Welcome on the Awale documentation

You'll find here some explanations about how to use the "Awale" software.
If you need precise informations about the Awale rules, open the "Rules" menu and select the "Print manual" option.
You can also read the explanations about a particular rule with the option "See rule".

To print the whole manual click: Print manual

New in this version :

Awale is freeware!

Features in the last versions:

You can now play against another player through the Internet !
Awale can connect you on a forum and allow you to talk with other Awale players. You'll be able to challenge somebody (or to receive challenges) and to play against players from everywhere in the world.
An International Awale players rating has been set up. You'll gain rating points with each victory, and you'll evaluate the other players' level by consulting their rating points.
This new game option is described in the chapter : the Internet.
"An enemy defeated by truth will never return, but an enemy defeated by weapon is certain to return"
(Nigeria : Gikuyu proverb)

Historical background
The game of Awale (or Awele, Ajwa, Lela, Chisolo, Kalak, Oware, Coo, Coro Bawo, Nocholokoto, Dara, Congkak, Mancala, Bawo, Omweeso, Adita-ta, Kasonko, Layo, Gilberta, Schach, Wari, Walle ...) is one of the oldest strategy games. It seems to have come from Ethiopia, and to have spread gradually to all of Africa.
Awale is a "plank game" (mancala). It is played with an hollowed wood plank and some stones or seeds.

Nowadays, Awale can be found in almost every African region. Several variations on this game exist. With Awale, you'll be able to play some of the most well-known variations, proposed by Awale specialists like François Pingaud or Kanga Ballou. (See Bibliography).

But if you know an Awale variation that is not present in the current version, you can define it and sent it to us so that we integrate it in the next release.
Doing so, you contribute to a database collecting (and offering) all the rules of Awale played over the world.
Send your files to : awale@myriad-online.com
If you want to meet other Awale players, consult our list of planned competitions, in paragraph The World of Awale. As well, if you organize an "Awale day" in your town, contact us !

"Until lions have their own historians, tales of the hunt shall always glorify the hunter"
(Nigeria : Igbo proverb)

The rules of Awale

The rules of Awale are very simple, and the game is easy to understand. On the other hand, the strategies to be successfull can be complex and subtle.
To consult the documentation for a particular rule, select "View rule" in the "Rules" menu and choose the "Print" option.
It should be a good idea that you print the complete manual at least one time.

The rules vary from one region to another, even sometimes from one village to another... We'll use here the most common rule, the Classical Awale.
Rule 1 : Aim of the game
The aim of the game is to capture more seeds than your opponent. At the end of the game, the player who has captured the most seeds wins.
Rule 2 : The board
The board is divided into two areas, hollowed with six holes each.
Your area is at the bottom of the screen, your opponent's (computer) area is at the top.
At the begining, 48 seeds are distributed among the 12 holes (four seeds in each hole).
Rule 3 : The game turn.
Every player plays alernately, the first one to play is chosen at random.
The player takes all the seeds in a hole of his area and distributes them counterclockwise, one in each hole.
Rule 4 : Capture
If the last seed to be distributed falls into one of the opponent's holes, containing already one or two seeds, the player captures the two or three seeds.
The captured seeds are taken off the board (the hole is left empty) and collected into the player's loft.
Rule 5: Multiple capture
If a player captures two or three seeds, and the preceeding hole also contains two or three seeds, they are captured too, and so on...
Rule 6: Loop
If the number of seeds taken in the starting hole is greater than 11, it constitutes a loop : the starting hole is left out everytime in the distribution loop, and therefore always left empty.
A hole containing enough seeds to loop is called a 'Kroo'.
Rule 7: Feed the opponent
A player isn't allowed to "starve" his opponent :
a player can't play a hole that leads to capturing all the seeds in his opponent's area.
Rule 8: End of the game
The game ends if :
- A player hasn't any seeds in his area, and therefore can't play.
In this case, the other player captures all the remaining seeds.
- The game is "looping", i.e. after some turns, the same playboard configuration is obtained again.
In this case, the remaining seeds aren't captured.
- One of the players aborts the game
The other player captures all the remaining seeds.

"If all seeds that fall were to grow, then no one could follow the path under the trees"
(Akan proverb)


Some examples  :

A basic move :

It's your turn to play. Your area is on the bottom, your holes 1, 3 and 6 are empty, you can't play them. You play the hole 4. This action leads to this new configuration :

A capture :

It's your turn to play. You have three seeds in hole 4, one seed in hole 5, and one seed in hole 6.
If you play hole 4, you reach hole 1 of your opponent's area :

Your last seed falled into hole 1 of your opponent, which contains two seeds now.
You capture them :

A multiple capture:


You play the hole 4 so that you reach hole 3 of your opponent's area :

Hole 3 of your opponent contains two seeds now, you capture them. But the previous hole contains two seeds as well, and the previous again contains three seeds. You capture all these seeds ... So, seven seeds are captured in a single turn !

