Mancala could just possibly be the oldest known game in the world. At least, that is what some historians believe. The word “Mancala” is believed to be Arabic. Translated it means “to transfer.” Transferring is the object of the game. In the game, the players transfer(move) playing pieces from one bin to another. There are many variations to the game of Mancala.
Mancala is so popular, the entire continent of Africa plays Mancala. Everyone enjoys the game, royalty and commoners alike. It is a great game for children and adults to play together.
Mancala has retained its popularity for so long as it transcends time. It is a game that uses strategy and counting which makes it an ideal family game. There’s always been kids and adults to play the game and enjoy playing together. The rules are simple enough for everyone to play,and just challenging enough to learn and enjoy.
There are many types of Mancala boards. In ancient times, the wealthy played on boards of carved ivory covered with gold. There are wooden versions with rocks as the pieces. Travel versions of the game are available where the board folds and the stones are stored within the board. Sometimes the playing pieces are gems, tiny stones, or crystals.
To play Mancala, few things are necessary. It is a two-player game and you need a mancala board with 48 playing pieces.
Place the board on the table between you and your opponent. Each player takes 24 pieces and puts four pieces in each of the six holes or “bins” on your own side of the board. There are two large holes or “bin” at each end of the board. Those larger bins are called “Kala has”.
These are empty at the start of the game. Where the pieces are on the board determines if you can move them or not. During the game, you can move any of your pieces from your side of the board. You may not move the pieces on the opponent’s side of the board.
Choose a player to go first. That player then scoops up all the pieces from any bin on their side of the board. Moving to the right, that player drops one piece in each bin as it goes along the board. If you come to the large bin, the kalaha, drop a piece in there too.
If, after you put a piece in the kalaha, you still have pieces in your hand, continue to put pieces in the bins on your opponent’s side. If you should reach the other end where your opponent’s kalaha is, skip over it and continue on your side. If your last piece falls in your kalaha, you get to take another turn. If not, then it is your opponent’s turn. He does the same.
When the last piece that you drop is in an “empty” bin, you get to capture the opponent’s playing pieces in the bin directly next to your bin. These pieces are then put into your kalaha along with the piece that was in the empty bin. After the capture, it is the other player’s turn.
The object of the game is to be the player with the most pieces in kalaha. When all six bins on your side or the other player’s side are empty, the game is over. The player that still has pieces in their bins can now put them in the kalaha. Players count their pieces and the one with the most, WIN!