Maruba (or Moruba) is four-row multiple lap version of the Mancala family that is played by the Pedi people in the Limpopo and Mpumalunga provinces of South Africa. It is usually played on a wooden board with holes carved on it although sometimes the game is played in holes scooped from the ground. In Maruba the captured stones are removed from the board. The counters may be stones or seeds.

Maruba board
Figure 1: Maruba board


Maruba is played by two players on a board of four rows of eight holes. Each player starts the game with 29 stones arranged as shown in Figure 1. Each player puts two stones in each hole of his outer row. In the inner row the players put two stones in every hole except the one on their extreme left, which is left empty, and the one next to it, into which a single stone is placed.

The players take turns. Each player picks up the contents of any hole in his two rows (the two rows nearest him) which contains two or more stones and then places one stone at a time in each hole in a counter-clockwise direction from the start hole. The player must only place the stones in holes in his own two rows.

If the last stone is placed into a hole that contains one or more stones the contents of this hole and the stone just dropped into the hole are picked up and the process is repeated for another lap around the board.

If the last stone is placed into an empty hole in the player’s outer row the move is over and his opponent plays.


If the last stone is placed into an empty hole in the player’s inner row and his opponent’s inner row hole directly opposite is occupied, the player captures (eats) the contents of both his opponent’s opposite holes (from the inner and outer rows) and removes them from the board. The player’s turn is over. If the opponent’s opposite inner row hole is empty, no capture is made and the player’s turn is over.

Single stones can only be used to begin a move when no other hole on the player’s side contains more than one stone. In this case, single stones can only move if the adjacent hole is empty.

The winner is the player who captures the most stones.