Rules May Vary: Fun Mancala Rules Variations to Liven up Your Game

Mancala is one of the oldest board games of all time.

Because it's relatively simple to teach but endlessly entertaining to play, it's not hard to see why the game has stood the test of time.

Whether you're using mancala as an educational tool or if it's a staple of your family game night, mancala helps to improve critical thinking skills and brings out the competitive side in all of us.

Especially if you've been playing mancala for a long time -- or if you need to simplify the game so it's easier for young children to play -- you're likely curious about new ways to play Mancala.

This post is here to help.

In it, we'll teach you some of the most popular mancala rules variations that will bring different challenges to the table. We'll also include a few strategies that will help you to win no matter which type of mancala you're playing.

Plus, because many the different ways to play mancala are based on a variety of cultural traditions, you'll be able to learn more about the world around you in the process.

Villagers playing a mancala game in Yagba, Nigeria, byAugust Udoh.

How Do You Play Mancala?

Before we get into some of our favorite mancala rules variations, let's make sure you understand the basics of the game first.

In America especially, the Kalah version of the game is the most commonly played option. Remember that there are lots of different variations of the mancala game, but that the Kalah style is likely the one most familiar to you. It too, can have different variations.

The object of mancala is to collect more seeds (the rounded game pieces) than your opponent does.

Setting up the Board

First, let's go over the setup of the board itself.

Each mancala board has 12 small holes in total, usually referred to as "houses" or "pits." Each player has six individual houses, the horizontal row directly in front of them.

On each end of the board, there's a larger rectangular house, referred to as the "storage house." This is where you'll collect the seeds that you "capture" when playing.

The game has 48 "seeds" (pieces) in total. Though these are often found in a variety of colors and materials, this is just a style preference. In other words, one "color" is not more valuable than another in the rules of the basic play.

Each player gets 24 seeds in total, and they place 4 seeds in each of their six small houses. The storage houses will be empty at the beginning of the game (the storage unit to your right is your own.)

Basic Mancala Rules of Play

The first player chooses any one of their six small pits/houses to begin, and picks up all four seeds inside of it.

Keep in mind that it's customary for players to use only one hand when both picking up and dropping the seeds. (This is just one reason why Mancala is a popular tool for fine motor skill development in children.)

Moving in a counter-clockwise direction, the player then drops one seed in each of the small houses/pits as they move around the board. If they cross the large storage house (the rectangles at both ends of the board) in the process, they can drop one seed in it.

Do not deposit any seeds into the opponent's storage house, only into your own.

In a common variation, if your last seed drops into your storage house you, get to go again. Also, if your last piece lands in an empty house/pit on your side,  you get to "cross capture" all of the pieces in their opponent's small pit/house directly across from yours.

You do not get another turn if your last seed lands into any empty small pits/houses.

Once all six small pits/houses are completely empty on one player's side, the game is over. The other player gets to capture any pieces left on their side of the board.

Then, the two players count up the number of seeds in their storage house.

Whoever has the highest number is the winner.

Now, let's talk more about even more different ways to play Mancala.


In Nigeria, board games are a kind of national sport -- so it's no wonder that the country has its own unique mancala rules, known as Ayoayo.

Here, the setup is similar to the traditional mancala game. There are two rows with six small storage houses, and each storage house has four seeds in it to start.

The first player picks up their seeds and moves in a counter-clockwise direction -- but no seeds are distributed in the stores in this style of play.

When the final seed is placed into a small house, the player then picks up all the seeds inside of it and distributes them across the board again. This keeps on going until the last seed is placed in an empty house.

If the final empty house of the turn is on the player's side, they get to capture the opponent's seeds directly across from the empty hole and put them in their storage house.

Then, it's the opponent's turn.

Their goal is to get as many seeds as possible.

As in the traditional rules, whoever has the most seeds in their storage house at the end of the play is the winner.


Many African cultures have their own unique takes on the mancala game, and perhaps one of the most interesting mancala rules variations is found in Uganda.

Omweso, sometimes called Mweso, is the most common Ugandan style of mancala play. Experts believe that it was invented by the Bachwezi/Cwezi people, who have a fascinating history of their own.

Speed is often the name of the game here, and play can go on for hours at a time.

The main difference here is the board itself, which has 32 houses in total.

Each player has 16 total small houses, arranged in horizontal rows of 8, 4 small houses deep. There are 64 seeds in total -- but interestingly, the storage house is missing in this variation.

So, the object of Omweso isn't necessarily to capture the highest number of seeds possible. Instead, players win by being the final person to make a move on the board. This can happen when the one player captures all the stones, or when the opponent only has one seed in each small house.

Sometimes (among advanced players) the winner is the player is the person who captures both sides of the board in just one turn.

The game starts with four seeds in each small house, and the first player gets to strategically arrange their own seeds on their side of the board exactly how they'd like. The other player can then make their own adjustments to their seeds.

The first player must choose a small house that has a minimum of two seeds, and then move and drop them in a counter-clockwise direction around the board. The players can only drop on their side of the board.

When the player drops the last seed in a small house with seeds, the player can then sow all the seeds again, without allowing the opponent to take their turn. This goes on until the player hits an empty house.

Seeds are captured when the final seed is placed in one of the 8 inner pits, and when the opponent's opposite columns are also occupied.

This can be complex, so check out this tutorial to learn how to play if needed.

Children's Bao Mancala 

Mancala is an incredibly popular classroom game all across the globe.

Because it teaches mathematics, social skills, sportsmanship, and even coordination, it's certainly not hard to see why.

However, children may be confused by some of the more complicated variations of mancala. The Kenyan children's version of traditional mancala, called Bao, makes it easy for everyone to play.

The board has 16 small houses, and each one has three seeds instead of four. There are also specific rules around how the first player is chosen (which is excellent for avoiding fights.)