It is the woman whose child has been eaten by a witch who best knows the evils of witchcraft"
(Nigerian proverb)

The menus

The system menu
Opens the information box, or the help window. 

The Awale menu
New game : begins a new game
Load game : loads a saved game in memory. If a match was in progress, it's loaded too.
Save game : saves the current state of the game (and the match)
Cancel game : cancels the current game (the opponent captures the remaining seeds)
New Match : begins a new match, i.e. six games.
Stop Match : stops the current match.
Score panel : If a match is in progress, shows the scores of the games already played.
Undo last move : Sends back one turn earlier in the game ((Human vs Human mode) or two turns (Human vs Computer mode).
Set a problem : You can define manually how many seeds are in each hole, and start the game from this point.
History list : Displays the history list of the current game, with for every turn : the player (North or South), the playground configuration,and the hole to be played. You can restart the game from any turn by clicking on the desired one and clicking "OK". You can also save the current game or reload an old one from here.
Print: Print the history list of the current game.

The Rules menu
Load rule : Each rule is stored in a separate file. All these files are grouped in a directory named "Logic". This option allows you to load a rule located in another directory.
Edit rule : You can define here your own rules : name,localization, how the seeds are moved and captured...
Save rule : Saves the current rule (if modified). Be careful, to make a rule appearing in the "Rules" menu, you must save it in the "Logic" folder.
Print rule : Prints the explanation of the current rule.
Print manual : Prints all the rules. It's a good idea to do this at least one time.
View rule : displays the explanation of the current rule.

The Options menu

Show number of seeds :
        If this option is active, the number of seeds contained by the hole pointed by the mouse cursor is displayed.
Show target
        If this option is active, a little circle shows the hole reached if the player plays the hole pointed by the mouse cursor.
Show playboard state
        If this option is active, the number of seeds contained in each hole are displayed.
        If this option is active, the actions are supplemented by sound effects.
        If this option is active, musics are playing. (Original sound tracks composed by O.Guillion with Harmony Assistant, one of our software). The '+' key increase the sound level of the music. The '-' key decrease the sound level.
        If this option is active, some animations show what is being played.
        If this option is active, comments are made on the performed actions. This option is automatically activated with the initiation level.
Human vs human
        If this option is active, you play against another human player
Levels :
        Your opponent's level can vary from initiation to Grand Master. This last level is quite fearful, and remains unbeaten for now...

Ma questionNote : Since the computer's thought time is limited, it becomes a more competitive opponent with powerful computers.

The Internet menu

Network setup :

defines your connection parameters with, among others, your identity . Play on the Internet: connects to the Myriad server and opens the opponent selection box.  
"When you are eating with the devil, you must use a long spoon "
(Igbo proverb)

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Using the game
The game is playable essentially with the mouse : just click on the hole you want to play.
Some keyboard keys are useful :

F1 : Open this help window

Space bar : The computer finds the best hole and plays it for you.

+ : Increase the sound level of the music
- : Decrease the sound level of the music

"When two elephants fight it is the grass that suffers"

Some strategies
A great number of strategies are used by the Awale players during a game.
Here are some of them (These strategies apply to the classical Awale, but can often be used also with other rules).
Some of the configurations described here are highlighted by examples. Load these examples by selecting the "Load a game" option in the "Awale" menu, and choosing the right name.

The strategies at the beginning of the game
Generally, it's not a good idea to play a set of consecutive holes during the first turns of the game, because it lays the player open to multiple captures very hard to avoid.
For this reason, the sequences 6-2-4 or 2-4-6 or 5-3-2 will be chosen instead of sequences 1-2-3 or 2-1-3.

