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Mancala Rules: How to Play Mancala Game

Learn to Play Mancala Game

Mancala Rules: How to Play Mancala Game
Mancala Rules: How to Play Mancala Game

If you are looking to play an ancient game, then Mancala is one of them. Its history goes back to the 7th century and it is safe to say that the game even existed and played in Egypt. This sounds pretty cool because this really proves to sit to be quite ancient. When something is this old, then obviously people do make variations as the thing passes from one generation to the other. Same is the case with Mancala.

Mancala rules and even the gameplay has many variations at the moment. There are almost 80 variations of Mancala game. Among these, Oware, Bao, Kiswahili, and Wari are the most predominant ones, sharing some common Mancala rules.

Also known as ‘sow and catch’, Mancala depends on your ability to collect as many seeds as you can. But, we would be discussing the Mancala rules for a standard game consisting of two players. Did we tell you that there is some insight on tips and tricks to win the game as well?

Make sure you don’t skip out the important information.

Mancala rules

The modern version of the game is played with a Mancala board consisting of two rows of six pits, holes each. In case you don’t have the Mancala board at home, you can even use an egg carton as a substitute. The holes are filled with four marbles each.

Every player owns a mancala store located at the right side of the board but in case you are using an egg carton, cereal bowls can work too. The game officially starts with one player picking up all marbles from one of the holes to their side. The game then moves clock-wise, with the same player depositing one marble in each hole.

During the course, if they encounter their store then two marbles need to be deposited and players must skip the store of their opponents. If the last piece is dropped in your store, then you get a free turn and if it is in an empty hole then you can collect that piece and pieces that are in the hole opposite to the empty hole. Note that the stones can always be deposited in a counterclockwise direction towards the right.

All the captured pieces shall be stored in the respective Mancala’s store. The game is over when all the six spaces on one side of the board are empty. Meanwhile, the player having pieces in their side of the board when the game ends, capture all those pieces. Next, all the pieces in each store are counted separately and the player having most of the pieces, wins the game. 

The objective of the Mancala game

The twelve hollows of the Mancala board are filled with four seeds. To decide who takes the first turn, one of the players holds the seed in their fist and if the opponent guesses it first then the opponent would go first or else the player holding the seed. The objective of the game is to collect more seeds than your opponent.

Equipment and Layout

Mancala is loved because of the two reasons. The first one being the dynamic Mancala rules and ease of the game while the second one is the equipment. There is always alternative equipment one can use for Mancala. Wondering what we are talking about? Read below:

  1. Mancala Board:

The board is 17.5 inches in length and 5.5 inches in width, consisting of six small holes and one large hole- Mancala store. The players are required to place their collected marbles inside the mancala store. The holes are also referred to as cups.

  1. Marbles:

These marbles are used to fill the mancala cups. One can use seeds as well as stones in place of the marbles. They are usually 48 in number.

Even if you don’t have the mancala board, the game can be played with an egg carton as well and you can use cereal bowls in place of mancala stores. The game can be played on flat ground and you can be scraped in the ground or the sand. A typical mancala combination is 48 marbles, 12 holes, and 1 mancala stores.

The players sit opposite to each other with their face towards the board.

Game Play

There is no rule on who goes first, players themselves can choose any way of the toss for that. Pick all the stones from one of the non-empty holes and start depositing stones on each hole, moving clockwise till you encounter an empty hole.

This competes for round one for the first player. The process then repeats for the opponent player and the cycle continues according to the standard Mancala rules.

Winning the Game 

The Mancala rules say that game is over once a player empties all six holes in their side. The winner is decided based on the number of stones/marbles counted. The player with most of them wins the game.

That’s it from Kalah- the game consisting of two players with the most dynamic Mancala rules. The same 2-player game is followed internationally for international tournaments. In another game, the marbles are called seeds and placing each seed on the hole is casually called as sowing seeds.

Mancala Rules Strategies 

If all holes on one side get empty, then all the stones of the other side are captured by the opponents. However, no player can create this situation deliberately.

But one tactic to score more is to capture all stones of the opponent and collect the stones of your side also, leaving the opponent with no move. This is called ‘cutting off head’.

To score, you shall begin dropping the marbles onto your third hole. In this way, your last marble will land onto your mancala store and you already know you do get a free turn now.

You can now start with your rightmost hole and it will lead you to drop the marble into your opponent’s hole and thus they are blocked to follow the same strategy.


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