Number of players
Recommended age
Competition type
1 vs.1
Playing time
-15 min
Cost or investment
Free -

Brief description of the game

Mancala is a turn-based one-on-one strategy game in which you have to think very carefully about each move. The tiles will move on the board according to the rules explained below and will gradually fall into the “warehouse” of each player. Whoever stores more pieces wins the game.
Table of contents

Note: in this article we explain the rules of the Mancala game that is more widespread in the western world, which many call Kalaha.

Some authors call Mancala, not a specific game, but the whole family of games “of holes and pebbles” in which “seeds are sown and collected”.

How to play Mancala

Set up before start playing

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Mancala is a 1 vs. 1 game, so two players are required.

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The game is played with a special board on which there are holes (or cups) through which the game pieces move.

Niño jugando a Mancala

48 small pieces are used to simulate seeds that will be sown in the 12 small holes (holes or cups) and in the two large ones, which are usually called stores, mancalas or point cups.

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You can improvise a homemade version of Mancala with objects you have at home, although there are products on the market at very good prices. Below you will find tips and a buying guide for purchasing a Mancala.

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Each player is associated with one of the 6-hole groups. The large hole to the right of each player will be his or her storehouse or point hole.

Hole zones belonging to each player:

Los seis hoyos pequeños del tablero de Mancala que están frente a cada jugador son sus hoyos o su zona de juego

Store or hole of points of each of the players:

El hoyo o copa de puntos de cada jugador es el que queda a su derecha en el tablero de Mancala
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Four pieces are placed in each of the 12 small holes.

Se distribuye el total de piezas de forma uniforme entre todos los hoyos pequeños del tablero de Mancala
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During the game of Mancala, the pieces will circulate counterclockwise and will gradually fall into the stores, giving points to each player.

Los moviemientos en Mancala se hacen en sentido anti horario
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The player with the least experience playing Mancala starts.

Goal of the game

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Wins the player who has the most pieces in his storehouse at the end of the game.

Mancala rules: playing a mancala game

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The player whose turn it is must choose one of the holes on his side that is not empty. He takes the pieces and leaves them one by one in a counterclockwise direction (to the right) from the next hole until there are no more pieces left in his hand.

If he passes by your warehouse, he also leaves a piece there, adding a point.

If it passes through the other player’s warehouse, it is skipped.

Example 1:

Let’s assume that the red player has the turn and chooses the hole with the red colored pieces.

Jugada con una captura por pasar por hoyo de puntos

This is how the pieces would look like after their movement:

Example 2:

In this other example, the red player chooses the hole with 9 pieces:

This is how the pieces would look like after their movement:

No pieces are left in the opponent’s storehouse.

In this video you can see how all these movements are performed.

Mancala special rules

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If the last piece falls into his store the player has an extra turn.


If the red player selects the pieces colored in red…

… the last piece will fall into your warehouse.

This gives you an extra turn. He picks a hole on his side again to make a new move.

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If the last piece lands in an empty hole on your side then you will capture that piece and any pieces in the hole directly opposite of the opposing player.


If the red player chooses the hole with the pieces colored in red…

…the last piece falls into a hole in his area that was empty.

Capture then that last piece and the other player’s pieces on the opposite side.

And he takes them to his warehouse !

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Once the pieces have been taken from a hole, it is mandatory to play with them. It is not allowed to change the play in the middle of the game.

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Players will alternate turns following the dynamics and rules explained above.

Game over. Who wins?

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The game of Mancala ends when all 6 holes in either player’s zone are empty.

The other player takes the pieces still remaining in his holes and captures them, adding them to his point hole. Now all holes are empty, except for the point holes.

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The winner is the player with the most pieces in his storehouse.

Mancala Playing Tips

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The player who has the first turn enjoys a slight advantage so the game will be fairer if several games of Mancala are played and alternating who starts.

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Mancala games are faster and easier if played with fewer pieces. We recommend starting with 2 or 3 pieces per hole instead of 4 in the first games, especially for children.

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If any of the players spends too much time thinking about his move, it will be convenient to agree on a maximum time per move. If you overshoot that time, you lose your turn.

