Play oware

Playing oware


This is a count and capture game for two players which is popular all over Africa (though its name varies). It’s believed to be the oldest game on earth.

The game can seem tricky at first but once you start to play you will quickly get the hang of it.


You will need:

  • An empty 12 egg carton (or two 6 egg ones stuck together with tape)
  • 48 beads, dried beans or small pieces of dried pasta
  • 2 empty pots


Setting up the game

Oware board made from egg boxes


1. Remove the lid from the egg carton to make your game board. You may choose to decorate it at this point.

2. Place 4 beads into each section of the board. Each player is also given a pot to store their captured beads.

3. The two players must sit facing each other with the board between them. Each player ‘owns’ the 6 sections directly in front of them.

4. In order to decide who should start, one player should secretly place a bead in one of their closed fists. If the other player correctly guesses which hand it is in, they go first.


Playing the game

Counting and capturing beads


Each player's turn has two stages: count and capture.

1. Count

  • The player must pick up all the beads from one of their sections and then, moving around the board anti-clockwise, drop one bead into each of the next sections in turn.
  • As play progresses there may be more and more seeds distributed each turn. If a player gets back round to the section that they picked the beads up from, they must leave it empty and continue counting out the beads in an anti-clockwise direction until they’re all gone.

2. Capture

  • If by dropping their final bead the player made one of their opponent's sections contain 2 or 3 beads, they can capture all the beads in that section and add them to their pot. 
  • The player can then look at the second to last bead they dropped. Did it make the section contain 2 or 3 beads? If yes, they can capture all of those two.
  • The player continues working backwards collecting beads from their opponent's side until they reach a section that has less than 2 or more than 3 beads. Then their turn is over.


Ending the game

The winner of the game is the first to capture 25 beads.

If both players capture 24 beads, one player runs out of beads or it proves impossible to capture any more beads, both players must agree that the game is over.