An ancient game
Family of games
Wari is an ancient game belonging to a family of board games known as Mancala/Mankala.
When Malawians have finished their working day, some relax by playing bao (or bawo), a varient of Wari. In Malawi, bao often has four rows of holes, two for each player. Played on a board or in hollows scooped out the earth, one game can last for several hours or even days, which is maybe why it’s often called the ‘African chess’.
Mancala/Mankala may have its origins in Africa. It has certainly been played on the continent for many thousands of years. Today, hundreds of different versions are played across the countries of Africa, all with their own names.
Customarily, Wari is played on boards in Malawi. But in some rural areas, children play the game using dips or holes scooped out of the ground. Stones are typically used for the counters or pieces; the game is won by the first player to capture more than half of the 48 stones.
Wari is a game of mental skill and practice is needed to reach a higher level of play.