How to Play the Philippine Game of Sungka

Written by rianne hill soriano Google
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"Sungka" is a Philippine traditional two-player game using a long wooden block called a "sungkaan." This is filled with seven small hollows set in two opposite rows and two bigger hollows on opposite sides. One bigger hollow belongs to the first player. The other belongs to the second player. The game requires the players to collect as many game pieces as possible to win the game.

During the past, scholars used the sungkaan for mathematical calculations. Filipino fortune-tellers called "manghuhula" traditionally used it for divination as well.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy

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Things you need

  • Sungkaan (wooden block with several hollows)
  • 98 game pieces

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  1. 1

    Put seven pieces on each hollow found on the sungkaan. Each player owns one row and each row has seven hollows. There are two opposite rows found on this wooden block. This means that a total of 49 game pieces must be placed on each row for a total of 98 pieces for both rows.

    Leave the two larger hollows, each one called the "head" or "home" on the extreme left and right of the wooden block, empty.

  2. 2

    Choose who will be the first and the second player. The hole in the left of each player will be his or her head. The players decide whether to start the first turn simultaneously or if one will start before the other. The choice of doing a simultaneous play is only allowed for the first turn. After this, the players take turn alternately.

  3. 3

    Play the first turn, whether simultaneously or not. This turn requires removing all pieces from one chosen hole on any row owned by the player.

  4. 4

    Distribute one piece on each corresponding hole from the first player's row to the second player's row in a counter-clockwise direction. The hollows for distribution of pieces include the default player's (the player whose turn it is) head, but not the opponent's head.

    The hole where the last piece falls allows the first player to use all the pieces on that particular hole for the next turn, which allows the said player to continue playing. If the last piece falls on the default player's own row, he or she also gets the contents of the hole opposite to it, which is owned by the opponent. If this is empty, the player just gets the contents from his or her own row.

    This continues until the last piece falls onto an empty hole. If it's the other player's turn, but all hollows in his or her owned row are empty, then he or she must pass.

    If the last piece falls on the player's own head, then he or she earns another turn, which can begin at any of the seven hollows in his or her own row.

  5. 5

    Play the next turn after the previous player loses a turn. The new default player chooses which hole he or she wishes to start from, removes the pieces and distributes one piece each for each corresponding hole in a counter-clockwise direction.

  6. 6

    Continue the game until one player loses all pieces on his or her own row and head. The player automatically loses upon losing all of his or her owned pieces. If all the hollows on a player's row are empty, but the head still has pieces on it, the winner is determined by counting the number of pieces owned by each player. The one with the greatest number of pieces wins.

Tips and warnings

  • Although small stones or pebbles are traditionally used, players may also use shells or marbles as game pieces.
  • As a game of strategy, the sungka requires a player to carefully choose which hole to distribute contents to. It is ideal to pick a hole that allows the player to end on his or her own row. The more game pieces acquired on his or her own row or head, the more chances to win the game.

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