How to Play Mancala? [Step-by-Step Guides 2023]

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How to Play Mancala is the first of a series of Instructables. I might not make the others, but I’ll try to remember. In this series, I’ll teach you how to play some fun and popular board games and also give you some strategies. This is different from the poorly written, unillustrated sheet of paper that comes with the game.

Mancala is the name for a large group of games called “Pit and Seeds” or “Count, Sow, and Capture.” It is one of the oldest games that people have ever played.

About 300 different Mancala games exist. Some, like Kalah or Oware, are easy, but games like Omweso or Bao, which are played on two boards and sometimes in the opposite direction, can be very hard. In this article, we are going to talk about how to play mancala and its Variations.

Mancala’s Primitive History

In the game Mancala, people “sow” and “catch” seeds. Historians think that mancala may have been used at the start of civilization as a way to keep records, as part of a harvesting ritual, or as a way to predict the future. There is evidence that the game was played in ancient Sumeria, which is now Iraq, ancient Sudan on the upper Nile River, and Egypt thousands of years ago. People have found old mancala boards in Zimbabwe, Uganda, and Ghana. Africans who were brought to America as slaves brought the game Mancala with them. That time they were thinking how to play how to play mancala.

About Online Mancala Games

Are you looking for how to play mancala? You need a mancala board to play. No problem. Here are some places where you can play mancala online and work on your strategy:

  • Math Playground
  • Play drift
  • Cool Math Games
  • Memory Improvement Tips

Mancala is a great way for moms who want to teach their kids some new math skills to do so. Scholastic says that this old game helps kids learn a math skill called “subitizing.” Here’s what they say about the idea: “Subitizing is when a child can see how many things are in a set without having to count them. For instance, a child could see three seeds in a mancala pit and know how many there are without having to count each one. Mancala also gives older elementary students a natural way to think about multiplication. Even though it looks like another board game, that’s not bad.

How to Play Mancala?

How to Play Mancala

Mancala can be easy to play. Choose who will go first, and let that person take any four stones from any pocket. Then, they have to go counterclockwise around the board, dropping one stone in each pocket or store along the way. From there, you can make things as easy or hard as you want. We’ll tell you the most basic rules so that everyone can enjoy the game. Players skip their opponent’s store as they drop stones along the path (or mancala). If the last stone falls into an empty pocket on either side of the board, you’re out.

On the other hand, if your last stone falls into a pocket with more stones, you can pick up those stones and keep going. If you drop your last unique stone in your own mancala, you can choose any pocket and keep going. Confusing? When you’re not playing, it seems that way. But if you have a board and some stones, it can feel a lot easier. Don’t forget that there are other rules you can use if the game gets too easy. If it seems too hard, you could even take some away. Here is some information about how to play mancala.


Put four seeds in each of the six holes on your side of the game board. The other person should do the same thing. It doesn’t matter what color the seeds are. (You can play with three seeds in each pit to make the game go faster.)


  • Folding Wood board with 2 rows of 6 pits (holes).
  • 48 colored stones

Playing Basic Rules:

  • Play always moves around the board in a counter-clockwise circle (to the right)
  • The store on your right belongs to you. That is where you keep the seeds you win.
  • The six pits near you are your pits.
  • Only use one hand to pick up and put down seeds.
  • Once you touch the seeds in a pit, you must move those seeds.
  • Only put seeds in your own store, not your opponent’s store.

Starting the Game:

When it’s a player’s turn, they pick up all the seeds in one pit and “sow” them to the right, putting one seed in each pit as they go. If you go to your store, you should add a seed to it and move on. Along the way, you might plant seeds in your opponent’s pits.
Play goes back and forth, with each player taking a turn picking up the seeds in one of their pits and putting them one by one into the pits on the right, starting with the one right next to them.

Special Rules:

  • Take another turn when the last seed in your hand lands in your store.
  • When the last seed in your hand lands in one of your own pits, if that pit was empty you
  • get to keep all of the seeds in the pit on the other side that your opponent has. Put those seeds you caught,
  • as well as the last seed you just played on your side, into the store.

