how to play morabaraba

How to Play Morabaraba: A Beginner’s Guide

If you are looking for a traditional African board game that is easy to learn, yet offers strategic depth and challenges, then look no further than Morabaraba. Also known as Twelve Men’s Morris, this ancient game has been played for centuries and continues to captivate players of all ages.

What is Morabaraba?

Morabaraba is a two-player game that originated in Southern Africa. The game is played on a board with three concentric squares, connected by lines, forming a grid of 24 intersections. Each player has twelve counters, often represented by cows or other animals.

how to play morabaraba

Objective of the Game

The goal of Morabaraba is to either form a mill or immobilize your opponent, leaving them with only two counters or blocking them from making any valid moves. A mill is formed when a player aligns three of their counters in a row along any of the board’s lines.

Setup and Gameplay

At the start of the game, each player places their twelve counters on the intersections of the board. Players take turns moving one of their counters to an adjacent and empty intersection along the lines. Once all the counters have been placed on the board, players continue to move their counters in an attempt to form mills or immobilize their opponent.

Phase 1: Placing Counters

In the initial phase, both players alternately place one counter on any vacant intersection of the board until all twelve counters have been placed. The counters cannot be moved during this phase.

Phase 2: Moving Counters

After all the counters are placed, the second phase begins. During this phase, players take turns moving one of their counters to an adjacent and empty intersection along the lines. The counters can be moved vertically or horizontally, but not diagonally. Additionally, players cannot jump over their opponent’s counters.

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Phase 3: Flying Counters

Once a player is left with only three counters, they have entered the flying phase. During this phase, players can move their counters to any vacant intersection on the board, regardless of adjacency, allowing for more strategic possibilities.

Forming Mills and Capturing Counters

When a player forms a mill by aligning three of their counters along any line, they get to remove one of their opponent’s counters from the board. However, if an opponent’s counter is part of a mill, it cannot be captured unless all of their counters are part of a mill.

Strategy and Tips

Mastering Morabaraba requires careful planning and strategic thinking. Here are a few tips to improve your gameplay:

  • Focus on forming mills: Aim to align three of your counters as early as possible to create a mill and gain the advantage.
  • Block your opponent: Strategically position your counters to block your opponent’s moves and prevent them from forming mills or capturing your counters.
  • Maintain mobility: Keep your counters distributed across the board to have multiple options for movement and avoid being trapped.
  • Pay attention to your opponent’s moves: Be observant and anticipate your opponent’s plans to counter their strategies effectively.
  • Plan for the flying phase: Save your best moves for the flying phase, where you have more freedom to move your counters and create surprising combinations.


Morabaraba is a timeless game that combines simplicity with strategic depth, making it an engaging pastime for players of all skill levels. With this beginner’s guide, you are now equipped to embark on your Morabaraba journey. So gather a friend, set up the board, and enjoy the thrill of this traditional African game.

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