The strategies at the middle of the game
The aim of the game is to capture more seeds than the opponent. To do this, the player must try to prepare his attacks, by setting the number of seeds in his holes to values that reach the opposite territory and allow a capture.
The system of multiple capture can drastically increase the score, and therefore this kind capture has to be targetted.
The opponent must also be prevented from making such captures, sometimes by sacrifying some of the player's seeds. (see example "Strat01")
While the player decides to capture some opponent's seeds, he must check that the played hole doesn't uncover an important position into his own territory.
He must also foil his opponent's threats, either by increasing the content of the threatening holes of his opponent, or by increasing the content of the threatened holes in his own territory.
(see example "Strat02")
In the Awale game, the player must sow before reaping : a range of opponent's empty holes, judiciously sown, can change into a very interesting multiple capture.
(see example "Strat03")
A classical offensive strategy is the Kroo (in Akan language, accumulation). The Kroo is the accumulation into a hole of enough seeds to make a complete revolution, i.e. at least twelve seeds.
A Kroo can be devastating when the opponent's territory is almost empty, because, during the sowing, the first turn sows and the second one ends with a multiple capture.
An example of Kroo sowing can be found in example "Strat04"
A Kroo is said "ripe" when it contains enough seeds to reach at least the first hole of the opponent's territory.
The player can use a set of defensive strategies to thwart a Kroo.
Here are some of them :
- The player can try to make the Kroo fail by blocking : he must put at least 2 seeds in the hole threatened by the Kroo in order to thwart the attack.
(example "Strat05")
- The overloading consists in adding seeds to the opponent's Kroo to overload it, and make it miss its target.
(example "Strat06")
- The hardship : it consists in not giving seeds to the opponent, in order to force him to play his Kroo before it's ripe.
(example "Strat07")
- The counter-attack consists in accumulating seeds in one or several holes, in order to capture too after the opponent's Kroo is played.
(example "Strat08")

The strategies at the end of the game
By the end of the game, when there's not very much seeds left on the board, the player can have to build some "traps" : the aim is to leave only one playable hole to his opponent, and to make him play it on a threatened hole.
(example : "Strat09", "Strat10", "Strat11")
It's also possible to build several traps in order to make several capture during successive turns.
(example : "Strat12")
At last, the player can keep all the seeds in his territory in order to starve his opponent, and simultaneously make himself unable to feed the opponent.
(example : "Strat13", be see again the end of "Strat08")

Ma questionNote : Most of these stratégies, as well as some examples in this chapter, are taken from the book : 
"Stratégies des joueurs d'Awalé", Jean Retschitzki, L'Harmattan 1990 (seeBiblio.)

"A man who pays respect to the great, paves the way for his own greatness"
(Nigeria : Igbo proverb)

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The game on the Internet

The game on the Internet is a wonderful opportunity to meet Awale players from all over the world.
Here are the available features :
        - Search for other Awale players on the Internet.
        - Talk to these players, consult their rating points, challenge them or accept their challenges.
        - Play an Awale game "live" with another player through the Internet.
Question : What may I begin with ?

If you read these lines, it means that Awale is correctly installed on your computer.
Open the Internet menu and choose the Internet setup option.
A box opens, enter :
        - Your name (i.e. "John Doe"). The other players will see who you are.
        - Your password (for example "mypassword").
        - Your country (for example : "US/California"). The other players will know where you are from, and then they will try to talk to you in English.
        - Your proxy : if you connect the Interenet by a proxy, enter its address. For example 195.245.587.254:70
       - You can also enter a sentence into the "Automatic introduction message" zone. This message will be seen by all the other challengers.
You can now validate this box and try to connect : Internet menu, "Play on the Internet " sub-menu.
Awale automatically tries to connect to the Internet, using the parameters you chose.
        - If the connection successfully establishes, then we can continue...
Question : I'm connected, but I can't see anybody. What may I do ?
 Come to the following appointment : every sunday, from 16 o'clock GMT (i.e 17:00 in France, 11:00 AM for the U.S. east Coast, 8:00 AM for the West coast) for the weekly Awale big challenge.
Question : How to consult the International rating ?

Internet Menu> Go to the Hall of Fame. This page is updated every minute.
Question : What mean the informations I see in the opponent selection box ?

If you can see this box, it means that you're successfully connected to a network.
The most interesting part of the box is the central list which shows the names of the players connected on the same network as you are.
After the player's name, you see :
        - the player's country
       - the rule he plays (you can only challenge players who play the same rule as yours)
        - the player's rating. This rating informs you about the level of the player. Each time you lose a game, you gives some points to your opponents. At each victory, it's the contrary.
Remark : if you play with an unregistered version of Awale, your rating won't excess 200.

