How to Play Mancala: A Complete Guide

Welcome to our comprehensive guide on how to play mancala! If you’re new to this exciting board game, don’t worry – we’ve got you covered. In this article, we’ll take you through everything you need to know about mancala, from the rules of the game to strategies for winning. Whether you’re playing with friends or family, mancala is a great way to spend time and have fun. So let’s dive in and get started!

What is Mancala?

Mancala is a two-player board game that originated in Africa and is played all over the world. It’s a game of strategic thinking and planning, where players take turns moving stones or seeds around the board in an attempt to capture their opponent’s pieces. There are many variations of the game, but the most commonly played version is called Kalah. It’s easy to learn, but can be challenging to master, making it a great game for both beginners and experienced players.

The History of Mancala

The origins of mancala are unclear, but it’s believed to have been played in Africa for thousands of years. The game is mentioned in ancient texts and was played by people of all ages and social classes. Mancala was also popular in the Middle East, where it was known as “sowing”. It eventually spread to other parts of the world, including Europe and Asia, where it was adapted and modified into different versions. Today, mancala is played by millions of people around the world, with many different variations and rules.

What You’ll Need to Play

To play mancala, you’ll need a board with two rows of six holes, and two larger pits or “stores” at either end of the board. You’ll also need 48 small stones, seeds, or other small objects to use as playing pieces. The game can be played on any flat surface, such as a table or the ground, and can be made from a variety of materials, including wood, plastic, or clay.

How to Play Mancala

Now that you have everything you need, it’s time to learn how to play mancala. Here are the basic rules:


Place four stones in each of the 12 holes on the board. The two larger pits at either end of the board belong to each player. The player on the bottom has the store on their right, and the player on top has the store on their left.

Object of the Game

The object of the game is to capture more stones than your opponent. You do this by moving your stones around the board, with the goal of depositing as many as possible into your store at the end of the game.


The player on the bottom goes first, and takes all the stones from one of their holes. They then place one stone in each subsequent hole, moving counterclockwise around the board. If they reach their store, they deposit a stone and take another turn. If they reach an empty hole on their side of the board, they deposit a stone in it, as well as any stones in the hole opposite it on their opponent’s side of the board. If they reach an empty hole on their opponent’s side of the board, they skip it and move on to the next hole.

The player on top then takes their turn, following the same rules. Players continue to take turns until one player no longer has any stones on their side of the board. The game then ends, and players count up their stones. The player with the most stones in their store wins.

Strategies for Winning

Now that you know the rules, it’s time to develop some strategies for winning at mancala. Here are some tips to keep in mind:

Control the Board

Try to control as many holes on the board as possible, especially those closest to your store. This will give you more opportunities to drop stones in your store and prevent your opponent from doing the same.

Avoid Capturing Too Early

Don’t be too eager to capture your opponent’s stones. It’s often better to wait until you have a larger number of stones in your own store before making a capture, as this will give you a bigger lead.

Be Aware of Your Opponent’s Moves

Pay attention to your opponent’s moves, and be prepared to adjust your own strategy accordingly. If your opponent is focusing on one side of the board, for example, you may want to focus on the other side.


Q: How many people can play mancala?

A: Mancala is typically played with two players, but there are versions that can be played with more.

Q: What is the object of the game?

A: The object of mancala is to capture more stones than your opponent.

Q: How long does a game of mancala usually last?

A: A game of mancala can last anywhere from a few minutes to half an hour or more, depending on the skill level of the players and the pace of the game.

Q: What happens if both players have an equal number of stones at the end of the game?

A: In the case of a tie, the game is considered a draw.

Q: Can you capture stones from your own side of the board?

A: No, you can only capture stones from your opponent’s side of the board.

Q: Can you deposit stones in your opponent’s store?

A: No, you can only deposit stones in your own store.

Q: Can you move stones in any order you like?

A: No, you must move stones counterclockwise around the board.

Q: How do you know when the game is over?

A: The game is over when one player no longer has any stones on their side of the board.

Q: Is mancala a game of luck or skill?

A: Mancala is a game of both luck and skill. While luck plays a role in the distribution of stones, strategic thinking and planning are also important for success.

Q: Can you play mancala online?

A: Yes, there are many online versions of mancala that you can play against other players or against the computer.

Q: What are some variations of mancala?

A: There are many different variations of mancala, including Oware, Bao, and Congkak.

Q: Can children play mancala?

A: Yes, mancala is a great game for children to play, as it helps to develop strategic thinking and planning skills.

Q: Can you play mancala on a phone or tablet?

A: Yes, there are many mancala apps available for smartphones and tablets.

Q: Can you make your own mancala board?

A: Yes, you can make your own mancala board using materials like cardboard, paper, or even pebbles.


Now that you know how to play mancala, it’s time to start practicing and developing your skills. Remember to focus on controlling the board, avoiding early captures, and paying attention to your opponent’s moves. With a little practice and some strategic thinking, you’ll be well on your way to becoming a master of mancala. So gather your friends and family and start playing today!

Closing or Disclaimer

Playing mancala is a fun and engaging activity that can provide hours of entertainment. However, it’s important to remember that the rules and strategies outlined in this article are just one version of the game. There are many different variations of mancala, each with their own unique rules and strategies. We encourage you to explore these different variations and find the one that works best for you. Additionally, we recommend following all safety guidelines when playing mancala, and supervising children at all times.

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