How to create a home-made version of Mancala

The pieces

An infinite number of small objects can be used as parts: pebbles, marbles, chickpeas, beans, small coins, buttons, small seashells…

All you have to take into account is that they are easy to handle, that they can fit up to 10 pieces in the same hole and that 48 pieces are needed!

Small holes

Coffee cups, egg cups, small bowls… can be used as small holes.

You can also draw some circles on a large piece of paper and even, if you are in the street, dig the holes in the sand.

The stores

A bowl, a glass, a plate, a small box… can be used for storage. The power of imagination!

Buying guide and tips

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Aspects to be considered

There is no such thing as “the best Mancala” because not all of us have the same needs, the same expectations or the same use of the game.

Everyone must find “their best product” taking into account these variables:

1 - Playing comfort

The size of the holes and the size of the pieces must be coherent and proportional to each other so that taking the pieces when a hole is full -sometimes more than 10 pieces can be placed in the same hole- does not become an odyssey, the pieces fall out or end up in other holes. For us it is the most important aspect to take into account because the playing experience will be uncomfortable if only 5 or 6 pieces fit in a hole. Please keep this in mind.

2 - Resistance and quality of materials

The Mancala board can be made of wood or plastic of different qualities. And there is even more variety when we talk about the pieces that can be made of wood, glass, stone, minerals, plastic…

Depending on the use we are going to give to the game – it will not be the same to play occasionally once or twice a year than to play regularly every week – we will have to acquire a product that is presumed to be more or less resistant to use.

On the other hand, we will have to evaluate if a simple plastic mancala is enough for us or if we want one made of noble wood that is also carved and decorated as if it were the throne of a king because in that sense there are for all tastes and for all pockets.

3 - Space it takes up

The larger the Mancala board, the more comfortable it is to play. But do not forget that it will have to be stored somewhere afterwards. We must take into account the storage space available when choosing a larger or smaller model, folding or non-folding.

4 - Portability

If we plan to take our Mancala out for a walk, perhaps to play at a family member’s house, or to challenge a friend in a bar, or as a travel companion to liven up the waiting hours at an airport, we will have to consider buying a Mancala that is light and easily transportable.

Where to buy a Mancala

It is not a product that is usually found in large supermarkets or local bazaars. You will have to go to a local store specializing in board games or buy it in some ecommerce.

LOODENS is currently an Amazon affiliate and if you click on the links below we take a small commission to help us defray the costs of maintaining this site and creating all the content we offer for free. This does not affect the purchase price or the benefits of your Amazon subscription.

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Recommended products

Wooden Mancala by TOWO (Toys of wood Oxford)

TOWO Manca

The size of the pieces vs. the holes is perfect. Quality product despite its low price. There is a version in which the pieces are colored crystals.

Although it is foldable it does not have a zipper to store the pieces inside and although it makes up for it with a nice bag it is not the best option if you are looking for a portable Mancala.

Open measures 44 x 13.3 x 1.5 cm.

Its price usually ranges around $18.

LOGICA GIOCHI teakwood mancala

We believe it is an excellent choice for its large board of almost 50cm, with large holes in which 10-12 pieces fit perfectly.

It has a closure that allows to store the pieces inside. Made of teak wood. The perfect choice if you are looking for a portable or space-saving game.

Open measuring 49 x 13 x 2.5 cm (19.29 x 5.12 x 0.98 inch)

Its price usually ranges around $35.

Large and sturdy Mancala from Yellow Mountain

Mancala Yellow Mountain

A beautiful Mancala, carved with colorful quartz pieces.

It measures 44 x 11,5 x 2,5 cm

Manufactured by Yellow Mountain, a guarantee of quality and eco-friendliness.

Its price usually ranges around $40.

Games like Mancala

Oware (Abapa) can be played with the same board as Mancala. Although the stores do not participate in the capture of pieces, they can be used to store the pieces won. We encourage you to try it. The rules for capturing pieces are different.

Sungka is a game that extends the rules and game dynamics of Mancala. The games are longer and at some point more fun 😉

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LOODENS rating

You learn quickly and you’ll be hooked. The game begins to dominate after 5-6 games. It is a game of strategy, which forces you to think well about each move, but it does not have the complexity of chess. Suitable for adult-child play. The LOODENS team did not know this game and after researching, documenting and playing dozens of games we have found it a game that everyone should learn to play.

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