You can type a text line on the keyboard and send it, the message is public : all the players who aren't playing will see your message.
If a player challenges you, his name and rating appears on the center of the box, as well as two buttons :
         - Accept, to accept the challenge,
         - Decline, to decline it.
To challenge somebody, click on his name in the list, and validate the "Challenge" button. Then, you just have to wait the player to accept or decline your challenge.
As soon as a challenge is accepted, the box automatically closes and you switch in game mode. The first player to start is chosen randomly. You can type a message on the keyboard and send it to your opponent at any moment. In this phase, the message is private, i.e. invisible for the other players.
Question : What means the player's name color ?
If the player's name is written in italic, it means that he is busy playing.
If the player's name is written in bold, it means that he is free.
If the player's name is written in blue, it means that he is still free but he challenged us and he's waiting for our answer.
If the player's name is written in red, it means that he is still free but we challenged him, and we're waiting for his answer.
If the player's name is written in green, it means that he accepted our challenge.
Question : If I disconnect during a game, what happens ?

Your opponent wins the played points...
Try to avoid this !
Question : If I install Awale again, do I keep my rating points ?

Of course.
Question : How can I be sure that my opponent didn't fiddle with his rating points ?

Try it and see what happens...
Question : How many points can be won after a game ?

It depends on the rating points of the two opponents.
If you win :
- against an opponent far better rated than you,
        100 points are transfered from his score to yours.
- against an opponent of the same level than you,
        about 50 points are transfered from his score to yours.
- against an opponent very low-rated,
        only 4 points are transfered from his score to yours.
Question : What's the difference between a "public" and a "private" message ?

From the opponent selection box, you don't yet play against somebody else, the message you send is received by all the people who don't play : it's a public message.
When you're busy playing, the message you send is only seen by your opponent. It's a private message.
In front of each message, the name of the player who sent it is always displayed.
Question : I connected because I had an appointment with a friend, but he's already playing with somebody else. I'd want to advise him that I'm here. What can I do ?

Two players playing together don't receive the public messages from the group. However, it's possible to send a private message to somebody : in the list of the connected player, double-click on a name. An information box opens : type your message and click "Send". It will be received by the selected player only.
Question : I'm busy playing, but I want to see what happens on the forum (or to answer a private message). How can I do?

You just have to go back to the opponent selection box by using the "Contact other players " option of the Internet menu.
Question : A game is in progress between two other players, how can I follow it "live" ?

Consult the informations about one of the players by double-clicking on his name. The playboard state is displayed at the bottom of the box.
Question : All this stuff is great, but how does it work ?

If you're interested in the method we used to play through the Internet, we'll answer with great pleasure to your questions and remarks by-mail.

"The hunter in pursuit of an elephant does not stop to throw stones at birds"

The world of Awale

The Oware Society (OWS)

"brings the Worlds oldest game to contemporary society"
The Oware Society (OWS) organizes every third Sunday of every
month at an event called

Mwalimu Express
The Bread & Roses
68 Clapham Manor Street
Clapham Common
London SW4

For more info : OWS, 41, Elverson Road, Deptford London SE8 4JW.

The Internet
The weekly appointment of Awale players on the Internet is every sunday, from 16:00 GMT (i.e 17:00 in France, 11:00 AM for the U.S. east Coast, 8:00 AM for the West coast)

The family is like the forest, if you are outside it is dense, if you are inside you see that each tree has its own position"
(Akan proverb)

Version release / Greetings 

+ 12/25/1995 : Santa Claus gives to one of the authors an awale game (a real one, made of solid tree wood).
+ 12/26/1995 : Beginning of the programmation of Awale on Macintosh.
+ 01/02/1996 : version 1.0, on Macintosh and Windows 95.
+ 03/08/1996 : version 1.1, Dakar variation.
+ 03/16/1996 : version 1.2, Ourin Mode
+ 04/04/1996 : version 1.4, graphics improvements, errors in the score grid computing now fixed.
+15/08/1996 : version 1.6, New mode : Human versus human. You can now resize the main window. New presentation. Music.
+ 08/27/1996 : version 1.7, Music. The user can now set problems by defining manually the playboard configuration. New computer AI algorithm, more powerful ! (It uses now an Alpha-Beta tree with a reduced aspiration window).
+ 02/19/1997 : version 1.7.5, Undo and History list.
+ 03/17/1997 : version 2.0.0. Now possible to : restart a game at any point, consult, save and load history lists, define a new rule.
New rules have been implemented.
+ 04/07/1997 : version 2.0.1. Now possible to print the history list. Debugging an enhancement of the computer strategy, delays in commentaries display.
+04/17/1997 : version 2.0.2. Computer AI debugged and enhanced again. The depth and computation time of the GrandMaster Level can be configured now. The depth is now auto-adaptive.
+07/17/1997 : version 2.0.3. The program is now Windows NT 4-compatible; music algorithms have been enhanced for a better compatibility with all computers.
+10/01/1997 : version 2.1.0. : 13 different rules, test of the loops in game ends, enhanced printing, a commentary is now associated to the saved games, a multilingual commentary is saved with the rule. Strategies are described in this documentation, and strategy examples are given.
+10/20/1997 : version 2.2, Playable through the Internet.
+12/01/1997 : version 2.2.2, Now possible to see 'live' the game of two other players on the Internet, to come back to the players' forum while a game is in progress, to view, save and print all the sent and received messages.
+03/03/1998 : version 2.3.0 Bugs in printing and saving have been fixed, music playing has been enhanced, server list for Internet play has been updated. Now possible to register with credit card. 3 rules more, thanks to Steve Evans.
+03/29/2001 : version 3.0.0 New Internet play.
+05/24/2013 :  version 4.0. Awale is freeware.

