Simple Mancala

Introduction: Simple Mancala

Mancala is one of the oldest board games known to man, dating back about 1400 years. It's ability to be played almost anywhere with available materials has made it my family's favorite. We have played it using Skittles on a piece of paper in traffic jams, sunflower seeds in an egg carton while camping, and pebbles in sand depressions on the beach. Mancala can be enjoyed by everyone who can count.

In this instructable, I will attempt to give a basic understanding of the game, and the rules to the variant we play. There are hundreds of variants to this game with the same board so use your imagination ( or a google search of Mancala ) to keep it interesting.

This is the basic board with 4 playing pieces per hole. The game can be played with 36 pieces or more, depending on your preference.

This board was made from 3/8 plywood crating material I salvaged, 2 boards approximately 7" X 25". For the slots I used a 2 1/2 " hole saw to make the slots, and a jig saw to trim excess material to make the end store areas. After sanding, the slotted board was glued to the whole board to form the bottom. For $1 I puchased enough marbles for 2 games. The slots could be carved into fine wood to make a fancy board, or circles can be drawn on paper for a spur of the moment game. Use your imagination with what you have to create your own.

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Step 1:

Looking at he board layout, the close 6 slots with marbles and right hand vertical hole ( my "store") are my side of the board. My opponent sits on the opposite side of the board and has an identical layout for their side. The object of the game is to place as many pieces in my store as possible using strategy and capture. Capture will be covered later in step 3.

The game is started with one player picking one piece, shuffling it between their hands, and their opponent trying to choose the hand that holds the piece. If the opponent picks the hand holding the piece, they go first.

In the first photo, my index finger indicates the first slot I choose to play from. I pick up all the pieces from that slot and drop them one at a time, counter clockwise around the board. Because the last stone landed in my store (right hand slot) I can move again. Using this strategy can allow for multiple moves per turn as the game progresses ( note that the number of pieces per slot continually changes throughout the game). For my next move I select the closest slot to my store . I count out the pieces until they are all placed, ending on the opponent's side of the board. This finishes my turn.

Step 2:

For my oppenent's first turn, I select the slot with 5 pieces, 5 slots from his store. Because his last game piece was placed in his store, he plays again. For his next move, my opponent chooses the slot closest to his store and counts out the pieces ending in the third slot from my store.

Note- If the number of pieces in this slot allowed him to reach my store, he would not drop a piece in my store. He would carry on to his side of the board until all pieces were dropped.

Step 3:

I choose the 5th slot as my next move, ending in my store. After this move, I have one piece in the closest slot to my store. Since this can be moved into my store and allow another move, I select it as my second move.

Now is the time to explain the capture aspect of the game. Note that the slot closest to my store is empty, and the 6th slot has 5 pieces. If during play, your last piece ends as the only piece in a slot on your side of the board, you capture all pieces from your opponent's opposing slot. Your opponent's pieces in this slot, as well as your single piece from your side of the board are placed in your store. This ends my turn.

Step 4:

The game continues until one player has no more game pieces on their side of the board. The player who has remaining pieces places them in his store and the pieces are tallied with the highest score winning.

There is one more rule we included in our version. Borrowing from chess, any of the game pieces may be touched or picked up during a turn. Once any of the pieces are placed in a slot or store that is not their original position, that move must be completed.

Because each play can change the number in each slot, Mancala can be a very dynamic game. Using different strategies to create multiple moves, block your opponent, or capture make it a timeless classic.

As my first instructable, I hope it was reasonably clear. I welcome all comments to improve this or any future instructables I make.

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    2 Discussions


    8 years ago on Introduction

    Glad you liked it. This is a great game for kids, I'm sure they'll have fun.


    8 years ago on Introduction

    Thank you for this instructable! I'd forgotten all about this game - and loved it as a child! I'm going to have to make a game or to for my 5th and 6th graders!