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Shax is a mill game from Somalia. In central and southern regions of Somalia it is called jare (‘cut’).a[p. 1] Unlike most mill games, captures cannot be made during the placement phase.

History

Sometimes [the Bedouin] play at Shahh, Shantarah, and other games, of which they are passionately fond: with a board formed of lines traced in the sand, and bits of dry wood or camel’s earth acting pieces, they spend hour after hour, every looker-on vociferating his opinion, and catching at the men, till apparently the two players are those least interested in the game.b[pp. 179–80]

The game is mentioned in many stories of Somali poets and leaders (and poet-leaders), such as Garaad Xirsi Garaad Faarax (commonly known as “Wiil Waal”, ‘crazy boy’), the early 19th century ruler of Jigjiga (now part of Ethiopia); Yuusuf Cali Keenadiid (1837–1911), Sultan of Hobyo; and Sayid Maxamed Cabdulle Xasan (1856–1920), leader of the Dervish movement.a[p. 2]

Play

Placement phase

Shax is played on the large mill board, without diagonals.

Players take turns playing one of their pieces on a vacant point of the board. Unlike Twelve Men’s Morris, completing a mill during this phase does not allow you to remove an opponent’s piece.

Once all the pieces are on the board (and all 24 points are full), the player who first completed a mill removes one of their opponent’s pieces. If neither player completed a mill, the second player removes a piece.

Movement phase

Starting with the player who first completed a mill, players take turns moving one of their pieces along a line to a vacant space.

Each time a player forms a mill, they may remove an opponent’s piece, and reducing the opponent to two pieces wins the game.

If a player is completely blocked, the other player must make a move that allows them to move. If the ‘freeing’ move forms a mill, it may not capture. In this situation, traditionally the blocked player says jid i sii aan jar aheyn ‘give me a way without cutting’.

There is no ‘flying’ rule.

Scoring

Scores are kept by tracking one player’s consecutive wins with stones that match their pieces, placed in the centre of the board. As soon as a winning player loses a game, any score they have accumulated is removed from the middle. A player that wins four games in a row wins a ‘pool’; five in a row is a ‘girl’. In the past a prospective husband would “win” his wife from her consenting father in this manner.c[p. 503–5]

See also

Other general references include The Oxford History of Board Games, Math Games & Activities from Around the World (p. 9), A History of Board-Games Other Than Chess (p. 48), British Somaliland (pp. 129–33).

References

  1. (). ‘’.

  2. (). . Longman, Brown, Green, and Longmans: London.

  3. (). ‘’. The Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland vol. 61: pages 499–511.

  4. (). The Oxford History of Board Games. Oxford University Press: Oxford, England, UK. ISBN: 978-0-19-212998-7.

  5. (). Math Games & Activities from Around the World. Chicago Review Press: Chicago, IL, USA. ISBN: 1-55652-287-8.

  6. (). A History of Board-Games Other Than Chess. Oxford University Press: Oxford, England, UK. ISBN: 0-19-827401-7.

  7. (). . Hurst & Blackett: London, UK.