Not a day over 3,500 years old

This post originally appeared on my old blog: PinkMeeple

As I was cleaning up my gaming bookcase (yes, singular. I haven’t expanded to two…yet) my daughter asked what the wooden box was that made a rattling sound when I moved it.

“It’s called Mancala,” I responded.
“Macala?” Natalya questions.
“Mancala. Can you teach me that?” she asks.
“Absolutely.” I said enthusiastically.

Who am I to argue when my daughter wants to learn a game.


Playing Mancala in the Congo

The word mancala is derived from the Arabic word manqala. Their are hundreds of versions of mancala, including Bao, Wari, Mefuhva, and Kiuthi. Although most have the same basic objectives and methods of play, they differ in detail. Most boards are carved into pieces of wood from the very large to smaller, more portable ones. But the beauty of this game is that it can be played with stones found on the side of the road and the “board” etched or dug out into the dirt with a stick.

Most experts agree that the birth of this game was in the region of the world surrounding the Red Sea. The game is ancient. Mancala boards have been discovered dating back 3,500 years to cities such as Al-Qurna, Luxor and Karnak. It is considered one of the oldest games known and is still played today.

2014-06-08 18.23.53Gameplay: In the modern US version of Mancala, each player has six cups in front of them with 4 gems in each. To each player’s right is the mancala where stones accrue as points. On a player’s turn, they select a cup in front of them and redistribute the gems one gem in each cup counter-clockwise including their own mancala but skipping over their opponent’s mancala.

If the last cup is empty and gets a gem on the player’s own side of the board, that player scores that gem as well as any in the cup directly across from it. Once all six cups are empty in front of a player triggers the end of the game and the player with the most gems in their own mancala is the winner.

At the end of three plays, she said she liked playing it. Abstract as it is, she understood the game concept quickly. It’s an inexpensive game that can be acquired almost anywhere including Target and Wal-Mart or even most large chain pharmacy stores like CVS and Rite-Aid.

Viel SpaƟ!

A beautifully carved mancala board

A beautifully carved “Bao” board







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