 – Capture of pieces

If the house where the last seed falls belongs to the opposing player and there are 2 or 3 seeds left in it (counting the one just left) then a capture occurs.

What seeds are captured? Always those that are in the house where the last seed fell, and also, if there are 2 or 3 seeds in the previous house, those are captured too, and if there are also 2 or 3 seeds in the house before that, those are captured too! and so on until at most all the opponent’s houses. Let’s see two examples:

Example 1:

In this example, the red player selects the house with 9 red-colored seeds.

This is how the pieces would look like after their movement:

The last seed is in a house with 3 seeds but as it belongs to the player who has the turn there is no capture.

Example 2:

In this other example the red player chooses the house that has the 5 red colored seeds.

This is how the seeds would look after the movement:

The house in which the last seed has fallen belongs to the opposing player and as there are 3 seeds in it, these will be captured.

The previous house has 2 seeds, so they will also be captured:

The previous one contains 4 seeds so those can no longer be captured.

The player saves the captured seeds in his point hole.

icon rules

Rule 2 – No swapping allowed

Once the pieces have been taken from a hole, it is mandatory to play with them. It is not allowed to change the play in the middle of the game.

icon rules

Rule 3 – Capture cancelled!

It is not allowed to leave the opponent without seeds. This means that if a move results in a multiple capture leaving the opponent with no seeds… the capture is cancelled, and the player must choose another house to start their turn

icon rules

Rule 4 – Game over

If it is not possible to make a move that leaves the opponent with any seeds then the player who has the turn captures all the seeds in his houses and the game ends.

turns icon

Next turns

Players will alternate turns following the dynamics and rules explained above.

Game over. Who wins?

icon winner

And the winner is…

If a player reaches 25 seeds he becomes the winner.

If the game ends because it is impossible to leave seeds in the opponent’s area, the player who has captured the most seeds at that moment wins.

If there are few pieces left on the board and all that will happen is that the players keep going around in circles without any consequence, then it’s agreed to stop the game. Each player captures the seeds on their side, and whoever has more seeds in total wins.

There is also the possibility of ending in a tie 24 to 24!

Tips for playing Oware Abapa

tip icon

Limiting time per turn

If any of the players spends too much time thinking about his move, it will be convenient to agree on a maximum time per move. If you overshoot that time, you lose your turn.

How to create a home-made version of Mancala

The pieces

An infinite number of small objects can be used as parts: pebbles, marbles, chickpeas, beans, small coins, buttons, small seashells…

Just keep in mind that they must be easy to handle, fit up to 12 pieces in the same hole and that 48 pieces are needed!

Small holes

Coffee cups, egg cups, small bowls… can be used as small holes.

You can also draw some circles on a large piece of paper and even, if you are in the street, dig the holes in the sand.

The stores

A bowl, a glass, a plate, a small box… can be used for storage. The power of imagination!

Games like Oware Abapa

Before playing Oware Abapa we recommend learning how to play Mancala because it is the simplest of the “holes and seeds” family of games.

Sungka is a game that extends the rules and game dynamics of Mancala. The games are longer and at some point more fun 😉

icono compras

Tips and buying guide

On our Mancala game page, you’ll find a detailed guide with plenty of tips to help you choose the perfect board that suits your needs. Check it out!

logo loodens

LOODENS rating

Oware-Apara is one of the three games from the Mancala family of games that we have added to LOODENS. We recommend learning to play them in this order Mancala > Oware-Abapa > Sungka. Oware-Apara is one of the three games from the Mancala family of games that we have added to LOODENS. We recommend learning to play them in this order Mancala > Oware-Abapa > Sungka. Mancala is very similar to Oware-Apaba but has simpler rules and on the other hand Sungka is the most complex of the three because it adds many more rules and game dynamics which makes it at the same time the most fun of the three.

Recommended games

Just One set
JUST ONE is a fun word association game. It was awarded the Best Game of the Year in 2019 at the prestigious Spiel des Jahres awards. It’s highly original and enjoyable, guaranteeing lots of laughter.
Beach games for adults
The first time you see this game, you’ll look foolish. What’s that round net doing on the ground? How the heck do you play that? And when you discover it, you go from perplexity to… I want to try it!
Secet Hitler game
Secret Hitler is a great game of deduction and hidden roles. Perfect for medium-sized groups looking for a medium-length game in which all players will feel 100% involved. Printable version available!

You may also like

Follow us!

We post updates and fun stuff on


if you share this page only good things can happen

Scroll to Top