Kalaha Board Game




About: Student, currently studying for my masters degree in Automotive Engineering. Bachelors in Mechanical Engineering. Car nerd living in Sweden.

Do you like simple board games? Have you heard of Kalaha?

Maybe some of you have and others have not, either way, you have come to the right place. In this instructable, I will introduce newcomers to the rules of Kalaha, and also show and give you the tools to make your own Kalaha board.

Be sure to show me your result of the Kalaha board. With the introduction covered, let us start with the rules of Kalaha.

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Step 1: Instructions/Tactics for Kalaha

The Kalaha board consists of 14 holes, 12 of equal size, the ambons, and two bigger ones, the homes. The goal of the game is to collect as many stones as possible to your own home.

Before you start the game, equally many, i.e. 6, of the 72 stones should be placed into each ambon, as shown in the above picture. The game is played by two players, seated opposite to each other and with the homes in front of themselves. The ambons to the right of the player, belong to that player.

Decide on whom will start the game. The participant to start will take all the stones from one of his/hers ambons, and distribute them one by one in the clockwise direction into the ambons/home (except for the opponents home). If the participant manages to place the last stone in its home, the participant gets another turn. On the contrary, if the participant does not manage to place the last stone in its home, then the turn moves to the opponent.

The game is finished when one of the participants has no more stones in its ambons, then the opponent gets to place its left-over stones in its home and the winner is the one with the most stones.

Step 2: Design

Traditionally, the Kalaha board consists of a piece of plastic/wood with 14 holes. As I wanted to be able to store the stones in the Kalaha board, I decided to make the board foldable. To make it easy to grab the stones in the ambon, I also decided to chamfer the edges.

After having sketched the Kalaha board with different ambon sizes on paper, I decided to go with 5x5 cm ambons. Attached in this step you can find a drawing as well as the 3D model in Autodesk inventor and Catia V5 format.

Step 3: Tools and Materials


  • Router
  • Saw
  • Plainer (optional)
  • Drill
  • Screwdriver
  • Sand paper
  • Chisel
  • Hammer


  • Wood
  • Hinges and Screws
  • Wax
  • Stones for the game

Step 4: Practice Makes Perfect

As I had never used a router before, I started the project by watching some youtube clips and perform some test cuts using the router to feel more comfortable using it. We all know, it takes practice and time to master a new tool, so if you like me, are new to using a router, I would recommend you to do the same.

Step 5: Rough Cut and Plain the Wood

To start this project, a plank in workable size is needed. For the wood, I used an oak table top which I had laying around. After sawing the tabletop into a plank, I plained it to the necessary thickness (16 mm).

Step 6: Carve Out the Ambons

The main step of this project is carving out the holes for the ambons and homes. As I do not have a router table, I drew several lines on the wood to know where I should stop cutting. I used a round router bit, which means that the high points have to be cut and sanded down in a later stage.

Step 7: Flatten the Bottom

As mentioned in the previous step, the round bit creates high points which have to be cut away. For this use a chisel until you get a fairly flat bottom and finish up using sandpaper.

Step 8: Edge Profile

For a more professional look, one can use a round over radius edge router bit. After having gotten used to the router by creating all the cuts for the ambons, this will be a very easy task as you just have to run over each outer edge of the piece.

Step 9: Sand

To get a nice finish on the complete piece I recommend sanding using 200 grit sandpaper and go down to approximately 400-600 grit sandpaper.

Step 10: Attach Hinges

To be able to close the Kalaha board, hinges are needed. If one wants to have the board close flush, the hinges need to be sunk down into the wood. To do this, use a chisel and hit it vertically to mark the contour of the hinges as seen in photo 2. Proceed using the chisel horizontally to remove a thin piece of the wood as shown in photo 3. Next, pre-drill holes for attaching screws, and put everything together using the hinges and screws.

Step 11: Surface Coat

I prefer oak when it is slightly darker which is why I usually treat it with bee wax. This will also help in protecting the wood and make it easier to clean if it gets dirty.

Step 12: Glamour Shots

And of course, no DIY instructions are complete without some glamour shots. Enjoy!

Step 13: Play and Enjoy

Thank you for reading all the way to the end. If you have any questions or feedback be sure to let me know.


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    11 Discussions


    7 months ago

    Nice job! My daughters taught me a slightly different version of the game and called it Mancala. The rule (they taught) that differs from yours is that when your last bead in a turn ends up in Any Occupied Ambon (but not Home), you pick up all the beads and continue dropping one-at-a-time into successive Ambon pockets including Your Home pocket. Your turn ends when your last bead goes into an Empty Ambon or Your Home pocket. I also think I remember that the opponent didn't get to move their stones into Their Home pocket when one side Ambons were empty, ending the game.

    I have Not researched to see if this is the most popular rule, but it works, and adds speed, strategy, and fun to the game.

    2 replies

    Reply 8 days ago

    Played by the mancala rules too. I think the rules mentioned it was one of the oldest games, originally played with seeds/rocks and pits in dirt. Makes sense that it would have many variations.


    Reply 7 months ago

    Ah that's great, I'll definitely give your way a try as well :D


    6 months ago

    I never heard of this game. Will try to play it when I can. Beautiful 'ible, I really like your photos.


    7 months ago on Step 13

    What a clear instructables and beautiful play board. Well done!!!

    1 reply

    7 months ago on Step 13

    Decades ago i would play Mancala, which is reported to be the oldest board game, originating in Africa. Never heard of Kahala. But what is amazing to me about seeing this great job you did, is that i haven't played Mancala in so long i forgot how, but needed to come up with a game for a gift for my brother and his wife (an old tradition, but i really needed to MAKE something instead of buy it this time). For 30 years (yes 30) i wanted to make a Mancala out of seashells. I FINALLY did it, and gave it to them a couple of weeks ago. I have never seen anyone do a home version, so it felt good doing something original and DIY.
    Now i see this immediately after. Of course, NOW i have to follow up with a Kahala made the same way. I'll give it to my other brother.
    You did great, artisan after my own heart :)

    1 reply

    Reply 6 months ago

    Thank you for the kind words!

    wow, nice idea with seashells, if you have a picture, be sure to share it :)


    7 months ago

    Great job! Love everything about this, the repurposed material to the use of a new tool. It had me thinking if making a template might have been easier also would be nice for the repeatable factor. Make one and done cut out the sides put the template on and with a guide bushing on the router run around the inside of the template. You can also step the depths to allow for a small finishing cut to help prevent the burning. Even get the hinges in on that and if you screw up on the template instead of trashing it I've used body filler to put back material from slip ups. Hope this helps. Keep on and thanks.

    1 reply

    Reply 7 months ago

    Thank you for the kind words! Good tip, a template would definitely be a good idea!

    I will keep your tips in mind for upcoming router projects :)