One person puts a seed in their fist and holds up both of their fists towards the child, who must the correctly guess which hand the seed is in. If they get it right, they get to go first.

To start, the first planter picks up all the seeds from one of the small houses in the row closest to them. Then, they sow the seeds in a counter-clockwise direction. They only deposit a seed into the storage house when they reach the end of their row. Then, they start sowing again from the opposite side of the same row.

If they don't reach the end of the row, it's the other player's turn.

The game ends when all of the small houses are empty, and whoever has the most seeds in their storage house wins. 

Team-Based Mancala Games

Finally, remember that you can play any of the above variations on mancala in teams.

This is especially helpful if you're looking to shorten the duration of play, or if you're playing in larger groups. To keep things from getting too out of control, it's best to have no more than three people on a single team.

If you're using mancala in a classroom setting, you may want to have several games going on at once. Younger children especially will enjoy a tournament style of play.

You can even let younger students make their own mancala boards out of old egg cartons or cups.

Strategies for Playing Mancala

Now that you know more about the different ways to play Mancala, let's talk about some of the most effective strategies that players of all ages and skill levels can use to walk away with a victory.

First, look for moves that will allow you to remain in control of the board for as long as possible. This will allow you to put as many seeds as possible into your storage house, increasing your chances of a win.

Starting off with the right move is incredibly important when it comes to masting mancala. We suggest starting with the third small house (either of the two center pits) when you're making the first move.

This guarantees that you'll get at least one seed in your storage house -- meaning that you'll also get the chance to go again. Remember that, once a seed is in the storage house, it's completely removed from play.

As in chess, when you're playing mancala, it's also a good idea to think defensively from time to time. Before you make a move, do a quick check to ensure that you're not setting yourself up to be captured by your opponent.

The best way to do this is to place one of your own seeds into an empty pit on the opponent's side. They won't see it coming, and you'll avoid capture.

Use These Mancala Rules Variations to Liven up Your Next Game

Many people simply aren't aware of all the fascinating mancala rules variations that are out there.

There are countless ways to play this epic game so that it will never get boring -- even to the most experienced of players. We especially love the idea of coming up with your own "house rules."

Putting a unique spin on the game and making it your own is an awesome family bonding experience.

Looking for even more mancala rules and variations? Curious about how you can play mancala online? Want to learn more about the origins and history of mancala, so that you can use it in your next lesson plan?

No matter what you want to discover about mancala, we're here to help you find it.

Keep checking back in with us to refine your strategy, understand how to use mancala in your curriculum, and much more.


Why Is Mancala for Kids? How to Use Mancala in Teaching Young Minds

You're always looking for innovative ways to "trick" your kids into learning something new. But lately, they've started to catch on.

Perhaps you're a teacher yourself, and sense that students are growing a bit tired of the standard lesson plans. You find students retain information much better -- and even that their focus improves -- when you can gamify the lesson plan in some way.

No matter what situation you're in and what skills you'd like your child to develop, playing mancala for kids can help. This classic board game is as popular as ever, and it's not hard to see why it's stood the test of time.

In this post, we'll fill you in on the basic mancala game rules, variations of play, the benefits of mancala, and much more.

This game can get even the most stubborn children excited about learning, socializing with one another, and thinking strategically about their next move.

Mancala For Kids

What Is the Mancala Game?

First, let's start with a bit of a history lesson.

Believe it or not, mancala has been around for thousands of years, since at last 500-700 AD. The word itself is based on the Arabic word "naqala," meaning "to move."

The game was created in Africa especially within Ancient Egypt. Unfortunately, it made its way to America as a result of the slave trade.

Mancala boards have been found carved into the roofs of ancient buildings, in the tombs of pharaohs and kings, and in ancient Greek and Roman ruins.

So, when your children or students play mancala, they're taking part in a game that was enjoyed by children from thousands of years ago.

Now, let's talk about how to play mancala.

Basic Mancala Games Rules

The good news is that learning how to play mancala for kids is relatively easy, even though the game itself can be seriously tricky!

The basic rules in this section are for the popular Kalah version.

Each mancala board consists of 12 small circular "houses" and two large rectangular "storage houses." There are 48 "seeds" in total, and each player gets 24 seeds each.

To set up the mancala board, each child puts four seeds into each of their six small houses. At the start of the game, no seeds should be placed in the storage houses. The players sit directly opposite one another, and the storage house to the right of them is their own. Each player has six houses total, in the row directly in front of them.

To begin the game, the first player will pick up all four of the seeds in the house of their choice. They'll then "sow" those seeds by moving counter-clockwise (to the right) across the board.

They place one single seed in each of the houses that they pass by. This means that, yes, the child will likely end up putting some of their seeds in their opponent's houses.

If they pass by their own storage house on the way, they put one of their seeds inside of it. They do not put any seeds in their opponent's storage house.

Then it's the other player's turn.

Children may only use one hand to both pick up and drop the seeds, and they can't change their minds about which house they're playing with once they pick up the seeds.

The game ends when one player's small houses have no more seeds in them. Then, any seeds that the opponent has left over go into their own storage. Whoever has the highest number of seeds in their storage house is the winner.

There are lots of different variations of mancala, which we'll get into more later on in this post. They include oware, Ayoayo, and much more. As you become better at the game, try new versions of play to keep it interesting.

The Benefits of Mancala for Kids

Now that you have a better grasp on the history and rules of mancala, let's cover a few of the many benefits that this game has to offer.

Mancala helps children with social skills, the development of critical thinking, logical thought, and more.

Whether you're a professional educator or a parent, we're confident you'll be amazed by just how much this game is able to help children gain confidence, work with others, and even improve academically.

A Boost in Counting and Math Skills

Whether you're trying to fight against summer math loss, math anxiety, or if your child has trouble with counting and basic arithmetic, mancala for kids may be able to help.

