How To Play Mancala? Strategic Tips and Rules To Win The Mancala Game


If you are looking for an easy homemade board game to play with your family while using strategic thinking, then try this ancient mancala board game. There are hundreds of versions of this game worldwide played with simple seeds and stones and holes dug into the soil or cups.

In this article, we will tell you how to play mancala along with its brief history.

Origin and History of Mancala

Mancala is said to be as old as CE 500 and 700, according to the remains of the game found by archaeologists in Yeha and Matara. The word mancala comes from the Arabic word “naqala,” meaning “to move.” In the Mideast and North Africa, this word is used to refer to a class of game.

There are several references for this game, which date back to thousands of years. The game has a very simple setup and was earlier played on an earthen surface with holes and seeds. 

People throughout Africa play various versions of this game, having different names like Warri, Wari, Oware, Awari, and Wouri. Mancala was first introduced in North America via the slave trade. Slowly it became popular across Louisiana with the name “Warra” and turned into KALAH, a commercial version of the game.

Read More: Some of the Best Board Games for Kids to Enjoy

Basic Mancala game rules

The Mancala game is played in dozens of different versions around the world. Below we will explain how to play the mancala game ( the two-rank version) and win easily.

The main objective of the game is to capture more numbers stones as compared to the opponent.

Items you will need:

There is not a long list of items that you will need to play the mancala board game.

  • Mancala board- made of two rows with six pits. You can even use an empty egg carton if you can’t find the board.
  • Small cereal bowl- these will be required by every player to store the stones.
  • Forty-eight marbles, stones of chips of any color.


The players have to sit opposite each other, facing the long side of the egg tray or board. Each player gets 24 stones to start with. One plate keeps four stones on each of the pits, the one which is closest to them. The bowls will be placed on the right side of the board and should not have stones.

How To Play a Mancala Game?

Players can flip a coin to decide who will go first. The mancala rules involve three steps to play the game. Each round will last for 10 minutes.

  • Place four marble into each hole or pit.
  • The first player will grab all the stones from one pit on their side and then drop them one by one into each hole, going around the board in an anti-clockwise direction. If the player crosses over one of the bowls, they will have to place the stone into that as well. When the player has no stone left in hand, it will turn another player to do the same steps.
  • If one player has enough stones to hit their bowl, they will place stones in it. In case the player has only one stone left, they will get one more turn to go again. If they pass over another person; ‘s bowl, they do not need to place the stone into the competitor’s bowl.
  • When all six pits are emptied on any of the player’s sides, the game will end. The remaining player will take all the marble to their side and put them into the bowl.
  • To win mancala, the player needs to have the most number of stones in their bowl.

Read More: –Basics Of How To Play Clue Board Game

Tips and Tricks To Play Mancala Board Game

Don’t mistake the game to be simple or silly; there is a lot of math involved if you want to play and win the mancala game. Proper planning when playing the game will help you win over the opponent easily. 

These tricks will come in handy when you play mancala:

  • Get free turns- when you drop the stones into holes, you can drop one of them in your bowl. You will get another chance if you have only one stone left in your hand.
  • Collect more stones- one great way to gather more numbers of stones is by using the strategy to drop the last remaining stone in an empty pit on your side. If you successfully manage to do so, you will be able to reach out to the opponent’s side and take their side of the stones.
  • Think Strategically- if you get the first chance to play, pick up the stones starting from the fourth number of holes from the mancala bowl (store). This way, you will get to put the last remaining stone in your bowl and also score a free chance.

Final Words

Mancala is among the oldest ancient games in the world. This game originated in Africa, and like many other classics, this also has various versions. The need for fewer pieces of equipment makes this game easier to play. In this article, we have explained the mancala board game rules in detail, along with some strategies to win mancala. 

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