The object of mancala games is usually to capture more seeds than the opponent
Mancala is played with seven pits -- six playing pits plus one score pit, the Kalaha -- per player. At the beginning of the game, each of the (12) playing pits contains 3 seeds (or beads or stones or balls or whatever). To play, the player chooses one pit from which to "sow" the seeds. Each seed in the pit is then placed, one at a time, into the successive pits, moving counter-clockwise around the board. Seeds placed in a Kalaha are points for that player. Seeds are not sown in the opponent's Kalaha. If the last seed in a play is placed in the player's own Kalaha, they get another turn. If the last seed is placed in an empty pit on their own side of the board, then they Capture the seeds in the opposite (their opponent's) pit. All captured seeds, as well as the capturing piece, are placed in the player's Kalaha. The game ends when all of the pits on one side of the board are empty. The player with seeds remaining gets to put them into their Kalaha. The winner is the player with the most seeds.
The object of mancala games is usually to capture more seeds than the opponent; sometimes, one seeks to leave the opponent with no legal move in order to
Sowing, Before sowing. After sowing.
At the beginning of a player's turn, they select a hole with seeds that will be sown around the board. This selection is often limited to holes on the current player's side of the board, as well as holes with a certain minimum number of seeds.
In a process known as sowing, all the seeds from a hole are dropped one-by-one into subsequent holes in a motion wrapping around the board. Sowing is an apt name for this activity, since not only are many games traditionally played with seeds, but placing seeds one at a time in different holes reflects the physical act of sowing. If the sowing action stops after dropping the last seed, the game is considered a single lap game.
Multiple laps or relay sowing is a frequent feature of mancala games, although not universal. When relay sowing, if the last seed during sowing lands in an occupied hole, all the contents of that hole, including the last sown seed, are immediately resown from the hole. The process usually continues until sowing ends in an empty
hole. Many games from the Indian subcontinent use pussa-kanawa laps. These are like standard multilaps, but instead of continuing the movement with the contents of the last hole filled, a player continues with the next hole. A pussa-kanawa lap move will then end when a lap ends just prior to an empty
Depending on the last hole sown in a lap, a player may capture seeds from the board. The exact requirements for capture, as well as what is done with captured seeds, vary considerably among games. Typically, a capture requires sowing to end in a hole with a certain number of seeds, or ending across the board from seeds in specific configurations.
Another common way of capturing is to capture the contents of the holes that reach a certain number of seeds at any moment.
Also, several games include the notion of capturing holes, and thus all seeds sown on a captured hole belong at the end of the game to the player who captured it.
This is the famous Mancala Snails game based on an ancient African game of strategy
Mancala games share a general gameplay sequence of picking up all seeds from a hole
(the strategy), then sowing seeds one at a time from a hole, and capturing based on the state of
board. This leads to the English phrase "Count and Capture" sometimes used to describe the
gameplay. Although the details differ greatly, this general sequence applies to all
Wooden Mancala Board from West Africa Equipment is typically a board, constructed of various
materials, with a series of holes arranged in rows, usually two or four. Some games are more often played with holes dug in the
earth, or carved in stone. The holes may be referred to as
"depressions", "pits", or "houses".
Sometimes, large holes on the ends of the board, called stores, are used for holding captured
pieces. Playing pieces are seeds, beans, stones, or other small undifferentiated counters that are placed in and transferred about the holes during
play. Nickernuts are one common example of pieces used. Board configurations vary among different games but also within variations of a given
game; for example Endodoi is played on boards from 2 × 6 to 2 × 10.
With a two-rank board, players usually are considered to control their respective sides of the
board, although moves often are made into the opponent's
side. With a four-rank board, players control an inner row and an outer
row, and a player's seeds will remain in these closest two rows unless the opponent captures
These games are good for getting children interacting and used to
counting. Children can even be encouraged to make the game themselves as
follows: Take two half dozen egg cartons, tear the tops off them
both, and arrange them in a long line (lid, base, base, lid). You can staple or tape them together if you
wish, and you can use pebbles or beads as seeds.