Mancala is played on a board with twelve small and two large depressions, and 48 stones. The depressions are called pits, and the large pits at each end are called calas. As with Chess and Chinese Checkers, many different Mancala sets are available. Standard mass-market sets usually have a wood board and glass stones.
At the beginning of the game, 4 stones are placed in each small pit. (Variations include 3, 5, and 6 stones in each.) The calas are left empty.
How to Play
The players sit opposite of each other, with the board between them. The six pits in front of you are yours, and your cala is by your right hand.
On your turn, you take all of the stones in a pit, and drop them one at a time into each pit in turn, starting with the next pit on the right, going counter-clockwise on the board. You put stones in your cala, but not your opponent's.
If your last stone goes into your cala, you get another turn.
If your last stone goes into an empty pit on your side of the board, you capture all of the stones in the pit directly across from that pit, as well as the capturing stone, and place them all into your cala.
The game ends when one person does not have any more stones on their side of the board. Their opponent gets to claim any stones still on their side of the board, and places them in their cala.
The winner is the player with more stones.
Careful planning may allow a player to get two or three moves in a turn. Watch for pits that have the right amount of stones, or watch for stones to accumulate.
Here the bottom player played the 4 stones in their #3 spot, and then played the 4 stones in their #1 spot. If their opponent does not drop any more stones into their #2 spot, next time they will play it and get an extra move.
Capturing stones is often the fastest way to get them, either by letting one of the pits on your right gather a large amount of stones, and going around the board, or by letting a pit to your left have only a couple. Block your opponent from being able to capture by drizzling stones through any open spaces.
Here the amber stone in the top row could capture, but would only gain one stone. The large piles of stones are safe. The top player could play their green stone to get a second move, and then capture, to make the most of their turn.
Pros and Cons
Affordable and readily available
Easy to teach
Can be enjoyable to handle the stones, and play on a wooden board
Looks nice left out on display
Quick set-up and clean-up, short gameplay
Portable, especially the folding sets
It's an abstract, and most likely to be enjoyed by people who like games such as Backgammon and Chinese Checkers. I appreciate the feel and the look of the glass stones, and the wood board. I enjoy the thought of playing a game that has been played for hundreds of years, around the world.
I love this game...and the first time I played it was while playing Sierra's old DOS game Hero's Quest (Quest for Glory). the 3rd installment took place in Africa I believe..and you could play Mancala with a tribesperson. I still enjoy it too.
Oh, and yu can make an ULTRA portable verison by not using the board, just cut out felt pieces to make the "holes"
- Last edited Thu Mar 26, 2009 3:21 am (Total Number of Edits: 1)
- Posted Thu Mar 26, 2009 3:19 am
I like your review. The Mancala game you describe is called Kalah. I like playing it with my son.
It was the first Mancala game I learned almost 27 years ago now. We made games in class by using an egg carton and beans, and then we had a class tournament after we had learned to play a few weeks. From your images it looks like you have the same board I have (I wanted to upgrade years ago from a egg carton ).
If you ever want a little more challenge, I would suggest giving Oware a try. Same board, pebbles, and setup as Kalah; just different rules.
Mancala is my FAVORITE abstract game.
You would think from the setup that it would be the same game each time but it's not. I don't think I ever played a game that was like the one before. Easy to teach and play. Fun!
I second Dan's advice to give Oware a try.