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Rules of Mancala – A Guide to the Ancient Game

Griffin Bateson / August 1, 2023
Rules of Mancala – A Guide to the Ancient Game

Mancala is one of the oldest games in the world, dating thousands of years back in history. Its roots go back to the Middle East and Africa, where boards would be carved out to play the exciting and popular game. In this blog, we will go over how to play Mancala, from the beginning of the game to the end. If you have never played this 2-player game before, then this is a perfect blog for you to read.

How to Play Mancala

If you take a look at the history of Mancala, you will find that several materials were used to play. During Mancala's inception, players would use rocks, seeds, beans, or various other small items. This is part of the reason why Mancala is so ancient – it doesn’t take much to create a board and pieces. As long as there is some wood and small pieces laying around, Mancala can be created. 

The Objective

The overall objective of Mancala is to shift more stones into your store than your opponent can. Players go back and forth moving their stones from one pit to another by shifting them in a counterclockwise direction. The amount of tiles that players are able to move their stones is based on how many stones are in the pile they select. The game ends when one side of the board has no stones left. At this point, whoever has the most stones in their store is declared the winner.

Starting the Game

How to Play Mancala Gameplay

The setup of Mancala is done by placing an equal number of stones on each of the six pits that players are given. The stores remain empty at the beginning. The setup of Mancala is easy, but the rest of the game gets a little bit more complicated. Read on to learn more details about how to play Mancala. 

Taking Turns

Mancala starts when one player selects a pit to move their stones from. They must distribute these stones, one by one, into each consecutive pit in a counterclockwise direction. If they reach the store on their move, this also counts as one of the pits to stop at. However, if players reach the store of their opponent, they are able to skip it and continue to the next pit. 

Capturing Stones

If the last stone falls into an empty pit on the opponent’s side of the board, they capture that stone, along with any stone in the opponent’s pit directly opposite of it. When you have captured these stones, place them in your store for safekeeping. This is one of the more complicated concepts when learning how to play Mancala, but after enough practice, it won’t feel very overwhelming.

Additional Turns

If a player's last seed ends up in their store, they get an extra turn and continue playing until the last seed lands in a regular pit. This is an extremely important part of the game and should always be kept in mind. Try your best to get as many extra turns as you can.

Another important rule is that if a player’s side of the board is empty, their opponent must give up their turn and the game comes to an end. Whoever has more stones in their store is declared the winner. This means that if you have fewer stones in the store than your opponent, you will want to do everything in your power to make sure that there are stones on both sides. 

So now that you know how to play Mancala, make sure to go and check it out on our site. Whether you want to play against a computer or play the multiplayer version against a real opponent, it is sure to be a blast.