The game offers a tactile way to help children understand addition and basic counting, as children are physically picking up the seeds and counting out loud while playing.

It also strengthens the subitizing skill, which means that children recognize the number of seeds in front of them without actually having to count them individually.

Especially if a child is less than enthusiastic about math, you can switch out traditional glass seeds or beans for candies and pieces of chocolate.

Critical Thinking and Mancala

Children often have trouble thinking before they act, and about 3-6% of children have serious difficulty with impulse control.

A lack of critical thinking, no matter how severe, can impact your child socially and academically.

Mancala forces children to stop and think about their next moves, evaluate the benefits and risks of that decision, and look at their choices in a larger context. It also strengthens strategic thinking skills.

Plus, since the rules aren't quite as complex as checkers or chess, mancala is the ideal game for younger learners.

Fine Motor Skill Development

Does your child have trouble tying their shoe or correctly holding a pencil or utensil? If so, then mancala is a wonderful and fun way to work on fine motor skill development.

Children must drop the seeds one at a time, but hold a group of them in their hands. The game also helps with hand-eye coordination.

It's so effective that even physical/occupational therapists use it to help their patients regain fine motor skills.

Social Development With Mancala

Many children struggle with following rules, taking turns, and sharing.

Mancala reinforces the importance of all three of these things and can also help to foster additional social skills in children. They may offer advice to one another, ask questions when they don't understand something, and even develop good sportsmanship skills.

Mancala teaches children that they can't win every time, even if they did their very best. It also helps them to learn from their mistakes and boosts their self-confidence when they do come away with a win.

Exposure to Different Cultures

Perhaps one of the most overlooked benefits of playing mancala is that it helps to teach children about other cultures, often ones that are quite different from their own.

It's an excellent game to include in a history lesson about Ancient Egypt or even about what life is like in African countries today. From mancala, children learn that other cultures have wonderful and fun things to teach us and share with us.

This promotes a sense of curiosity, inclusion, and diversity. 

Popular Mancala Variations

Depending on the age and intellectual development of the children you're teaching or playing with, you may want to switch up the rules of mancala from time to time.

There are tons of different mancala variations, outside of the traditional Kalah style.

Basic variations include a style of play where, if your last seed lands in your storage house, you get to go again. Another option is that, if your last seed lands in an empty house, you can cross capture your opponent's seeds in the house opposite your own.

Let's take a look at some now.


One of the most popular is known as Oware, and it's especially great for kids that are over the age of 11 or more intellectually developed than their peers.

In this variation, you'll begin with two rows of 6 houses, with 4 seeds in each house. Each player will also get their own storage house/pit (two in total.)

When it's a player's turn, they choose one small house in their row, pick up all the seeds in the house, and then, moving counter-clockwise, drop a single seed into each of the small houses until the hand is empty.

While it might sound pretty identical to the traditional Kala game, there are a few major differences.

Seeds aren't placed into the storage houses in this variation -- they're only allowed to be placed in the small houses.

When you're ready to capture because you've ended the move in another player's house, you need to look at the number of seeds the house contains. If there are either two or three seeds, you don't get to collect the seeds and it's the other player's turn.

But if there are either two or three seeds in the house, you win them, and get to put them in your storage house. Next, take a look at the next-to-last house. If it's your opponent's, and if it also has either two or three seeds in it, you also get to take those seeds and put them in your storage house.

You just work backward until you see a house that doesn't have either two or three seeds. This video gives you a visual representation of how oware works.


Another popular variation of mancala is called Ayoayo, which is the standard method of play among the Yoruba people in Nigeria.

Here, you'll still begin with four seeds in each house of the two rows, with nothing in either storage house.

Players pick up and drop their seeds counter-clockwise, skipping the storage houses. When the last seed is placed into a house that still has seeds in it, the contents of that house are gathered up and distributed again. The move goes on until the final seed is dropped into an empty house.

If that empty house is on your side, then you get to take your opponent's seeds in the house directly across from yours and put them in your storage house. If not, it's your opponent's turn. They must figure out how to get their seeds back.

The player that gets the most seeds at the end of the game is the winner. Here's a great video tutorial that you can show students.

Building Mancala Boards

Another valuable lesson that playing mancala will teach your children is that board games can be made from almost anything.

The process of building your own mancala board is a great idea for an art project or even an excellent complement to a lesson on recycling/sustainability. It also serves as a gentle reminder that children don't need fancy or expensive toys to have fun.

Tell students to bring in an empty egg carton to school.

Let them paint their boards in any color they like, and add any accessories and drawings that make them smile. You could also cut the tops off of small paper cups, and use those to create the board.

Children also love being able to choose whatever materials they want for the seeds.

Let them use unique buttons, marbles, rhinestone gems, or anything else they'd like.

If you want to keep the classroom mess to a minimum, then consider playing mancala online.

Are You Ready to Use Mancala for Kids to Help You Teach?

We hope this post has helped you to understand not only how to play mancala for kids, but also the numerous benefits of doing so.

Mancala offers a wonderful -- and much-needed -- break from all the electronic toys and social media scrolling that children of all ages get sucked into.

The game teaches critical thinking, sparks curiosity in other cultures, and is truly fun for the whole family. Plus, it's also an effective, affordable, and easy teaching tool for educational professionals.

We love the idea of having a standard mancala game night each week in your home, or allowing your students to participate in an ongoing mancala tournament.

Looking for more tips and tricks on how to play mancala?

We've got you covered.

Keep checking back with us to pick up more strategic advice, mancala variations, and much more.


Games As Old As Time: 7 Ancient Board Games Still Played Today

From time immemorial, human beings have been playing board games. While many of these board games lost their luster quickly and soon went out of style, others persisted, maintaining their popularity throughout the years.

