How To Play Mancala

When learning how to play mancala you are joining an league of enthusiasts that spans thousands of years. Mancala is derived from an Arabic word meaning 'to move' and examples of this addicting game are found anywhere from Africa to ancient Rome in art, architecture and ruins. Learning is easy but you must also be flexible in your strategies because not all players will play the same way. To play mancala, you will need:

  • A mancala board
  • An opponent
  1. Board layout. Before you learn how to play mancala you must learn how to set up the board. Notice the large bowl on your right, that is your mancala. The smaller bowls in front of you are also yours. Place four stones in each bowl on both sides of the board.
  2. Goal. The goal in mancala is to gather more stones in your mancala than the other player. There is more than one way of optimizing your turn but in some cases it is better to play conservatively and plan for future moves. You will start to come up with your own strategies after you learn how to play mancala.
  3. Gameplay. A common way to determine who goes first in mancala is to play punchies and whoever cries first loses. Or you can just flip a coin. Start with any of the bowls directly in front of you and move counterclockwise depositing a stone in each bowl until you have none. If you pass your mancala, deposit a stone but skip your opponents mancala.
  4. Scoring. As you learn how to play mancala you will quickly figure out there are ways to increase your turn which allows you to deposit more stones in your mancala. When your last stone ends up in an empty bowl in front of you, you win those stones and continue your turn. Figuring out how to play your last stone effectively is the heart of mancala. 
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