Morabaraba

Morabaraba or Twelve Men’s Morris is played today in South Africa. It was introduced by the British into South Africa in the 1820s as the game of Morris. The name Morabaraba, derived from the English name Morris, is the Shangaan name. It is also known in South Africa by the Xhosa name Umlabalaba.

Figure 1: Morabaraba board

Rules

Morabaraba is played by two players using a board shown in Figure 1. The board consists of a grid of 24 intersections with connecting lines. One player has 12 black pieces and the other 12 white pieces. The pieces are usually called cows. The game starts with an empty board.

The game is in two phases: placing the pieces and moving the pieces. The players first take turns placing one piece at a time at empty intersections on the board. If a player is able to form a row of three pieces along one of the board’s lines, called a "mill"; he may remove (or shoot) any one of his opponent’s pieces (cows) from the board. A player must avoid removing a piece from an opponent’s formed mill if possible. If more than one mill is formed in a turn, only one of the opponent’s pieces may be removed from the board. Removed pieces may not be placed on the board again.

Once all the pieces have been placed on the board each player takes turns moving one piece at a time along lines between adjacent intersections on the board. If a player is able to form a mill, he may remove any one of his opponent's pieces from the board. The player must remove a piece that is not in a mill if possible. Mills may be broken and remade in subsequent turns to capture another piece.

A player wins the game if their opponent is surrounded and cannot move their pieces, or if their opponent only has two remaining pieces.