Dara is a boardgame probably invented sometime during the 19th century in Africa. It is played extensively in Nigeria and by the Tuareg people of the Sahara. Good players in Africa are highly regarded. Champions travel from village to village, challenging the local players. Secrets for playing the game are passed from generation to generation.

I have been fascinated with this game since I discovered it in an article on the BBC website. The following picture is from that article and remains copyright of the BBC. It shows a Tuareg tribesman playing Dara, with the board drawn in the sand of the Sahara. Those are Colonial era rifle cartridges being used as pieces. 

I searched the net and wrote myself a guide to the game using the information that agreed from half a dozen sites. Having discovered the requirements and inspired by the above picture, I built my own travelling Dara set:

The cartridges came from a militaria collecting friend, the nuts from my local hardware store. The board is a piece of 2mm leather with the lattice for the 5cm squares scored in using a soldering iron. The tin is the overkill packaging that a wallet came in, of all things.

To try this game out, you need nothing so extravagant. The board is 30 squares in a 5 square by 6 square grid. Each of the two players needs 12 pieces.

The game is played as follows - Yes, there are only seven rules:

  1. Each player takes turns putting a counter on the squares of the board until all 24 counters are on the board.
  2. Each player takes a turn moving a counter into an adjacent empty square. Counters may be moved up, down, or sideways, but not diagonally.
  3. When a player gets three counters in a row, they get to remove one of their opponent's counters. This is known as "eating" the enemy.
  4. Players may not have more than three counters in a row at any time.
  5. A row made while placing all the counters on the board in does not count.
  6. Only one counter at a time may be removed from an opponent, even if more than one row is formed by a move.
  7. The game is won when your opponent can no longer make a row.

From the few games I have had, the initial set up where pieces are placed on the board is critical.

Unattributed content Copyright 2011 Julian M. Miles