Ayo Opon

close up picture of Ayo Opon players
Men playing the Ayo opon game. Photo by: Gbenga Adenuga, filmmaker

Ayo opon, or Jonda, is a two-player African board game of strategy, popular among Yoruba people in the Western part of Nigeria, and Igbos in the East, where it is called nchorokoto. Two persons play in the Ayo game, with the board, a plank of wood consisting of two rows of pits containing seeds of Caeselpina crista, with the aim of capturing more seeds than the opponent. The Ayo game consists of the movement, along coordinates defined in space, of physical pointers. In the Ayo game, formal and explicit rules define the movement of individual pointers as well as their interaction.

Ayo Opon  is played mainly on a wooden frame. The frame comprises 12 drilled slots — six on each side. Each slot contains four seeds. That is, each of the two players has 24 seeds at the beginning of every game. A player initiates the game by taking seeds from any of the slots on his own side, and distributing them anti-clockwise. At the end of every distributive turn, a player captures a seed or seeds from his opponent’s side if the last slot there contains less than three seeds, It is a game of mutual suspicion. Each’ player schemes to capture more seeds from the opponent’s side. And whoever captures more than 24 seeds at the end of a game is the winner.


The internal properties of the Ayo game are learnt through concept formulation, simulation, and knowledge-based updating. This is because the properties were not initially understood or described for direct formulation of the logical structure and behaviour, such as consumer behaviour, for instance. It has been suggested that the playing of games is one of the keys to defining the characteristics of man. The need to develop problem-solving strategies has motivated the simulation of learning system dynamics using the Ayo game as an experimental tool. Attempts are being made to apply these strategies to a wide range of learning systems due to connection between games, complexity, and intelligence. By applying Artificial Intelligence methods, a model of prediction of the game is developed and validated, such as the fascinating mathematical characterization of the winnig strategy of the Completely Determined Game achieved in the work of computer scientist, Akinyemi Ibidapo of the University in Abeokuta . Integer sequences have also been generated from the study of the game, with the obtainment of repetitive self-replicating patterns.


The Jonda is a member of the family of board games called Mancala, which is widespread in the tropical and subtropical regions of Asia, Africa, and adjacent islands. The game is usually depicted in Yoruba movies as one in which individuals who were normally secretive were made to divulge useful information, due to the excitement. At the turn of the new century, Olufemi Afolayan, a computer analyst, designed a computer version of the game. Afolayan who was computer science teacher at Federal Polytechnic, Ado Ekiti ensures a fool-proof design which makes it impossible for a player to cheat.
Tell January 17, 2000

Tope Apoola
Profession: Writer