African checkers

Kharbaga (African checkers variant)

Kharbaga belongs to the Zamma family. It is an African checkers variant played on a special pattern that is different from the well-known Alquerque pattern. Whereas the Alquerque pattern reduces the number of diagonals, the Kharbaga pattern reduces the number of orthogonals. The result is a different game dynamic. It is a very attractive checkers variant, not the least drawish. Although the number of squares is only 42, the many movement freedoms of the pieces make it a complex game.

Counters are obliged to follow the pattern on the board. The pieces can step in the three forward directions, and capture, by the short leap, in all directions. Goal is to capture all the opponent’s counters. Counters are promoted to Mullahs (Sultans) at the last rank. If the counter, during a capturing sequence, makes an intermediate landing on a promotion square, it does not promote to Mullah. The Mullah moves and captures in all directions. It can move any number of squares, like the King in international draughts, and land anywhere behind a captured piece. Capture is obligatory. Two types of variants have been implemented, one in which captured counters stay on the board until the capturing sequence has ended, and one in which counters are removed instantly. Note that one must always choose the line with the most captures.

A counter moves to an empty adjacent point. If an adjacent point is occupied by an enemy counter and the point directly behind is vacant, then one must jump over it and capture it, as in checkers. Several pieces may be captured like this in a single turn. By way of combinations one must try and attain material advantage, by exchanging one piece for two, or two for three, etc. In the endgame, material advantage generally leads to a win. Mullahs are powerful, and one can sometimes sacrifice a piece to achieve promotion. Remember that men standing on the orthogonal matrix have greater scope.

I have also created a variant where counters can move backwards. It’s unclear whether or not this variant is authentic. Nevertheless, it is an interesting variant because it works very fine.


Mokhtar Ould Hamidoun, Précis sur la Mauritanie. IFAN Saint-Louis (Mauretania) 1952.

A thanks to Peter Michaelsen for providing valuable information.

☛  You can download my free Kharbaga program here (updated 2020-10-16), but you must own the software Zillions of Games to be able to run it. (I recommend the download version.)

© Mats Winther 2006