Should managers be encouraged to play board games as part of their training and development?
“It’s an easy game to learn and it’s connected to our ancestral past.”
Jawara, a devoted teacher and maker of the game who hails from Antigua, speaks to SaharaTV about how this game spiritually connects Africans home and abroad.
There’s hardly anyone that hasn’t heard about the board game of chess. But what I wonder is how many people know of its origin. No, I’m not talking about the chess maestro, Kasparov or the computer challenger “Deep Blue.”
“Chess is generally reckoned to be primarily a tactical game, whereas Go has more of a balance of strategy and tactics. Initiative — In both games having the initiative can give one control of the man/ woman on the other side…”
Described as the “King of games” in some circles, the word chess is derived from the Persian “shah,” which means king.
“The board was developed between the third and sixth centuries in India and is comprised of 64 small squares. Only two players can play against each other, using 16 pieces each. The aim is to checkmate your opponent by threatening their king in such a way that it cannot escape or be freed by another piece in the next move.”
Arguably the world’s oldest board game, ayo — as it is called in Nigeria — or oware — as it is called in Ghana — made its way through the Atlantic passages during the slave trade and has survived many generations resurfacing in Caribbean Islands like Antigua and Jamaica.
“A distribution and capture game… connecting Africans in the diaspora…”
In May 2021, the BBC ran an article “Battle of wits: Antiguans revel in ancient board game,” highlighting the “chess” of Antigua and Barbuda is a mind sport, psyching out one’s opponent is as critical as choosing one’s next move. Now picture this:
“The rudimentary apparatus and simple rules belie Warri’s strategic depth. Bringing one’s A-game means focus, acumen and unflappable resolve.”
The lively scene is mirrored on street corners across the Eastern Caribbean nation where the age-old game, brought here by ancestors from Africa, is as popular today as centuries ago.
“Everyone plays, from young to old; it’s been handed down from generation to generation,” explains local resident Trevor Simon, who has claimed the world champion title multiple times since first entering international contests in the 1990s…”
Warri has long provided a forum for discussing everything from politics to gossip. In colonial times it was banned by Europeans who feared its ability to draw African slaves together socially, driving it underground.
In addition to its cultural significance, there is another reason Mr Simon is one of Warri’s staunchest advocates. Co-founder of the country’s Warri Academy, he has seen the dividends it reaps in children’s mathematical ability.
“When you teach kids to play, you don’t just teach them the game but also our history and how it can help them mathematically […] We write a maths problem out for them and show them how Warri can solve it.”
Come in Rwanda… let’s hear it for Igisoro
Igisoro is a two-player game of the mancala family. It is a variant of the Omweso game of the Baganda people (Uganda), and it is played primarily in Burundi and Rwanda.
Igisoro, like Omweso and other mancalas from Eastern Africa such as Bao, is played with a 4×8 board of pits and 64 seeds. A player’s territory is the two rows of pits closest to them.
Ayo (pronounce aah-yoh) is a traditional game played by the Yoruba people who reside in South Western Nigeria. Known as the “Game of the Intellectual”, this game requires a lot of “mathematical skill.”
In English, the game of Ayo is mostly played and enjoyed by the Yoruba ethnic group in Nigeria for fun and intelligence. It is otherwise known as ‘Awele’.
Like Igisoro, Ayo, according to CultureDays:
“…is a popular “strategy board game” that originated in West Africa and is engaging and addictive! The objective is to win all the houses (holes)…”
In summing up, isn’t it about time “staff retreats” or perhaps “C-suite retreats” start adopting board games as training for strategy. If chess has been accepted as a thinking cap, so why not Igisoro?
Just my musings for now, but just think about it…