|Mweso, mweisho, omwesso|
| Played in: |
|Captures are reintroduced|
|There are reverse holes|
|8 holes per row|
Omweso, sometimes shortened to mweso or spelled mweisho, is the national mancala game of Uganda. It was the favorite game of King Mutasa I, the 30st king of the Buganda who ruled the country when in 1862 the English researcher Speke reached this part of Africa. The best player of the 19th century was Mukasa who was Katikkiro (prime minister) during the reign of Mukasa I and Mwanga II. The omweso rules were first described in Europe by R. S. Shackell in 1934.
The okwesa ritual, which includes a game of omweso, was part of the crowning ceremony on the sacred Buddo hill. This ritual was probably as old as the kingdom itself founded by Kintu Kato more than 600 years ago.
The king played omweso as a popular pastime in the royal palace called twekobe with his wives, sisters and important ministers. Since the game was much played by members of the state administration as well, it could promote a professional career.
People of the lower classes rarely played omweso and women were discouraged by being told that they would be not developping breasts if they would play the game. It was also forbidden to play the game in the night.
After Uganda was occupied by the British aggressors in 1894, omweso lost much of its former importance. Many men were brought to cotton plantations which resembled forced labor camps.
Omweso was revived by the Bataka Movement which was started in 1947 by James Miti and Sezario Mulumba, then by the return of Sir Edward Mutesa II from his British exile in 1955. The renewed appreciation of African values and indigenous cultural achievements made the game once again very popular in Uganda.
The most important official tournaments are the Baganda Clan Tournament, the Kampala District Championship, the Inter-District Tournament and the All Uganda Championship. There were tournaments at the Mind Sports Olympiad (MSO) in London (2000) and Cambridge (2001-2003), England.
The strongest player is Hudson Kyagaba from Uganda. Other strong players are Abdu and Umaru Semakula, Sofasi Ddamba, B. Kityo Mukasa, Dirisa Ssemogerere and Dirisa Nsubuga.
Omweso players are organized in the International Omweso Society (IOS), which has members in Uganda, the UK, the Channel Islands and the Czech Republic. The society has 25 districts in Uganda in three regions (Buganda, Eastern Region, Western Region). In Kampala alone, the capital of Uganda, there are nine omweso clubs.
Jochen Wertenauer, a German who lives in Erdmannshausen near Stuttgart, has written a computer program for omweso, which, however, uses wrong rules.
In 1972 Driedger wrote "[t]oday it is played on national television every day for fifteen minutes before the news".
Omweso requires a board of 32 pits, arranged with eight pits lengthwise towards the players, and four pits deep. Each player's territory is the 16 pits on their side of the board. In addition, 64 undifferentiated seeds are needed.
The normal way to win the game is to be the last player to be able to make a legal move, possible by capturing all an opponent's stones or reducing the opponent to no more than one seed in each pit. Alternatively, a player can win by capturing on both ends of the board in one turn.
Before the game, four seeds are placed in each of the eight pits closest to a player, to ensure that both players have exactly 32 seeds. The first player is chosen by lot. This player arranges all owned seeds on their side of the board according to preference. Then, the second player also arranges their seeds. The first player then makes the first sowing move.
Play consists of turns, each of which may involve several moves. A player moves by selecting a pit with at least two seeds, and sowing them one by one around their side of the board in a counter-clockwise direction from the starting pit. The player may only sow from one of the sixteen pits in their territory, and the sowing proceeds around this territory, not directly involving the opponent's side.
Although in the past it was common for players to spend much time in thought, in modern tournaments only three seconds of thought is allowed per turn. The referee counts omu, ebiri, and if the turn is not started the other player may steal it.
If the last sowed seed lands in a previously occupied pit, all seeds in that pit, including the one just placed, are immediately sown, before the opponent's turn. This continues until the last sowing ends in an empty pit.
If the last seed sown lands in one of the player's eight inner pits, which is occupied, and furthermore both the opponent's pits in this same column are occupied, then all seeds from these two pits are captured and sown starting from the pit where this capturing move began.
|Reverse holes. White for South, black for North.|
Instead of sowing in a counterclockwise direction, a player may sow clockwise from any of their four leftmost pits if this results in a direct capture. During a long continued move, a player may play both forward sowing and reverse capturing moves, and is never compulsed to prefer one over the other as long as the conditions are met.
There are five winning conditions:
- Okwa bulijo: the normal way to win the game is to be the last player left with a legal move. The normal victory is worth one point.
- Okutema: this victory is achieved by Emitwe-Ebiri ("cutting-off the head"). If a player captures the contents of all four endpits of his opponent, he wins two points.