In fact, it might surprise you to learn that some ancient board games are still played to this day.

Curious as to what these board games are? Then, read on! We're going to discuss 7 of them below.

Stone Carving of Ancient Board Playing

7 Ancient Board Games That People Still Play

The following board games all saw their conceptions thousands of years ago. The fact that they remain popular to this day is a testament to just how enjoyable they are.

1. Chess

Played both competitively and recreationally, chess just might be the most successful board game of all time. Believed to have been created approximately 2,000 years ago, it's long renowned as the ultimate game for intellectuals.

Most historians agree that chess got its start in East India sometime between 280 and 550 AD. The original iteration included the same types of pieces, but with different names. The Indians referred to pieces as infantry, cavalry, elephants, and chariots, to be exact.

From there, it caught on in Persia. Then, a few hundred years after that, it reached Europe. Once Europeans got a hold of the game, it grew substantially in popularity, eventually cropping up in every single continent aside from Antarctica.

2. Checkers 

The more-accessible brother to chess, checkers has actually been on the earth for a longer time. Believed to have first been developed around 3,000 years ago, the game evolved rapidly over its first few centuries.

While it got its start in the middle east, it quickly branched out, developing new rules as it reached different countries and cultures. A simple and rudimentary game, it was and still is played in all rungs of society.

Historians and archaeologists have found ancient checkers artifacts in a wide variety of places, including the pyramids of Egypt. The game was also written about in the early works of famed Greek philosophers such as Plato.

3. Mancala 

While not as well-known as checkers and chess, mancala is still a fairly popular game. Invented between the 2nd and 3rd centuries, the oldest known mancala relics existed in a Roman bathhouse in Gedera, Israel.

Upon its creation, mancala began to travel quickly throughout the world. It first arrived in Africa, and then eventually made its way up to Europe. From there, it spread to North America, South America, Asia, and Australia.

Never heard of this game? If not, you should give it a go. It's a great game for children, in particular.

Consisting of a board with 12 pits as well as a collection of stones, it can be played in a variety of different ways. However, regardless of the way you're playing, your game will involve the transfer of stones from one pit to another.

4. Chutes and Ladders 

Also called snakes and ladders, the game chutes and ladders has been around for approximately 2,000 years. Invented in ancient India in the 2nd century AD, it's one of the most popular kids' board games of all time.

Unbelievably, chutes and ladders remained confined to India for well over a thousand years. It didn't really take off until the 19th century, at which point the English adopted it and altered it to fit within their Victorian-era ideals.

In 1943, American board game pioneer Milton Bradley took the game and turned it into a mass manufactured phenomenon. This transformed it into one of the most popular games in the world, a game which lives on thanks to the existence of family get-togethers and child play dates.

5. Senet 

One of the oldest known board games, senet was devised in ancient Egypt as far back as 3500 BC. Archaeologists have found artifacts from the game in burial grounds believed to have originated during the First Dynasty and Predynastic eras.

This game involves a board made out of wood or stone, and several pawns made out of stone as well. While historians are not exactly sure as to how the game was played in ancient times, board gaming enthusiasts have used ancient writings in order to reconstruct the rules and bring the game a new life.

Truthfully, this game was out of practice for thousands of years. The only reason it exists now is that history buffs had a desire to recreate it. Nonetheless, board-gamers are still playing it in some capacity.

6. Backgammon 

Along with senet, backgammon is one of the oldest board games in existence. Historians believe that this game dates back to 3000 BC. This is based on the spot in which it was found, an archaeological site in modern day Iran.

Nobody knows how backgammon spread, but it's fairly obvious that it did. After all, it exists in every continent on the planet.

A 2-player game, it's still quite popular today. Considering it's been around for about 5,000 years, there's no reason to believe that it will go out of style any time soon.

7. Go 

A two-player strategic game in which both players try to surround as much area as possible, Go has existed for over 2,500 years. Developed in China, it was first referenced in history books in 548 BC.

From China, it eventually made its way to Korea and Japan. As its popularity grew in those countries, it began to make its way through the rest of Asia, then Europe, and then the entire rest of the world.

Today, it's estimated that approximately 50 million people know how to play Go. Close to half of these individuals live in the continent of Asia.

Looking to Learn Mancala Games? 

Perhaps you're an avid player of some of these ancient board games? Maybe you're interested in playing some of them for the first time? If so, we advise going for it.

Are you interested in playing mancala, specifically? If so, our website may be of some use to you. We have information on a wide range of mancala games, helping both new and experienced players to expand their horizons.

Start playing mancala online now!


Playing with a Mancala Capture Rule? Then You Need These Tips to Win

Even in the face of augmented reality, portable mobile games, and PCs, the board game industry is expected to be worth over eight billion dollars by 2021.

If you are eager for a simple, but strategic game to debut with family or friends, you may want to consider Mancala. This is a game requiring strategy, math, and outsmarting your opponent.

It's also great to use in classrooms with children.

While there are many strategic moves possible in Mancala, read below for our top Mancala capture tips and how to win every time!

Where to Start

Are you going first? If so, the hole you play from first can make a big difference. Starting with your hole that is four away from your own mancala is a solid choice.

This will not only give you a piece in your mancala right away, but you will also get a second turn!

Each stone you land in your Mancala is worth points and safe from your opponent.

Unless it impedes your chances at a capture (see below!), always take the opportunity to score a point for yourself.

Create Empty Holes for a Mancala Capture

Not every version of Mancala abides by the capture rule, but if the one you are playing does, get ready.

The capture rule refers to a scenario when your last stone of a move lands in an empty hole on your side of the board. If this happens, you can capture any stones in the hole directly opposite of it.

You get to place the 'capturing stone' in your mancala too.

...and Watch for Empty Holes

Just like empty holes on your side is good for you, your opponent will be trying to create a capture situation as well.

