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Mancala: The African game of counting and strategy

Many Historians believe that Mancala is the oldest game in the world. The word Mancala means "to transfer" in Arabic. That is exactly what you do; you transfer, or move, playing pieces from one bin to another.

There are hundreds of different variations to the basic game Mancala. Here are the names of just a few:

ti
kpo
wari
azigo
igisoro
omweso

Mancala represents the diversity of Africa. Some version of Mancala is played in nearly every African country. It is enjoyed by royalty and commoners, adults and children, in cities and villages of every size.

Mancala has lasted for so many years because each past and present culture has been able to enjoy it in it's own special way: as an important family game, a ceremonial right of passage, or a form of recreation among friends.

The type of Mancala board varies, the wealthy may play on carved ivory boards covered with gold, or it could be just a few holes in the ground with pebbles as playing pieces.

How to Play

PLAYERS: 2

WHAT YOU NEED: Mancala board, 48 playing pieces

SETTING UP: The board is placed between you and your opponent. Each of you takes 24 playing pieces and puts four pieces in each of the six bins on your side of the board. The two larger bins at each end of the board are called kalahas. These are left empty at the start of the game. In Mancala, the location of the pieces on the board determines if you can move them or not, not the color of the piece. Throughout the game, you can move any of the pieces from your side of the board. You may not move the pieces on your opponent's side of the board.

OBJECT OF THE GAME: To be the player with the most pieces in your kalaha.

HOW THE GAME IS PLAYED: If you are the first player to go, scoop up all the pieces from any bin on your side of the board. Now, moving to the right drop one piece into each bin that you come to.

If you come to your kalaha (the one on the right), drop a playing piece into this bin. If you have more pieces left after you drop one in the kalaha, continue to put your remaining pieces into the bins on your opponent's side.

If you come to your opponent's kalaha -this will happen later in the game-skip over it. If your last piece lands in your kalaha, you get to go again. Otherwise, it's your opponent's turn.

CAPTURING: If the last piece that you drop goes into an empty bin on your side of the board, you get to capture any of your opponent's playing pieces in the bin directly across from yours. When you capture these pieces you take all of them and put them in your kalaha. When you capture, you put the piece that you captured within your kalaha along with the pieces you captured. After you make a capture, it is your opponent's turn.

HOW THE GAME ENDS: The game ends when all six bins on your or your opponent's bins are empty. The player with pieces still in their bins then can put their remaining pieces into their kalaha. The winner is the player with the most playing pieces in their kalaha.

Our class made mancala games from egg cartons.

 

 

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