How to play Gulugufe - the Butterfly Game

David Trounce

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Gulugufe is Chitonga for “Butterfly” (the design says it all) and comes from Mozambique.

A favourite among the women in Mozambique, Gulugufe is a two player abstract strategy board game in the Alquerque family of board games. When we think of two player strategy board games in the west, we think, “Chess” and, “No Friends Nigel”.

This is not the case in Africa. In Mozambique two player strategy games are among the most social past times. Like Dammi (Draughts in Ghana) and Bao in Malawi, Gulugufe is a game that involves plenty of onlookers, plenty of jeering and plenty of thumping the foot – or the board – in order to intimidate your opponent.

The rules are simple and the strategies are endless – which makes Gulugufe a great deal of fun. Especially if your using a genuine Gulugufe board game from Africa.

The Play of the Butterfly Game

The goal is to capture all of the opponents pieces, or be the one with more pieces when no more pieces can be taken by either player, or, stalemate the other opponents pieces such that they are immobilised.

There are a total of 19 intersection points for the pieces to be played upon. Each player has nine pieces. One player plays dark, and the other player plays light, however, any two colours will suffice.

The centre position is kept empty at the start of the Gulugufe game. Pieces are captured by hopping over them.

A piece moves one space per turn onto a vacant intersection point following the pattern on the board.

Captures are done by the short leap as in Draughts and Alquerque, where the adjacent enemy piece is hopped over onto a vacant point on the other side. The captures must be done in a straight line following the pattern on the board.

Multiple captures are allowed in Gulugufe as long as there is one vacant point in between the enemy pieces, and a vacant point beyond the last enemy piece. Captures are compulsory. If there are several options to capture in one turn, the player may choose any one of them.

Captured pieces are removed from the board.

If a player cannot perform a move or a capture because its pieces have been blocked or immobilised by the other players pieces, this is known as a stalemate, and the player loses; the other player wins.

If neither player can capture anymore pieces, the player with more pieces wins. If both players have the same amount of pieces, then the game is a draw.

Gulugufe is truly one of those rare and unique board games played by millions but known to only a few. It has been tucked away for so long and now it’s time to play! I recommend you give it a go.

Image source: Gulugufe - African Board Games and Gifts at Games from Everywhere.


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