To avoid this, you must be mindful of any empty holes on their side. Count stones in all your opponent's holes in order to determine if they are capable of landing a final stone in the empty hole.

If you see a possible threat, you have two options. Make a move that will fill their empty hole, or play your stones across from the empty hole to defend them.

Think Ahead

One final tip for playing Mancala? Be at least two steps ahead of your opponent. It's just like playing chess. You must anticipate every possible move.

If you struggle to calculate your next few moves, a good strategy option is hoarding.

Hoarding simple means placing multiple stones in one hole on your side and not playing from it. This serves two functions. It ensures you will have stones at the end of the game and also limits the stones your opponent can use.

Just be wary of a potential capture!

A Board Game for All Ages

Playing Mancala is a great way to spend time with your loved ones. Whether or not it gets competitive with Mancala capture rules is up to you.

Deep Hand Carved Mancala Board

Interested in finding a new and unique Mancala board? Check out these beautifully crafted options!


What's the Best Mancala Strategy for Winning?

Mancala is a game that is popular around the world. In fact, it is one of the oldest known games on earth that is still played today.

Playing Mancala simply requires a board with a series of holes arranged in rows, typically two or four. It can be played with beans, stones, or even seeds, that are placed into the holes during play.

Let's take a look at some key points of a winning Mancala strategy that will help you be a champion.

Mandinka Labeled as an Ancient African Strategy Game

What's the Best Mancala Strategy for Winning?

Do you want to know a few tips on winning Mancala? Check out the keys to winning at one of the most challenging games in the world.

Strategy is of utmost importance in this game, thus having one extra stone in your Mancala (the long holes at each end of the board) can easily mean the difference between winning and losing.

Your Opening Moves

When you have the first move, a winning strategy is to start with the 3rd hole open so that your last stone will land in the Mancala. This gives you a second move plus scores a point.

For your second move, play a stone from the rightmost or second-rightmost hole, because either of these moves will put a stone in the opponent's third hole, thus blocking him from making the same opening move as you.

Stay Focused On Reaching Your Mancala

The best strategy for reaching your Mancala is to make moves that always allow you to move again. To do this, your last seeding stone needs to land in your own Mancala.

You also want to make moves that prevent your opponent from being able to move more than once.

Make the Most of Your Rightmost Pit

This is a great technique to remember: Empty the rightmost holes as soon as possible. This allows you to accelerate reaching your Mancala while voiding having to pass stones to your opponent if more than one stone accumulates in the rightmost hole.

Be Aggressive

While you obviously want to focus on reaching your Mancala on each turn, if this isn't possible, at least aim to capture stones from your opponent's side of the board.

Much like the game of chess, one of the keys to success is planning ahead and predicting the opponent's moves, and choosing your moves accordingly.

Be aggressive but also watch your back. Remember that if one of your holes filled with stones is threatened, either play the stones from that hole defensively or fill the empty hole.

Stay Flexible

Learn to manage the number of stones in each hole. This is a great way to starve the opponent while also providing you with the most possible strategies.

One such strategy is to set up baits that will lure the opponent into making moves that will cost them later.

Another powerful strategy is by hoarding, or placing several of your stones in one hole, treating it like a little store. This limits the number of stones the opponent has to work with while also keeping more of the stones on your side, making them easier to capture.

The Ultimate Game of Strategy

It's not hard to understand why Mancala has remained popular for so long. It's a game that is both fun and challenging. Simple to play yet requiring deceptively complex strategy in order to master.

The better you become at Mancala strategy the more fun you will have. So study these tips, practice, and have fun as you become a master of the game!

Click here to see Mancala boards from around the Web.


Can Kids Play the Mancala Board Game? They Sure Can!

Mancala is considered one of the oldest board games in the world. Generically, the term refers to a two-person game using round objects and rows of holes. The objective of the game is to capture most of the round objects.

The modern Mancala game consists of two rows of holes and marbles, where the strategy is to get more marbles into your area than your opponent.

Although the modern board game uses marbles, the game traditionally used stones, beans, and seeds. Some believe the game originated between farmers, who came up with the game after a day of sowing seeds.

But can kids play the Mancala board game?

Keep reading to learn why your kids will love playing Mancala.

Moving Seeds on a Mancala Board

The Mancala Board Game

Here are the basics of the Mancala board game:

Number of Players: 2
Age: Recommended for those 8+
Length: A single game takes approximately 15 minutes
Objective: Have the highest number of marbles in your player-controlled hole (or pit). This hole is typically the largest one at the end of each side. One player owns one of the holes and the other player owns the other.
Gameplay: Both players allocate an equal number of marbles (or seeds, stones, etc.) into each of the holes on the board. During a turn, the player picks up all of the marbles from one pit. Going counter-clockwise, then the player deposits them into each of the following pits, including their private pit. If the last marble in a pit lands in the private pit, the player gets to go again. The game ends when all of the marbles are off the board or a player is unable to make a legal move.

Why Mancala is Great for Kids

Here are three reasons why Mancala is a great board game for your kids.

1. Forward-thinking and Mathematical Reasoning

Mancala helps teach kids to think ahead. This is because to win the game, you have to foresee the outcome of your moves. The game also requires you to count the marbles and holes to figure out where you will land, and which move will lead to the greatest capture of marbles.

2. Team Building

Although Mancala is typically played as a two-player game, you can make it a team effort. This will allow the kids to come up with strategies, work together, and explain why their move may be better than others. Mancala can build vital communication skills and teamwork.

3. Vary in Complexity

Modern Mancala board games consist of two rows, which is a great way for kids to learn the game. However, once they learn gameplay and start to succeed, you can easily expand upon the game. You can add additional rows or make complex rules, encouraging your child to push themselves in order to win.

