Kojo and the guy played a game. It was now pouring down with rain and the seller was not planning to go anywhere until the storm had moved on. They placed four beans in each of the cups and Kojo took a start. He scooped up the four beans from the third hole on his side and placed them, one, to three, four in the following anticlockwise bowls. The seller now did something similar, taking beans out of the sixth one and placing them around the board. The game’s rules are foolishly simple, but like all good games, the strategies that are needed to ensure you capture opponent’s beans while protecting your own, and the mathematical genius it needs to see several moves ahead, means it is one of the most fiendish games you could ever play. The aim is to capture any beans from your opponent’s side on their own or with one other bean. You do that by placing your last bean from a turn in the cup with only one or two beans in it. If that works, you can look to the previous cups and see whether they only have one or two beans, and you can take these also. Sounds easy? Your strategy has to be both defensive and attacking. Defensive in that you have to guard your single and double beans from being captured, either by ensuring they are not vulnerable from the other side, or by adding more beans into the cup on your go. Attacking because you have to set traps up on the other side to force you opponent to give up beans. So many strategies are possible. You can try and store up a stack of beans in one cup in the centre, and suddenly not only seed the other side when their cups are empty, but then capture the ones you have seeded because there were enough beans to go twice round the table. Or trickle the beans across to the other side when you need to, with a trap set to capture most of them on the next turn. Or set other traps whereby it doesn’t matter where your opponent moves to, you have beans ready to pounce on him.
The game goes through three distinct phases; the opener, where a few beans are swapped as the sides set up their strategies; either to exhaust their bean supply by taking beans from the front end of their side, or stock up for later by taking from the back of their playing area. The middle game, where most of the best moves are; either pieces are removed by stealth, or there is a big build up of beans in one cup which brings devastation to one side or the other at a certain time. Then there is the endgame, where the remaining straggling pieces need to be carefully captured, and you have to control the flow of where the beans cross from your side to your opponent’s.