Game Play

  1. The first player picks a pit on his side of the board and takes all the stones from it.
  2. The player now puts one stone in each pit in a counterclockwise direction.
  3. If you drop a stone in your own store, you can put it down and it will be safe. If you come across your opponent’s store, don’t stop there.
  4. The Last stone you drop ends up in your own store. You get a free turn.
  5. If the last stone you drop goes into an empty pit. You take those stones and any stones in the pit directly across from them on your opponent’s side of the board.
  6. If you catch stones, you should put them right into your Mancala (store).
  7. Your turn is over when you drop all of your stones and take any other stones. The game keeps going, with each player taking a turn.

Best Opening Move

How to Play Mancala
Photo credit:

It’s best to start with your third hole since your last stone will then land in your mancala. This score gives you an extra turn and is worth one point. Now, you play your rightmost hole to get another point and drop your last stone into your opponent’s third hole (this blocks him to do the same).

Capturing Your Opponent’s Stones

If you put the last stone of your turn into an empty cup on your side of the board, you take all of your opponent’s pieces from the cup directly across from it. Put the stones you’ve caught and the stone you used to catch them in your mancala.

Tips and Tricks for How to Play Mancala

This is where math and being able to think strategically come into play. There are ways to win at mancala, but you have to think about how to play mancala. What do you want to do before you move your stones? Mancala is a bit like the game Connect 4, which also requires you to think strategically. When you play mancala, keep these three tips in mind.

  • Get a free turn: You can drop a stone into your own mancala store when you drop stones into holes (bowl). If you have no more stones, you get another turn.
  • Gather more stones:  You can get more stones if you drop your last stone into a hole on your side of the board that is empty. If you do that, you can reach across the board and take the stones of your opponent that are in the other hole.
  • Think strategically:  If you go first, take the stones in the fourth hole away from your mancala store (bowl). So, you can put your last stone in your store and get a free turn.

How to Win the Mancala Game?

There are lots of things you can do to help you win. One way to get off to a good start is to start on the third hole. This way, your last stone will land in your store, giving you a second move. Your next move is just as important from there.

Choose the first or second closest pocket so you can put the last of your four stones in a pocket that is already full and keep playing. After that, it’s just a matter of thinking quickly and counting. When it’s your turn to scoop more stones to play, always look for pockets with enough stones to drop into your own store or move you to even bigger pockets.

Mancala Game Variations

There are no hard and fast rules for mancala, so you and your other players can change the game however you want to make it harder or add more people. Some ideas that other players have used to change the game are:

  • Change how many seeds are put in each hole. The game will last longer if you use more seeds.
  • Each player can change the number of pits on the game board.
  • Four people should play the game. You can play with two teams of two people each, or you can change the board to have more rows and mancalas.
  • Another way to change the game is to let the popular player who gets all of his seeds off the board first take any of the other player’s seeds that are still on the board.


Popular in West Africa and the Caribbean, Oware is a version that is often played. The rules are similar to the basic rules for mancala, but there are a few changes:

  • At the start of the game, each pit has four seeds in it.
  • Don’t let the seeds fall into the mancalas.
  • If there are two or three seeds left in an opponent’s pit after the last seed is dropped, the player can take them. If the number is something else, the seeds stay in the pit.
  • Then if there are two or three seeds in the second-to-last pit, those seeds are also taken. The same rule applies to all previous pits on the opponent’s side until the first player either comes to a pit with more or fewer seeds or gets to his board.
  • If the seeds from a pit let you go around the board more than once, you should skip the pit they came from.
  • The game is over when one player’s pits are empty and the other player can’t make a move that would drop seeds into the empty pits. The other player gets to keep the rest of his seeds.
  • If neither player can move, they can either divide the remaining seeds or leave them out of the final count.


Giuthi is a Kenyan version of mancala, and the word means “to put” in Kenyan.