Final Thoughts

Mancala has been around for thousands of years, and for good reason. The game is not only fun, but it challenges players to think ahead, count, and come up with effective strategies against an opponent.

The Mancala board game is a great addition to your family's game set. For more articles on the history, diversity, and strategy of the Mancala game, visit our website today.


Five of the Most Popular Mancala Board Games in the World

If you know anything about Mancala, you probably know that it's one of the oldest board games in the world. Mancala is a basic played all around the world in many different cultures. It actually is a family of games, all sharing a basic set of rules.

If you're a board game enthusiast, you're probably wondering about different kinds of mancala board games that are played around the world. There are a lot of cool variations of this classic board game.

Here, you'll learn five of the coolest!


In all kinds of mancala, you have a board with an even number of holes in it that are arranged in two rows. Each of these holes has small beads or marbles inside which the player picks up. You keep putting one bead in each hole around the board.

Once you drop your last marble into a hole, you pick up all the beads in that hole and keep moving them around the board in the same way. You keep doing this until your last bead falls into an empty hole. The object of the game is to clear all the holes on your side of the board and win!

People tend to call the most common variant of this Kalah. This is the mancala game that's the most popular with people in the US. Kalah boards were first marketed in the 1960s and are what has the same gameplay and rules as mancala today.


Bohenspiel is one of the earliest variants of mancala. The word "bohenspiel" means "bean game," and it is from Germany. This term probably comes from the fact that it was a pit and seed game here.

In bohenspiel, you want to bring the total number of seeds in a hole to two, four or six. Unlike in Kalah, all other of the previous holes that have two, four, or six beads are captured, too!

Eson Xorgal

If you want to hear about a really interesting mancala game, think about Eson Xorgal from western Mongolia. In this game, there are 10 holes (known here as cups) rather than Kalah's twelve. It's also traditionally played with goat droppings- not your average board game!

In this mancala variant, your goal isn't to clear the board, but instead to capture more droppings than your opponent. In most mancala games, pits are owned by specific players, but not in this one!


Oware Board with Lion Head

Oware, from Ghana, is also a really interesting mancala variant. Instead of only having two rows of six holes, Oware has four rows of eight holes for even more fun!

Each of the hollows is originally filled with 12 seeds. Players, similarly to in Kalah, take turns alternating between themselves to fill the holes and distribute the seeds. Like in Eson Xorgal, your objective is to capture more seeds than your opponent.


AyoAyo is a variant that originates in Western Nigeria. In it, the player captures pieces from the opposite cell from where they finish rather than the one they end in.

But before you prematurely think this game is difficult, you should know that players need to have entire opening sequences for the game memorized before they play, so this game has a whole different element of difficulty!

Enjoy Playing the Mancala Board!

As you can see, there are a lot of fun variant of mancala that you can try. Since mancala is really a lot of different games in one, you're sure to have a lot of fun trying out different types and finding out which mancala board is your favorite!

Now that you know all about the different types of mancala, you might want to check out this link to see why mancala is the coolest board game of all time!

Have fun!

HRM celebrates African Heritage Month by Playing Mancala

African Heritage Month in Halifax

Upcoming Mancala Event in Halifax

Thursday, Feb. 7: Mancala: A Classic African Board Game is taking place at the Halifax North Memorial Public Library at 3:30 p.m. It’s for all ages and registration is required. Expert player Ayo Aladejebi will be on hand to teach the basics of the game. Visit for more details.

HRM celebrates African Heritage Month | The Chronicle Herald

The Best Places to Play Mancala Online for Free

Mancala is a game that's been around since 500 AD. The reason why it's persisted through all of these years is simple: it's a fun, challenging brain game that can be played at all ages.

But not everyone is lucky enough to own their own Mancala board. And even if they do, what if you're itching to play and you have no one to play with?

That's where this post comes in. We're going to tell you about the best sites to play Mancala online for free, so you'll never get the Manacala urge without relief again.

Playing Mancala Online, in our opinion, is one of the best options you can get for online Mancala play. Why? Because it allows you to play with other online players instead of just against a computer.

It also has an easy to use interface so you won't have to waste time being confused about how to set up your online game or which buttons to press to make your next move.

You can also chat with other players to easily connect with other Mancala players!

Cool Math Games

Did you know that Mancala has connections to logic, reasoning, and mathematics? It's no wonder it's played in the classroom as well as on websites like

This is another free website where you can play Mancala along with other math centered games like Sudoku and 2048. Cool Math Games' version of Mancala makes it clear whether it's your turn or the computer's turn. It also animates the board so you can exactly how each turn plays out. has the same version of Mancala that's on Cool Math Games, but the website is worth visiting. Like Cool Math Games, it also offers other intellect-centered games like word games, Sudoku, crosswords, and logic puzzles.

Two Player Games

Two Player Games offers up a bit of a twist on the classic Mancala board that the other sites we've mentioned offer. Instead of the classic rocks or beads, this version uses snails as your playing pieces.

You can either play by yourself against a computer (with three different difficulty levels) or you can play a two player game with your friend.

This is a fun twist on the classic version of the game, all while keeping the same rules, strategies, and culture that made it a popular game for over 1000 years.

And besides the first option to play against random online players, this is the only other online option on our list that allows you to play against someone else instead of against a computer.

Ready to Play Mancala Online?

The world's oldest game has entered the modern age with Mancala online games. Available in both the classic board form and now a digital version, Mancala is sure to maintain its popularity for the foreseeable future.

Want to learn more about this ancient game? Check out our post about the history of Mancala as well as how Mancala is relevant in modern times.


Northwood students Drop Everything and Play Mancala

Students Playing Mancala

Northwood Elementary School in Hilton dropped everything they were doing to take 50 minutes and play the game Mancala. Take a look at the article below:

Northwood students 'Drop Everything and Play

Top 10 Benefits of Playing Mancala

Have you heard of or played the game of mancala? If you have, you have played the most common game in the world. 

