This game is usually played by children in Kenya and in parts of South India. The photograph at the left is a commercial version made by World Wide Games, Delaware, Ohio. (US). The name Shisima can be translated into the English language as "a body of water". The playing pieces are called imbalavali - translated into English as "water bugs". Thus, storage of an original version of this game would be a problem for a physical Museum!
The board in Kenya or elsewhere is usually drawn on the ground in soft earth. It is an octagon - or eight-sided polygon. The lines are three diameters joining the endpoints of the octagon through the center of the board. Each player has three imbalavali, three light and three dark. The intent of the game is to get three counters of the same color in a row. The game starts by placing the three dark counters on the three imbalavali drawings on the top of the board, and the three light counters on the three imbalavali drawings on the bottom of the board.
Player one moves a light counter from a starting point to any adjacent empty point, including the center point (where the water is - the red circles). Player two then moves a dark counter from a starting point to any adjacent empty point, also including the center point if that is still empty. Play continues in this manner, but "jumping" over an imbalavali is not permitted, since "water bugs" don't jump!
Last update March 30, 2010