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Mancala Rules

Traditionally played in the Arabic speaking part of the world

Mancala: From the Arabic word Mankaleh meaning to move. It is often forgotten that there is a variant of Oware called Mancala because it is so often used as a generic name for all Count and Capture games amongst academics. This game is played in Egypt, Syria and other Arabic speaking countries. The principal of play is almost the same as those variants played in the Far East such as Congkak and Sungka and similar in some sense to Tampoduo and Layli Goobaly. At the start the board is arranged with 3 seeds in each house, but there are variants that are played with 4,5 and 7 in each house at the start of the game. The game called Bantumi on Nokia phones is Mancala under a different name.

Arrangement of board at the beginning of each game or round

Three seeds are placed in each house on a board that is made up of two rows of six houses making twelve in total, as well as two storehouses on either end of the board. Each row of six houses is the territory of the player sitting nearest to them. The storehouse to the right belongs to each player. As well as being used as a storehouse, seeds are sown into the end houses and form an integral part of the game.

Object of the game

The object of the game is to capture as many seeds as possible.


Each player takes it in turn to start. The player must then choose a house from their own territory, from which all the seeds are scooped and sown around the board in an anti clockwise direction.

Sowing seeds

The seeds are sown in an anticlockwise direction placing one seed in each house as one travels, around the board both on yours and the opponent's side. Seeds are also placed in the player's own storehouse as one goes around the board but not in the opponents store house. If the last of your seeds lands in your storehouse you may have another go. You may continue to have another go so long as your last seed continues to land in your storehouse, always moving from your territory.

Capturing seeds

Seeds are captured when the sowing of seeds by either player lands in an empty house on their side. If the opposite house on the opponent's territory contains seeds these are captured along with the last seed sown. If there are no seeds in the opposite house nothing is captured. Note that if a player's last seed lands on an empty house on the opponent's side and the opposite house on their own side has seeds in it, no seeds are captured.

End of game

The game ends when all the seeds have been captured or when all the seeds are on one side of the board or when one player has captured 25 seeds or more. The winner is the player with the most seeds in their storehouse.

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