  • This version of the game needs more seeds than others, and you might want to use smaller objects to make sure they fit in the holes.
  • On a typical Giuthi board, there may be between five and ten pits on each side.
  • The game gets harder as there are more pits, so a smaller board with six pits in each row may be best for beginners.
  • At the start of the game, each small pit has six seeds in it.
  • The player can choose where to drop the seeds.
  • If the last stone is put in a pit with other seeds, the player picks up all the seeds and drops them in the opposite direction.
  • This goes back and forth until the last stone falls into a hole that is now empty.
  • Nothing happens if the empty pit is on the opponent’s side.
  • If the last stone is put in an empty pit on the player’s side, he puts that stone and the seeds in the opposite pit on his mancala.

The player can’t take seeds from the other pit, though, if no seeds were added to it during that player’s turn.

  • When there is an empty pit next to where the last stone was dropped, the player can also take the seeds from the empty pit on the other side of the line. He does this until he reaches a pit with seeds on his side or an empty pit on his opponent’s side.
  • A player must start from a pit with more than one seed in order to take a turn. If this can’t happen, she will have to skip a turn.
  • When the game is over, each player keeps the seeds that are still in their own pits.
  • The end of the game is:
  • At least four seeds are left for one player.
  • Neither player has any more “legal” moves.
  • If the same board position.


The first of a set of board games about “How to Play Mancala.” About 300 different Mancala games exist. Some, like Kalah or Oware, are easy, but games like Omweso or Bao, which are played on two boards and sometimes in the opposite direction, can be very hard.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about How to Play Mancala

Who starts in Mancala Game?

At the start of the game, one player takes all of the pieces from one of the pockets on his or her side. 2. The player puts one of the stones in each pocket, going counterclockwise, until all of the stones are gone.

What does mancala mean in English?

Freebase. Mancala. Mancala is a family of board games that are played all over the world. These games are sometimes called “sowing” games or “count-and-capture” games, which describe how they are played. Mancala comes from the Arabic word naqala, which means “to move” in English.

What is the object of the mancala game?

The goal is to put as many seeds as possible in your store. At the end of the game, the winner is the player who has the most seeds in his or her store. Set-Up: Put four seeds in each of the six holes on your side of the game board. The other person should do the same thing.

How does the mancala game work?

The mancala games are a family of two-player turn-based strategy board games played with small stones, beans, or seeds and rows of holes or pits in the ground, a board, or some other playing surface. Usually, the goal is to take all or some of your opponent’s pieces.

How do you win a mancala play game?

Have the most stones in your Mancala to win the game. Every stone is worth 1 point. The game is won by the player with the most points. The other player gets to take any stones that are still on their side of the board, so think about how this will affect the score before the game is over.

What’s the best first move in mancala?

Our best choice for the opening sequence is CF, which leaves the board set up as The good things about this beginning are: It clears out pit F early in the game, so Player1 can play a single stone from F into her mancala each time a single stone lands there.

Are there different ways to play mancala?

There are two main kinds of Mancala: Kalah, which is a game for kids, and Oware, which both kids and adults can play.

Is mancala a good game?

Mancala helps you improve your memory, your ability to pay attention, your strategic thinking, and your ability to plan ahead so you don’t give your opponent a chance to beat you by accident. This makes kids think about what their opponent might do next (think: empathy and point of view!).

Is mancala easy?

Mancala is a very simple game to learn. Players can choose who goes first in any way they want: Rock-Paper-Scissors, a flip of a coin, the loser of the last game goes first, etc.

Is mancala the oldest game in the world?

Archaeological evidence found in Jordan (in the Mediterranean) around 6000 BCE has led some historians to believe that Mancala is the oldest game in the world. In a way similar to how Mancala is made, holes were cut into samples of stones.

Is mancala a Filipino game?

Mancala is a group of board games that people all over the world play. The word comes from the Arabic word “moved,” which is “naqala.” Even though it is similar to the Indonesian game Congkak, it is a real Philippine game. I find it interesting that Filipinos play this game no matter where they are.

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