We want to thank here :
Jean-François 'Jeff' Cassan
Main Beta-tester

Mr Pingaud and Mr Retschitzki
for the fascinating documentation they sent, and for their constructive appreciations

Olivier Rolland for the 'Dakar'

Eward Brisse

Gaël Martin and Philippe Fernandez
For their tests on the Internet version

Santa Claus
for his good idea.

Awale has been developped first on Macintosh, using the Codewarrior C, and then ported under Windows with the WACAM system, from the same authors. The porting time was about one hour.

WACAM is the windowing system created by the authors in March,1991.
If you are yourself a programmer, consider WACAM as a library implementing nearly all the Macintosh Toolbox functions on the PC platform. Source files remains unchanged from a platform to another, and the programmer keeps the comfort of the Macintosh development : easy-to-use entry points, available and efficient documentations, simple memory management...
Far away from the Windows dark side, on which every rule is immediately followed by a list of exceptions, the programmer benefits on his PC of all the advantages of a well-thought system.

"The sword does not recognise the head of the blacksmith who made it."
(Nigeria : Yoruba proverb)

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Règles et stratégies du jeu d'Awalé, Kanga BALLOU, 1993, Nouvelles Editions Ivoiriennes, 01 BP 1818 ABIDJAN
Strategies des joueurs d'awele, Jean RETSCHITZKI, L'harmattan 1990, 5 rue de
l'ecole polytechnique 75005 Paris.
Awélé le jeu des semailles africaines, REYSSET, PINGAUD, 1995 Editions CHIRON
Jeux et jouets de l'ouest africain, Ch. BEART, Dakar, IFAN 1955, p476-512
A history of board games other than chess, H.J.R. MURRAY Oxford, Oxford
university press, 1952 (193 variations !)
Wari et solo, le jeu de calcul africain, A. DELEDICQ & A. POPOVA (36 variations)
Paris, CEDIC 1977.
MANCALA GAMES, - Larry RUSS , 613 Hudson street HOBOKEN NJ 07030 USA
Oware, the national game of Africa, SAPIENT SOFTWARE, Roger P. KOVACH, PO
box 1009 BOLINAS CA 94924.
Wari et hus, in the game book of the UNICEF, edited in Geneva for the library LIED.
L'Awélé, jeu de stratégie Africain, Pingaud, Bornemann, sept 96
Mécanismes d'apprentissage de l'Awale, Niguessan, A.G. (1992) Fribourg, presses Universitaires
L'Afrique compte !, Claudia Zaslavsky - Editions du Choix (Nov. 1995). 3 chapters about the African games (including Awele)
If you know other bibliographical references, don't hesitate to make us know.
Thank you.

"An old woman is always uneasy when dry bones are mentioned in a proverb"
(Nigeria : Igbo proverb)


This game has been designed for Macintosh and Windows.

Awale is freeware!

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Harmony Assistant : The Melody's big brother. It offers all the Melody features, but also an harmonizer and a drum sequences editor which enables you to create quickly and efficiently hi-quality tunes (the Awale music had been composed with Harmony).
Harmony Assistant is a commercial software.
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You can download an evaluation copy of Harmony Assistant from :

"Before you ask a man for clothes, look at the clothes that he is wearing"
(Nigeria : Yoruba proverb)


A B C I K M P R S V 

Version release / Greetings

Some strategies

Some strategies

The rules of Awale    Examples    The Menus
Some strategies

Some strategies

The Menus    The game on the Internet    The world of Awale
Version release / Greetings    Registration

The rules of Awale    Some strategies

The Menus    Using the game    Version release / Greetings



The Menus    Registration

Historical background    Some strategies    Version release / Greetings

Historical background    Version release / Greetings    Bibliography