Custom Mancala Board

Let that sink in for a moment. A simple game managed the task of connecting the entire planet. And did so long before Facebook, Twitter or the internet.

People from childhood all the way thru old age can benefit from playing Mancala. Since most people are familiar with the game, very little time will go to explaining it.

But in case you have never played, here is a simple explanation of gameplay. There are 12 cups with two long stores at the end. Each cup has 4 seeds in it.

Players take turns taking all the seeds from one cup on their side. They "sow" them in counter-clockwise order. Players sow one seed per cup including their own store in the order.

When they run out, their turn is over, unless they land in their store with the final seed, then they get a free turn. If the land in an empty space on their side, they capture that seed and any in the cup directly across from it.

Simple yes, but how can such an elementary idea be useful? Read on to see.

1. Learning to Count

As young children learn to count, having something small to hold helps the process. Just being able to pick them up and count them out, as they drop them cements the learning process.

If you want to make it even more fun for them, play with M&M's or chocolate chips. Let them eat as high as they can correctly count. Mixing learning with sweets creates external motivation and makes learning fun.

2. Playing Mancala for Fine Motor Skills

If you know anything about child development, you have heard of fine motor skills. These small movements include holding pens, picking up beads or opening candy wrappers. They take practice and effort to learn.

Mancala helps by teaching them to pick up multiple items and set down one at a time.

3. Taking Turns

As with any game, children learn to move their pieces one at a time. Instead of thinking they can move all they want, they learn to wait their turn.

It may come as a shock to the uninitiated what a difficult task this is for children to master.

4. Critical Thinking

Mancala teaches critical thinking at each age group. And it does so whether players realize it or not.

And, unlike chess or checkers, the movements, pieces, and gameplay stay simple. Some versions get more complex, but those are best for older children.

You may have noticed the great lack of critical thinking in our "google it" society. Mancala can help build that trait in children you know.

5. A Fun Project

If you want to kill a couple hours with your kids, build mancala boards with them. You can do this any of a hundred different ways.

Try it with egg cartons if you want to do it fast. Or cut down paper cups if you rather it took longer. Or if you want to keep them occupied for hours, in which case use sandpaper and wood.

Also, try decorating vase beads with paint markers for even more fun.

6. Math Skills

Subitizing means understanding the total number without counting them. You look at a star on the flag and you know it has five points. You see a traffic light and know automatically it has 3, 4 or 5 lights without counting them.

Mancala helps children recognize how many seeds are in a cup without physically counting them.

Also, it helps to introduce some ideas of multiplication. 6 cups on my side with 4 seeds per cup means how many seeds?

7. Keeping the Brain Young

It's no secret that degenerative brain disorders plague our society. Board games, in general, seem to have a positive impact on long-term brain health. Mancala does as well.

Critical thinking skills don't only help children. Everyone could use a good dose of brain-boosting activity like what mancala provides.

8. Playing Mancala as Part of Drug Rehab

In recent years, drug addiction treatment has come under scrutiny. Many suggest that helping addicts to re-enter society by aids in permanent recovery. It helps even more when you use a positive social game.

Mancala makes an excellent choice here. The games go quick and the payoff for a win is instantaneous. Plus, it helps people connect thru conversation while playing.

If you seek long-term drug recovery for yourself or someone else, try playing Mancala.

9. Physical Rehab

Just as it can aid in fine motor skills for toddlers, mancala makes great physical rehab. The game requires picking up multiple pieces and transferring one at a time from palm to fingers.

It engages muscles in the entire hand, brings blood to the tendons, hits the thumb muscle. As an added benefit, it strengthens the mind-muscle connection between the brain and hand.

10. A Great Social Game

Last, but not least, playing mancala at a game night makes for a fun time. You can even play group variations to spice things up a little. Or maybe make it into a tournament.

No limit exists to the amount of fun you and your friends can have playing mancala together. The simplicity of the game makes rounds go quick. The underlying strategy makes the competition intense.

Further, the rule variations keep you and your opponents on your toes and focused.

Time to Start Sowing

The benefits are there for sure. Why not start playing Mancala with some friends today?

If you don't have a board already, you can make one from a few things around the house. Or, if you prefer more decorative types, check out these options here.

You don't need anything fancy. But some solid wood boards with high-quality stones will last longer.

But whatever you choose, start sowing the pieces today and reap the benefits for the rest of your life.


Learn Everything There Is to Know About the Mancala Rules

Mancala is one of the oldest games still played today. In fact, it dates back to sometime between 500 and 700 A.D.

It's no surprise that a game with thousands of years of history can be played many ways. People throughout Asia, Africa, North America, the Caribbean, and the Baltic region of Europe may have some varying mancala rules, but the most popular one in North America is known as Kalah.

Whether you play with seeds and holes in the ground or a nice wooden board, mancala is a great way to sharpen your thinking skills. To learn all the important mancala rules you need to win, keep reading below.

What You Need

Mancala has existed for thousands of years because it's easy to play. You don't need extravagant equipment to enjoy this game. You can even play without any materials at all.

The fancier versions of mancala involve manicured wooded boards with pits carved out. The common Kalah board has two rows of 6 pits arranged parallel to each other, as well as two larger pits at either end.

The nicest mancala sets use shiny pebbles to deposit in the pits.

If you don't have an official mancala set, don't fret. You can simply dig holes in the ground and use seeds to play with. If you're creative enough, you could find many different resources to use to play this great game.

Your Purpose

The smaller pits should have an equal number of pieces in them - usually about four. The larger pits, however, are left empty. The goal of the player is to gather more seeds in their pit than their opponent.

