Gebeta is a traditional board game in Tigrai, a family of two-player turn-based strategy played with small stones, beans, or seeds and rows of holes or pits in the earth, a board or other playing surface. The objective is usually to capture all or some set of the opponent’s pieces.
Archaeological evidences has it that, it has been played in Yeha and Axum as early as these kingdoms civilizations.
Among the earliest evidences of the game are fragments of a pottery board and several rock cuts found in Axum and Yeha in Tigrai, which are dated by archaeologists to between the 6th and 7th century AD. The game may have been mentioned by Giorgis of Segla in his 14th century Ge’ez text “Mysteries of Heaven and Earth,” where he refers to a game called Qarqis, a term used in Ge’ez to refer to both Gebeta and Santaraz (modern Santaraz, Tigrian Chess)
The number of holes or pits on the ground or board slightly differs from locale to locale. Commonly its 6×3 (18) holes but there are also 6×2 (12) hole-based version.
There are different versions of the game throughout the world. In most cases, its named as Mancala.
Some of the most popular mancala games (with regard to distribution area, the numbers of players and tournaments, and publications) are:
- Gebeta (ገበጣ) – played in Tigrai, Eritrea, and Ethiopian (especially in Tigrai)
- Alemungula – played in Sudan and its border with Ethiopian
- Ali Guli Mane or Pallanguzhi – played in Southern India.
- Bao la Kiswahili – played in most of East Africa including Kenya, Tanzania, Comoros, Malawi, as well as some areas of DR Congo and Burundi.
- Congklak (a.k.a congkak, congka, tjongklak, jongklak) – played in Malay Archipelago by Malay (i.e. Malay people).
- Dakon (or dhakon) – played in Indonesian archipelago (especially in Java island).
- Hoyito – played in the Dominican Republic.
- Igisoro – played in Rwanda.
- Kalah – North American variation, the most popular variant in the Western world.
- Lamlameta – played in Ethiopia.
- Ô ăn quan – played in Vietnam.
- Omanu Guntalu (in Telugu) – played in rural areas of Telangana, India.
- Opón ayò – among the Yorubas of Nigeria.
- Oware (awalé, awélé, awari) – Ashanti, but played world-wide with close variants played throughout West Africa (e.g., ayo by Yorubas and ishe by Igalas) and in the Caribbean.
- Sungka – It was first described by the Jesuit priest Father José Sanchez in his dictionary of the Bisaya language (Cebuano) in 1692 manuscript as kunggit. Father José Sanchez who had arrived on the Philippines in 1643 wrote that at the game was played with seashells on a wooden, boat-like board. The Aklanon people still call the game kunggit.
- Toguz korgool or Toguz kumalak – played in Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan.
- Vwela – played by the nyemba (lucazi) people distributed between Southern Angola, Northern East Namibia and Zambia.
They differ from other mancala types in that the player’s store is included in the placing of the seeds. The most common type has seven holes for each player, in addition to the player store holes. This version has identical rules throughout its range. But there are also numerous variations with the number of holes and rules by region. Sometimes more than one version can be played in a single locality.
Although more than 800 names of traditional mancala games are known, some names denote the same game, while some names are used for more than one game. Almost 200 modern invented versions have also been described.