How to Play Mancala (Ancient African Games)
Mancala games are known to be the oldest board games in the world and are believed to originate from Africa.
Back in the ancient days of Africa, people often played mancala games with pebbles or stones, using hollow holes scooped out of the soil. These pebbles or stones were placed in or moved around in a clockwise manner from hole to hole, and they are accumulated by each player during the game.
Later on, the use of specially carved wooden boards for mancala emerged with the use of beads, large seeds, beans, cowries or other seashells, depending on the geographical location of the players. These are now referred to as mancala board games.
Stone mancala boards have been found carved into the floors of temples in Memphis, Thebes, and Luxor. Mancala games were known to be played in Egypt before 1400BC.
Mancala Is Played with Various Mediums
Despite its age and its primitive origins, the mancala game is a mathematical game of tactics, and some of its more complex versions have as much of a wide scope as that of a Chess game.
Mancala games can easily be played with whatever medium happens to be around.
The objective of mancala games is to capture more beads (or seeds) than your opponent, leaving your opponent with no legal move, and your side must be the first to be empty in order to win the game.
How To Play
This game is played on a solid wooden board consisting of 2 rows (or ranks). Each row has 6 pits, making a total of 12 holes. There are 2 store pits at each end of the board, and these stores are used to hold the winnings of each player.
You begin the game by filling each hole with 4 beads or seeds. A player then picks up seeds from the hole and redistributes the seeds clockwise, one at a time into other holes around the board.
A few simple rules govern which holes a player can drop a bead into and when a player's turn is over. You or your opponent must accumulate the most beads in the store to win the mancala game.
Variations Of Mancala Game
There are many variations to the mancala board game. And there are other names that mancala's known by:
- Opon Ayo
Some mancala games have more rows and thus more holes on either side of the board. This variation of the mancala game is referred to as the 4 rank mancala board. 4 rank mancala games are played by 4 people. This is a modern type of board which has become quite popular with today's players.
Traditionally, the boards were roughly made and not carved out intricately as you'll find today. In the ancient times, even up to the present in some villages, the games were played with holes dug into the earth, or holes carved out of stone or rock.
While playing the game, people will crouch around the holes and play, knees bent and close to the ground, a dim picture of our forefathers playing a game of wits.
But today, you will find there are boards of different shapes, sizes, and configurations and they are all made from different kinds of materials ranging from engineered wood to leather, acrylic, copper/bronze, stone, or marble.
Some come in hinged cases that can be conveniently opened and closed tight and when it unfolds, you place the beads or seeds in the holes and start the game.
You can still find mancala boards, many decades old in African and Asian homes. As they've aged, they have become smooth and worn by so many years of use, most passed from one generation to another.
These very old and sometimes worn types are mostly relics of the past, with some being invaluable and considered as heirlooms or keepsakes.
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