In the northern regions of Somalia it is known as shax(pronounced “Shah”), in the central and southern regions it is called jar (literally meaning “cut”), other names include Djelga or Mororova. Shax has been played in the Horn of Africa, particularly in Somalia dating back centuries, it is still popular today. It is typically played by marking a board on the ground, and using stones or sticks as pieces. Shax has also had an influence on Somali literature, with mentions of it’s gameplay and strategies. Because the historical Somali people were nomadic, Shax was also used for communication between different clans.


Shax is played on the same board as Nine Men’s Morris, but with twelve pieces for each player. Play consists of two phases: the setup phase and the movement phase. In the setup phase, players take turns putting one piece on the board. Unlike in Nine Men’s Morris, no pieces are removed when a jare (three-in-a-row, mill, literally: “cut”) is formed during the setup. It is only noted who formed the first jare.

In the movement phase, the player who formed the first jare moves first (if no jare was formed in the setup phase, the second player starts). He does so by removing one arbitrary piece of the opponent in order to create space for movement. The opponent does the same. Then players take turns moving their stones as in the other Morris games.

If a jare is formed in the movement phase, the player removes a piece of the opponent. Note that – again unlike other Morris games – pieces in a jare are never protected against capture. Another important difference is that blocking does not constitute a win. If a player is locked in, he may demand that the opponent moves his stones until the blockade is removed. No advantage may be taken from these extra moves. In particular, if a jare is formed during these moves, then no capture is performed. There is no “flying phase” when a player is reduced to three pieces or less. The player who loses all his pieces loses the game.