Mancala is an ancient game, originating in Africa over three thousand years ago. Evidence exists that the game was played in Egypt before the year 1400 BC. Many variations of the rules of Mancala exist.
The game was probably originally played with pebbles, seeds, or shells on a board consisting of depressions made in the dirt or sand. Today, the game can be played with any small objects such as dried beans, acorns, buttons, etc., although the commercial versions of the game usually use glass stones of various colors. These glass stones are very satisfying to handle, and often serve as the initial attraction to the game.
Wooden gameboards are widely available from toy stores, but a simple Mancala gameboard can be made with an egg carton and two small containers to serve as the players’ mancalas. For ease of play, especially for young players or players who are just learning, teachers might consider marking the bins with blue or red marks and adding green arrows to mark the direction players should move around the board (similar to the diagram on the rules page). However, numbering the bins (as in the diagram) is not necessary, and may even serve to confuse some children.
This game is simple enough for even kindergarteners to play, yet complex enough that adults find it challenging and enjoyable.
As players gain experience, they begin to develop strategies for winning that include both offensive and defensive strategies. For example, players usually learn very quickly that on their first move, they should choose the 4th bin from their mancala (Player A’s bin 3 from the diagram on the rules page) so that they get a second turn. Gradually, they learn how to prevent having stones in bins opposite an empty bin on the other player’s side, so that those stones do not get captured.
Some rules of Mancala state that players are not allowed to touch the stones in the bins in order to count them, but this rule seems unnecessarily restrictive for young children.
Recommended # of players: 2
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