Dala Game

[Page 139]This game is played by all Baggara tribes. I learnt it from the Homr and have seen it played by the Rizeigat. It is very much more difficult than Sîja, to play well, and is fully as worthy as draughts of the attention of European players.

Dar Homr contains very little sand and no stone at all, so Dâla is played on a raised board made of soft mud, divided into six rows of six squares, marked by holes, and the counters, of which each player has twelve, take the form of sharpened sticks, about six inches long. Those of one player are distinguished by removal of the bark, which is left on those of the other player.

The holes are called Nugâr (singular Nűgara) and the sticks 'Îdân (singular Űd). The players set the board by sticking in their sticks (tchakka is the verb) one at a time, alternately, the rule being that the four middle holes of the board must first be filled, after which a player may place his stick in any vacant hole he likes. The diagram, Fig. 2, shows a possible distribution of the twenty-four sticks on the board. Here, again, the setting of the board is done with a view to, and largely determines, the subsequent line of play and there is room for a high degree of skill in doing it.

The rule is that the two players make alternate moves. If a move brings three of the player's sticks into line and adjacent to each other, or (if four of the sticks were previously in line and adjacent) leaves [Page 140] three in line and adjacent, then the player can remove from the board anyone of his opponent's sticks which he may select.

Figure 3

This bringing of sticks into line and the resulting removal of one of the opponent's sticks is called a ta'na. Thus, in Fig. 2, by moving the stick X1 into line with X2 and X3 the player makes a ta'na and can remove any one of the sticks O.

If a player gets five sticks into the positions indicated in Fig. 3 he is said to have a " bull " which yields a ta’na every time he moves the stick X1 up or down, and, if it is beyond his opponent's power to break up the bull, he mocks him, saying, “Dejj! Tsp tsp, tsp, tsp, tsp" - these being the sounds the herdsboy makes to cause a bull to lead the herd straight ahead. Tactful remarks to a defeated opponent, in fact, are no part of the Homrawi convention. When the issue is no longer in doubt, for instance, he will pronounce the jingle "Jebbid Hateibak: Biga li'eibak" - “Pull up your little sticks: your game's up."

Last update January 6, 2010