Polished Rich Wood Grain Mancala Board

The Gameplay

Although this game is intellectually challenging, the gameplay is quite straightforward and simple. Players simply take and deposit their pieces into the pits sequentially.

Where the game gets tricky is in the strategy. Players should strategically choose their pit during each turn. Then, they deposit each piece - one by one - into each pit in a counterclockwise direction. Make sure not to skip the large pits during a turn.

A player can continually deposit pieces if their last piece lands in a pit with other pieces in it. Those pieces are picked up and the cycle of depositing continues. It will not end until the last piece lands in a pit with no pieces in it.

How to Win

Players should be careful which pits they choose as the goal of the game is to get more pieces in their designated, large pit.

If a player winds up without any pieces on their side of the board, the game ends. Any pieces leftover on the opposing side will go to that player. Ending up without pieces will usually lead to a loss. 

Mancala Rules and More

Mancala rules and gameplay are so cognitively stimulating that teachers often use it in their mathematics classes. It's a perfect game for anyone who wants a little challenge with their recreation.

To get started with your first, official mancala board, don't forget to stop by our page!


Learn the Ancient History of the Mancala Origin

Mancala is a fun and easy game that has been loved for ages. In fact, it's one of the oldest known games in the world.

If you love playing mancala, you'll be interested to know its story and how it became so popular. Read on to learn more about mancala origin!

Mancala Origin and History

Mancala is one of the oldest known two-player board games in the world. It is believed that the game began in ancient Africa.

Evidence of the ancient board game has been found dating back to the year 700 AD. These archeological treasures were first found in Aksumite settlements in Matara, Eritrea) and Yeha, Ethiopia.

It is believed that Arabian traders brought the game with them when traveling to distant lands. The game's modern version, "Mancala," is a derivative of an Arabic word - Naqala, which means "to move."

Its name seems to be quite suitable as this ancient game was quickly adopted around the world. In fact, the travels of Arabian traders helped cement the game's international popularity.

Even hundreds of years ago, this beloved game was commonly played in a variety of countries in southeast Asia, the Middle East, Africa, the Baltic states, and North America.

While mancala took longer to catch on in Europe, it continued to grow elsewhere. Its simple and enjoyable nature contributed to its popularity.

These historical origins map the story of a game played thousands of years ago. From a single point of creation to its vast consumption across the world, this ancient game bears little difference from the version played today in your own home.

Carved Wood Mancala Board with Handle

Modern Gameplay

Mancala was believed to have been brought to the United States along with the enslaved African people. Today, it's still one of the most widely played board games in the world.

Beautiful mancala boards are available online and delivered to your door with the click of a button. This is far different from the amount of effort that was once required.

While the name of the game may change, the traditional mancala board has largely stayed the same. Its modern version, which is most commonly played in the west, is commonly referred to as Kalah.

This "count and capture" game was introduced to the American market in the 1940s. It was both easy to play and easy to love. Quickly, Kalah became a popular pastime and is still the most popular Mancala game in the western hemisphere.

Mancala: The Legend Continues

Through the ages, the appeal of mancala has never disappeared. This simple game has been played by both kings and commoners and still brings joy to modern players.

If you're new to it, learning the rules is simple. If you're an experienced player, you may have an interest in gameplay strategy.

Regardless, our website offers great insight into the magical world of mancala. To learn more about mancala origin or improve your technique, check out our other posts for helpful tips.


Learn How to Play Mancala in 5 Easy Steps

Are you looking for a game to play that is simple and fun for all ages?

Enter mancala. Mancala is one of the most beloved board games around the world, and it's actually been around for quite some time. In fact, archeologists have actually found evidence of the game in Africa dating back to between 500 and 700 AD.

If mancala has made it through hundreds of years of history, it's clear that it's definitely a game worth knowing about.

But, how exactly do you play mancala?

Read this guide to learn how to play mancala in 5 easy steps.

1. Set Up the Board

First things first, you need to make sure you have the right set up.

Place the board between you and the other player, with the long side of the board facing you. You should see two rows, each with 6 cups, and one long cup on each end, also known as the "mancala" (meaning "to move").

Your side is the 6 cups closest to you, and your mancala is the one to the right of you.

To set up the board, place 4 stones in each cup, with the exception of the mancala cup. In total, there should be 48 stones on the board.
Wood Mancala Board with Polished Stones

2. Gameplay

To decide which player goes first, you can either flip a coin or play Rock, Paper, Scissors.

Then, the game begins by the player picking up all the stones in one cup on their side of the board. They can choose to pick up stones from any of the cups on their side, however, they must drop the stones in the succeeding cups, and they must drop them in a counter-clockwise direction.

Players can place stones in their own mancala cup, however, they cannot place stones in their opponent's mancala cup. But, they may place stones in the other player's cups.

If your last stone falls in the mancala, then you are allowed another turn. If your last stone falls in a cup that is empty on your side of the board, then you take all the stones from the player's cup that is directly opposite yours.

The goal is to get as many stones on your end and in your own mancala as possible.

The game ends when one player does not have any stones left on their side of the board. At this point, each player is to count their own mancala stones. The player with the most stones at the end wins the game.

3. Extra Tricks and Tips

As we said earlier, if the last stone you place is in your own mancala, then you get to take another turn.

Therefore, if your turn is first, then you should play the cup that is five cups away from your own mancala.

After taking your second turn, if your opponent chooses to play a cup that is one or two cups away from their own mancala, then make your next move from the cup that is 6 away from your own mancala. Again, you will get a free turn!

How to Play Mancala: Have Fun!

Of course, the most important part of playing mancala is having fun!

You can pretty much take a mancala board anywhere, so get ready for this to be your new favorite game.

And, now that you know how to play mancala, it is time to purchase your own board. Comment below if you have questions about choosing a mancala board.

And, if you're looking for cool places to play mancala, be sure to check out this post.