Directions for Mancala the Game

Written by nicole thelin
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Directions for Mancala the Game
The rules for mancala are simple enough for a young child to play. (mancala game image by Alison Bowden from

Although the exact origin of the game commonly known as mancala is unclear, similar games have been played for centuries in nearly every country in Africa. The simple board and pieces are easily improvised, with wealthy individuals enjoying beautiful boards of ivory and pieces of gold, while the less fortunate play with stones placed in holes in the dirt. The simplicity of the game has given it universal appeal, and each culture has developed specialised rules for game play. Keep mancala fresh by trying different versions of this timeless game.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Mancala board
  • Small stones

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  1. 1

    Identify the two large bowls in each end of the mancala board. These two reservoirs are called "Mancalas." Each player's mancala is located to his right. The remaining bowls closest to him are his as well.

  2. 2

    Place four stones in each small bowl.

  3. 3

    Select a small bowl (not a mancala) and remove all of the stones from that bowl. Place one stone in each consecutive bowl, moving counterclockwise around the board. Place a stone in your own mancala, but not your opponent's mancala. Your turn ends when there are no more stones in your hand. Player Two continues game play by repeating step three.

  4. 4

    Continue game play until all the stones are in mancalas. The player with the most stones in his mancala wins.

Tips and warnings

  • Egyptian rules allow a player to take another turn immediately if his last stone is placed in his mancala. These rules also state that if a player places his last stone in an empty bowl on his side of the board, he must take all the stones from the opposite bowl (on his opponent's side) and place those stones in his mancala. Egyptian games end when one player has no more stones on his side. The other player, who still has stones, then places all remaining stones in his mancala.
  • Ethiopian rules follow the Egyptian variation, but allow players to decide whether to move left or right on a given turn.

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