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Subject: A hit with the younger set rss

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Craig Duncan
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A quick anecdote:

My family and I joined some other families last Friday night for a happy hour at a bar / coffeehouse. The kids were in tow, so we and another family brought along a bunch of games: Apples to Apples Jr., Match the Penguins, Duck Duck Bruce, Snorta, and Mancala. The kids (first through third grade) played Apples to Apples for a bit, but as soon as they noticed Mancala (which till then had been a bit hidden at the bottom of the bag) they screamed "Mancala!" They then proceed to play the game for an hour and a half straight, taking turns, complete with frantic cries of "Me next! Me next!"

A nice sight to see.
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Dan
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Are they playing the rules that come with most store bought Mancala boards? (IE: Kalah). I am just curious.
 
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Craig Duncan
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Yes, they played Kalah.

I tried to interest them in learning Oware but no luck -- they wanted to play Kalah.

I did manage to talk my own kids into a game of Oware the next day. But they weren't that impressed with it, alas. I think they like the possibility of big captures in Kalah (in Oware, the maximum capture is 2 or 3 seeds). They also like the "last seed in scoring pit = free turn" rule of Kalah. I tried to potray Oware as exciting by pointing out that in Oware you can sometimes capture from more than one pit at once. But no avail: no interest.

I'll try again some other time. For now, Kalah reigns.
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Dan
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cdunc123 wrote:

Yes, they played Kalah.
Thanks, I was just curious. I first played Kalah too when I was in 6th grade (27 years ago now gulp ) and I enjoyed it then. I later (many years) found the rules for Oware in a book, and knew the game felt different but couldn't remember the Kalah rules I had played until I found the Kalah rules a few years later, and figured out they were two different games on the same board.
Kids seem to like Kalah better, and I was just interested if that was the Mancala game you played.

 
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Craig Duncan
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Yes, the kids are not too worried about the "Kalah-has-a-smaller-game-tree-than-Oware" and the "Kalah-has-a-first-player-advantage" issues!
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Craig Duncan
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Let me add too that I quite enjoying playing Kalah (I like the big captures and the free turns too!). Kalah is complex enough for me as it is, so I don't worry about the "smaller game tree" issue. I take the first-player-advantage concern more seriously, but I'm not good enough at the game to capitalize on it when I go first, and neither are my opponents (my kids).

Still, I think the first-player-advantage could perhaps be mitigated with a "pie rule" as in connection games like Hex.

Many people reading this will already know this rule, but let me explain it for those who don't.

Here is how the pie rule works:

Let Player A make the initial move. Then player B has two choices:

(1) B swaps positions with A -- that is, B rotates the board 180 degrees and thereby adopt A's move and seeds as his own own first move. B thereby becomes the "first player." Player A then immediately takes a turn, with B's former seeds, as the "second player." Play proceeds normally thereafter: B has the next turn, then A, and so on.

(2) B allows A to keep his first move. B leaves the board as it is (no rotation) and simply makes his move as the second player. Then A goes, then B, etc. -- normal play.

This means that A, in making the initial move, won't make a tremendously superior move because if he does, then B will take that move as his own, and A will have disadvantaged himself.

Problem solved? Maybe. The only potential problem with this pie rule fix would be owing to the fact that are only 6 possible initial moves in Kalah (because there are only 6 pits). Suppose it turns out that each of the six possible moves is very advantageous, or that each is either very advantageous or very disadvantageous. I have no idea whether this is so in Kalah, but if it is so, then any choice A makes will be a big disadvantage, and the pie rule will have in effect simply replaced a first player advantage with a second player advantage.

As I said, though, I have no idea whether this is so. There must already be some discussion somewhere of using a pie rule in Kalah, but I'm not aware of it. Still, it seems to me worth a try!

(By the way, "the pie rule" name refers to the classic case of two people dividing a pie fairly: let one person cut, and have the other person choose which slice he wants, before the cutter gets to choose.)
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Craig Duncan
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OK, maybe this is bad form to keep replying to my own posts, but...

Since my previous post I have had time to look into Kalah and the pie rule. It seems like this indeed the recommended way to play Kalah:

http://www.wikinfo.org/index.php/Kalah

One more comment on the earlier theme of this post (my frustration at the kids' lack of interest in Oware): Thinking more about it, I'm tempted to try next time to teach them Bohnenspiel.

Bohnenspiel somewhat resembles Oware in that there can be a chain of multiple captures in a row (if a row of pits all has the required capture number). But instead of 2 or 3 seeds (the capture number in Oware), in Bohnenspiel pits with 2, 4, and 6 seeds are captured. So the captures are larger in Bohnenspiel than Oware. Also, captures can take place from your own pits, not just your opponent's pits. So there are more captures. That might be enticing to the kids. Plus there are fewer rules (e.g. no ban on "Grand Slams," no duty to replenish your opponent's seeds, as in Oware). Seems worth a try.

The only downside might be that if they like Bohnenspiel they will never want to play Oware. That would be a shame. I like the fact that Oware is a game that originated in Africa (Bohnenspiel originated in Germany) and is probably the most widely played Mancala game in Africa (and hence the world, I assume).
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Ralf Gering
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Bohnenspiel actually came from Persia. Similar games are still popular in Turkey and Palestine. The game is also played in Kazakhstan. Sometimes I play the Bohnenspiel against a Chinese from Hong Kong on ig Game Center. He is one of the strongest Bohnenspiel players. A Kazakh has composed very interesting problems you can try to solve at http://mancala.wikia.com/wiki/Bohnenspiel#Endgame_Problems
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Ralf Gering
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In regard to Kalah:

Yes, the pie rule has been implemented on several game sites (ig Game Center, Vying). It turns Kalah into a very balanced game. You find much more information on Kalah on Mancala World: http://mancala.wikia.com/wiki/Kalah
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