- Akawumbi: a special case of Emitwe-Ebiri, which occurs when a player captures seeds from each of an opponent's pits. The last seeds must be from an endpit. This victory is worth 12 points (in some tournaments just six points).
- Akakyala: in some tournaments, a player may win by capturing in each of two consecutive moves, before the opponent has captured his first seed. It is worth two points.
- Okukoneeza: in some tournaments, a player may win when he has in one pit three seeds, in the following pit two seeds and in the next pit one seed, before the opponent has captured his first seed.
A player has to gain 12 points to win a match.
It is possible for a move to go on forever. In tournament play, a player is allowed up to three minutes to finish his move - if this cannot be done, the game is annulled.
Never-ending omweso moves have been analyzed by mathematicians. The Mayer Test developped in 2001 by Steven Meyer, Professor of Physics at the Milwaukee School of Engineering (Wisconsin, USA), is used to determine whether a position can lead to a never-ending sowing.
- Anna, M.
- (1938) 'The Mweso Game among the Basoga', in Primitive Man; 11.
- Braunholtz, H. J.
- (1931) 'The Game of Mweso in Uganda', in Man: A Monthly Record of Anthropological Science; 31 (July): 121-122 plus Plate G.
- Driedger, W.
- (1972) 'The Game of Bao or Mancala in East Africa', in MILA (Institute of African Studies, University of Nairobi); (1): 3.
- Fernald, R. D.
- (1978) 'A Comparison of Four Variations of Mancala found in Central Africa' in Anthropos: Internationale Zeitschrift für Völker- und Sprachenkunde; 73: 205-214.
- Ilukor, Y.
- (1978) The Game of Amwesoro, Kampala: Department of Physics, Makere University.
- Kagwa, A.
- (Undated) Empisa za Baganda.
- Kenny, M. G.
- (1978) 'Carved Rock Gaming-Boards in Western South Nyanza, Kenya', inAzania: Journal of the British Institute in Eastern Africa; 8: 189-192.
- Lanning, E. C.
- (1956) 'Rock-cut Mweso Boards', in Uganda Journal: The Journal of the Uganda Society (Kampala, Uganda); 20 (March): 97-98.
- Mayega, J. V.
- (1974) Omweso: A Mathematical Investigation of an African board game, Kampala: Department of Mathematics, Makerere University.
- Mayega, J. V.
- (1986) Omweso: Kyawandiikibwa, Kampala: Mubaka Printers / Banana Books.
- Murray, H. J. R.
- (1951) A History of Board-Games other than Chess, Oxford: Oxford University Pres: 217-219.
- Nsimbi, M. B.
- (1970) Omweso: A Game People Play in Uganda (Occasional Paper #6) , Berkeley: University of California, African Studies Center.
- Russ, L.
- (2000) The Complete Mancala Games Book: How to Play the Worlds Oldest Board Games, New York: Marlowe & Company; 113-116.
- Sandeman, M.
- (2002) 'Omweso: Ugandas National Game', in Abstract Games Magazine; Issue 11 (Autumn): 23-25.
- Shackell, R. S.
- (1934) 'Mweso: The Board Game', in Uganda Journal (Kampala, Uganda); 2 (July): 14-20.
- Shackell, R. S.
- (1935) 'More about Mweso' in Uganda Journal (Kampala, Uganda); 3 (July): 119-129.
- Sheppard, T.
- (1931) 'A Mweso Board from Mombasa', in Man: A Monthly Record of Anthropological Science; 31: 245.
- Tamale, S.
- (2005)'Eroticism, Sensuality and Women's Secrets among the Baganda: A Critical Analysis' in Feminist Africa; 5.
- Townshend, P.
- (1977) 'Le Jeux de Mancala au Zaïre, au Ruanda et au Burundi', in Les Cahiers de CEDAF ASDOC Studies; Tervuren: Institut AfricainCEDAF / Africa Instituut-ASDOC, 3: 30-32.
- Uganda YMCA Mweso Council (Ed.).
- (1999) Amateeka Agafuga Omweso Mu Uganda, Kampala: Y.M.C.A. Nakasero.
- Wayland, E. J.
- (1937) 'Notes on the Board Game known as Mweso in Uganda', in Uganda Journal (Kampala, Uganda) 1936-37; 4: 84.
- Welter, C. P.
- (Undated) 'Statistics and Mweso', in Ad Absurdum, Kampala: Makere University (Hg.): 17-18.
- Wernham, B.
- (2002) Omweso: The Royal Mancala Game of Uganda (Boardgames in Academia V). Paper presented at Board Game Studies Colloquium V, Barcelona (21th-25th April 2002).
- Zaslavsky, C.
- (1974) Africa Counts: Number and Pattern in African Culture, Boston: Prindle, Weber & Schmidt: 116, 122-124, 127-128 & 133-136.