Star of Africa board game invented by Finns
Updated: Nov 17, 2023
Afrikan tähti ("Star of Africa") is a classic legendary Finnish board game designed in 1949 by Kari Mannerla. It's one of the most popular games found in almost every house in Finland. The game was published in 1951 in Helsinki for the first time. It has been translated into 16 languages and sold over four million copies. This famous game, where the players go across Africa on a journey to find the greatest diamond, has remained one of the most sold board games for more than 60 years in Finland. It's also a hit in the Nordic countries.
Kari Mannerla (1930 – 2006), the creator of the Afrikan Tähti game, was a Finnish board and card game designer and advertising agency executive. He got the inspiration when he read an article about the biggest diamond in the world, the Cullinan Diamond, Star of Africa, discovered in South Africa. Mannerla was then 19 years old and with his solid experience as a game designer, he thought that this was going to be a unique game.
The game was then published two years later and 10,000 copies were printed with the number accelerating every year. Additionally, Mannerla designed Afrikan tähti, a card version, solitaire card games, adventure party games, and the board game Inkan aarre (Treasure of the Inca) published in 2005, a game similar to Afrikan tähti but held in South America instead. Mannerla had a business career in an advertising agency where he retired as the chairman of the board of directors and died at the age of 76.
How to play
The game itself is quite simple, and anyone can play, even those who don't understand Finnish. It's also a great way to discover and know Africa.
Each player will have to find the African star and travel by air, sea, or land, and bring it safely to Cairo or Tangier. On the way, the players might discover diamonds that will earn money, a gangster to rob you, or a horseshoe that will give you the chance to win the game.
Afrikan Tähti today
The Afrikan Tähti game is the most famous Finnish board game and still very popular among Finnish people today. The game has sold over two million games in Finland and internationally as well, marketed most especially in Nordic countries. All publishing rights are directly copyrighted to Kari Mannerla's five daughters. Later, the game was made more complicated and developed its first official expansion called Afrikan tähti Retkikunnat ("The expeditions") that was published in 2014.
The importance and reputation of the Afrikan-Tähti-Game have also paved the way to reach the Finnish Museum of Games in the city of Tampere. The museum exhibition consists of 100 Finnish games. In the year 2011, this popular game turned 60 years. Game championships were held in Espoo which resulted in the victory of a 12-year-old.
As described by the Finnish Museum of Games, Afrikan Tähti is a Finnish classic and a game experience that brings generations together.
Controversy of the game
The game has sparked controversial debates in 2021 about whether the game is racist because of the connection between colonialism and the vast human suffering of African people through slave trades, despotic rulings, and economic exploitation. The debaters would like to cancel the game entirely and end its production. However, canceling and ending the game will not erase cultural history. We should learn from it and make the future better instead.
The game is loved by many families internationally and is the first contact of the African continent. The debate is welcome, but we should try to develop the game instead. After all, it is a game for children.
Published in 6/2020. Updated in 22/2021.