How to Play... MANCALA!!!

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Introduction: How to Play... MANCALA!!!

The first in a series of Instructables (well, I might not make the others... I'll try to remember) known as "How to play...". In this series, I will teach you how to play some popular and fun board games, as well as give you some strategy, which makes it different from the poorly worded, unillustrated sheet of paper that comes in the box. Don't forget to vote!

In this first Instructable (in the series, anyways), I will teach you how to play an age-old game called... MANCALA!!!

Step 1: Vocabulary and Set Up

Before the game begins, place the board between you and your opponent, long side facing you. You will see two rows of six "holes", with a long "mancala" on each end. The board is divided into two parts: Your side and mancala, and your opponent's side and mancala. Your side is the six holes closest to you, and your mancala is to your right. The same is for your opponent; their side is the six holes closest to them and their mancala is to their right.

To set up, place four "stones" in each hole, excluding the mancalas. This should total 48 stones. (A stone can be anything small; pennies, marbles, in my case some glass counters that came with the set).

Step 2: Basic Gameplay

Mancala is really an easy game to play.

Players decide who goes first using whatever method they want; Rock-Paper-Scissors, coin flip, loser-of-last-game-goes-first, whatever.

During a turn, a player grabs all of the stones in a hole on their side and drops them, one by one, in succeeding holes in a counter-clockwise direction. Players MAY place stones in their own mancala (it counts as a hole), but they MUST skip over their opponent's mancala. Players MAY place stones in holes on their opponent's side. This continues until the player has no more stones in his hand. It is then their opponents turn.*

*See exceptions in step 4.

Really sorry guys, the image notes aren't working on my computer right now, so sorry if the pictures are a little hard to understand.

Step 3: Scoring and Winning

The game is over when a player (not both) has no more stones on his side. His opponent then takes all of the stones on his side and places them in his mancala. The winner is the person with the most stones in his mancala after counting.

In this sample game, Player 2 is the first to empty his side, so his opponent puts all the remaining stones on his side in his mancala. After counting, we find out that player 2 wins because he has 27 stones in his mancala, and player 2 has 21.

Step 4: *Exceptions, Tricks and Strategy

Now here's the twist.

If, when dropping stones in holes, you drop a stone into your own mancala, and that is the last stone in your hand, then you get to go again.

If, when dropping stones into holes, you drop a stone into a hole that was previously empty, AND the hole is on your side, AND that was the last stone in your hand, you take all of the stones in the hole directly above, and place them into your mancala.

Good strategy is to, on your first turn (and if you're going first), play the hole that is five holes away from your mancala. That way, the last stone you place will land in your mancala, and you get a free turn. After using your second turn, if your opponent plays a hole that is two or one hole(s) away from their mancala, play the hole that is six holes away from your mancala. You get another free turn!
It's basically luck and thinking ahead from there. Post any ideas you have in the comments!

Step 5: Have Fun

I hope you found my second Instructable useful. Expect more to come!

Now go out there and steal someone's money, wife and car! Oh, and then beat them at Mancala :)
(Thanks to ducklemon for the joke!)

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30 Comments

The one we play came with these instructions, basically play clockwise, everything else the same as you mentioned. Makes for a much different game play and strategy.

FYI, the 'mancalas' are also called stores in other rule sets

when you say ''you take all of the stones in the hole directly above'' this is your opponent's side hole, right?

hello,I have a mandala board that has 2 rows of 8 holes but no elongated mancalas,should I just use the last couple of holes on either side as mancals?Also there are 4 stones for each hole(including the end ones)plus two more,are they spares?I am not sure if its a different version,I think it was bought in Africa as a souvenir. Hope I am not too confusing.P.S your instructable was very good

"why r u reading the key words?"lol

its pretty cool that this is posted My wife found this game at a yard sale today with no instructions and we were confused as to how to play. thanks for the help

:) Glad you liked it, it makes me feel good to have three comments already! Btw thanks for voting (I think it's you, since you said thanks. It might be bumpus or Chefboy6382)

I am so glad to find the instructions since it had been 50+ years since I learned how to play then another 15 years since I taught my grandchildren how to play. My game also no instructions since so old I play it on Friday afternoons with my special education students in my class next still picked up a few tips from u up right away blessing