Our family has embarked on virtual travels to various countries and regions. To explore these countries and their cultures, we have followed along with the festivals, cooked and eaten traditional foods, learned of traditional handicrafts with hands on exploration, along with many activities to immerse ourselves. Chronicled here are some of these activities.

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Thursday, January 8, 2015

West African Game: How to Play the Nigerian Game "Derrah" | With Printable Game Board

Derrah is a game that's been played for several hundred years in Nigeria by the Dakarkari people, and is also known as Dara and Doki. It's played in various regions in West Africa. According to the Cincinnati Art Museum, good players were highly regarded, with champions traveling from village to village to challenge local players. 

This game can be described as a more complex Tic-Tac-Toe - we are all enjoying playing it. Strategy starts immediately, as game pieces are put on the board. Played on a 5 x 6 grid, both players try to form rows of three, which gives them the opportunity to get rid of one of their opponent's counters. This is called "eating their enemy" just like a lion eats its prey. 

Traditionally, a board is simply 30 holes dug out of the sand, with nuts and sticks used as counters. 

Playing Derrah

What you need:

  • Printable Board Game - I created a 2 page document - you can print the rules on one side, and game board on the other or even print the board separately and glue it on decorative cardstock
  • 12 game pieces each. As long as you can differentiate them, use anything you have at home - you can use pennies and quarters, two different types of beans (as seen in photo above), even pebbles and short sticks.
How to play:

At first, each player takes turns placing one game piece at a time onto an empty square until all 24 pieces are on the board. Any rows made during this stage do not count. Start strategizing during this phase - placing game pieces in such a way that they can be moved toward each other to form rows, as well as blocking your opponent in their potential rows.

Play begins with players taking turns moving one game piece at a time onto empty adjacent squares, either up, down, or sideways - but never diagonally. 

Players are moving their game pieces with the goal to form rows of three. 
 - rows of four or more are forbidden
 - diagonal rows do not count
 - once your pieces are in a row of 3, those game pieces are locked into those spaces for the rest of the game

When you succeed in getting three in a row, you can "eat your enemy" - that is, you can now remove any one piece belonging to your opponent, as long as it isn't already part of its own three in a row. 
 - only one of your opponent's pieces can be removed, even if your move resulted in more than one row.  

Once a player gets 3 in a row, she or he can eat the enemy, like a lion eats its prey - that is to say, remove one of the opponent's pieces off the board.
The game is one when one player can no longer make a row of three (ie, only has two game pieces left)

Have fun!

We also have two more West African board games you can make and play at home:
  • you can make your own mancala game of Oware that is very popular throughout Africa (and in our house), with our post here.
  • you can print and play the Liberian game Queah, a strategy game. Find our instructions here.

Find all our homemade toys and games here.

Find more cultural and historical activities at the following linkups:


  1. Where's your wrestling post gone? It was so interesting and I came over to comment and it had disappeared! Ah well, I found this one instead (it hasn't come through my emails yet), so I shall comment on that one instead!!
    This sounds like a game which would transfer really well to a computer. And great for taking to restaurants whilst you're waiting for the food to arrive. I am going to save the printable version and try it out with my children. Thanks for all your hard work making it!

    1. Bringing it to a restaurant's a great idea, especially since you can just fold the "board" so it doesn't take up so much room.

  2. This certainly sounds more interesting to me than tic tac toe, that game drives me nuts.

  3. I will have to try this with my boys! It sounds very interesting.

    1. I think you and your boys will appreciate it Phyllis, do let me know what you think!


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