Mancala is one of the world’s oldest board games. Mancala boards were discovered in the ruins of ancient Roman bathhouses. But it’s believed that even older versions of the game may have existed.
Mancala might look simple enough, but it has a learning curve; our game guide will help you learn how to play and, most importantly, win!
What is Mancala?
Mancala is an ancient game; it even rivals other ancient classics like Chess and Shogi. The game was played in many different countries, including Europe, America, and Africa. While we may never know with complete certainty, it’s believed the game’s creation can be dated back to Eritrea and Ethiopia, around the 6/7th centuries.
Now, like many older games, Mancala can seem quite complicated and a little intimidating for beginners. Adding to this is the name Mancala; because this name is also a collective term for a group of games using the same board.
In many western countries, the name Mancala is also used for the game of Oware. But for simplicity’s sake, we’ll call the game Mancala in this guide. The game is played with two players on a Mancala board.
These boards are rectangular and feature twelve small holes; six on each side are called pockets. At the end of each row is a larger circular hole called mancalas or stores. The game of Mancala is played using these and colorful stones.
You should get 48 stones with the board, and four stones go into each pocket. Mancala aims to get as many stones in your store as possible. When all the pockets on one side of the board are emptied, the game ends.
You need to count up the stones in each player’s store when this happens. The player with the most stones will win the game! Before we look at the board in more detail, let’s look at what you need to play Mancala.
What You’ll Need To Play Mancala
Since Mancala is a historical board game, finding it in shops might be difficult. Thankfully you can easily find one online, and this wooden Mancala game board would make a fine choice. The board even folds shut for more accessible transportation.
Rules and Gameplay
The Aim of The Game
Mancala might seem complicated, but it’s easier than you might think and in some ways similar to the classic board game Ludo. Players move their stones around the board from pocket to pocket. To get as many in their store as possible.
When six pockets on either side of the board are empty, the stones (in each store) are counted, and the winner is declared. Below, we’ll outline how to play Mancala, examine how the board works, and even look at some winning strategies you can use.
Players take turns moving counter-clockwise around the board. You can move the colorful stones from one pocket to the next but only deposit a single stone in each pocket. When you reach your store, you can deposit a single stone in it.
This movement works the same way on your opponent’s side of the board. But, again, you must deposit a single stone in each pocket as you go. You don’t put a stone in their store, though; you go back to your side of the board.
The game continues following this pattern till one person’s six pockets are all emptied. Then you count up the stones in each player’s store to see who wins! That’s the basics but let’s take a more in-depth look at the Mancala board and some winning strategies you can employ.
The Mancala Board
It can look a little confusing when you see a Mancala board, especially when you factor in the colorful stones. But the board is quite simple when you get used to it, and players can only move counter-clockwise, making navigation easier.
You’ll also be sitting/ standing in front of your half of the board, which makes identifying your pockets easy. Just make sure you both know which store is yours; you can decide this before you start to play.
There are a few extra things to remember when it comes to navigating the board. If you drop your last stone in your store, you can instantly take another turn. You can also capture your opponent’s stones; this can be very advantageous in the late game.
To capture your opponent’s stones, you need to drop your final stone in an empty pocket, and it must also be on your side of the board. If the pocket opposite it has one (or more) stone in it, you can capture them and move them to your pocket.
There are a lot of different strategies you can employ to try and win Mancala. However, we’ve highlighted some potential winning strategies you can use below.
The first move is to always start with the third pocket on your side because the fourth stone will always drop in your store, netting you an extra turn. However, you can also aim to block your opponent from doing this by starting from your right-most pocket.
Think ahead and aim for empty pockets on your side of the board. This can help you set up potential captures, which can help you rack up more stones. Finally, try to keep your focus on a few select pockets.
If you try and manage all six of your pockets, you’ll likely struggle. So, instead, focus on three or four at most and build your strategy around them. Mancala is all about practice, and you’ll see your strategy improve after just a few games! Don’t be disappointed if your first game doesn’t go well either.
Mancala – A Game of Strategy and Skill!
Mancala is well worth playing simply to experience an ancient board game. But it’s also sure to be a fun game of skill and strategy. So, if you’re looking for a fun new two-player board game, give Mancala a try today.