SUNGKA

Number of players
2
Recommended age
6+
Competition type
1 vs.1
Playing time
10
-20 min
Difficulty
Normal
Cost or investment
Free -

Brief description of the game

Sungka is a very old game of “holes and seeds” played widely throughout Southeast Asia. It is similar to Mancala but has more rules and more game dynamics. If you already know how to play Mancala, the next step is to play Sungka.
Table of contents

Note

Learn to play Mancala or Oware-Abapa first. Sungka is the most difficult and dynamic variant of the hole and seed family of games. People usually first learn to play Mancala and when they have already played many games and the game is too short for them, they go one step further and start playing Sungka. We recommend that you do it this way.

How to play Sungka

Things you need to know before starting to play

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Number of players

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

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What you need to play

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

The total number of small holes may vary from one board to another as well as the number of pieces played with. The most common is to play with 14 small holes and 7 pieces per hole, that’s 98 pieces.

But if we have a Mancala board we can also play with it.

chicos jugando a sungka

Larong Sungka” by ejsabandal  李忠仁 is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0.

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Discovering the Sungka board

Each player is associated with one of the small 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:

Sungka players zone

Store or hole of points of each of the players:

Sungka scoring hole
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Initial position of the pieces

All the pieces are equally distributed among all the small holes. If playing with 98 pieces and 7 holes per player, there will be 7 pieces left in each of the small holes.

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Movement of the pieces

During the game of Sungka the pieces will circulate clockwise and will gradually fall into the stores, giving points to each player.

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Rounds and turns

A game of Sungka is divided into several rounds. In each round players take turns playing, except for the first turn of each round, when both players play at the same time!

For each round:

  • The first turn is played simultaneously by both players.
  • In the following turns the players play alternately.

Goal of the game

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How to win a game of SUNGKA

The player with the most pieces in his storehouse at the end of the game wins.

Rules of SUNGKA: playing a game.

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ROUND 1 – FIRST TURN SIMULTANEOUS

The player with the most pieces in his storehouse at the end of the game wins.

Each player simultaneously chooses one of the holes on his side that is not empty. He takes the pieces and leaves them one by one, as if he were sowing, in a clockwise direction (to the left) from the next hole and passing through all the holes on the board until there are no 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.

And what next? It depends on where the last piece fell:

CASE 1 – THE LAST PIECE FALLS INTO A HOLE WITH PIECES

If the last piece falls into a small hole containing pieces – no matter which player it is – the player will take all the pieces from that hole, including the one he has left, and continue seeding one at a time from the next hole clockwise. And if it falls into another small non-empty hole… well, the same thing. And again, and again… until when? Until Case 2, 3 or 4 occurs.

CASE 2 – THE LAST PIECE FALLS INTO YOUR STOREHOUSE

If the last piece falls in the player’s own store, the player takes the pieces from any of his holes and continues “seeding”. As if starting a new turn.

CASE 3 – THE LAST PIECE FALLS INTO AN EMPTY HOLE OF YOUR OWN

If the last piece falls into an empty hole on your side then you will capture that piece and any pieces in the opposite player’s directly opposite hole – the one in front of you – you take those pieces to your store and your turn is over.

CASE 4 – THE LAST PIECE FALLS INTO THE OPPONENT’S EMPTY HOLE

The player finishes his turn and does not make any captures.

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No swapping allowed

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.

During this first turn both players have been playing at the same time, which can be both chaotic and fun. Whoever finishes first must wait for the other player to finish as well.

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ROUND 1 – FOLLOWING ALTERNATING TURNS

Once the first simultaneous turn is over, they begin to play in turns, starting with the player who has the fewest pieces in his storehouse. The rules are the same.

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ROUND 1 – END OF ROUND

The round ends when one of the players can no longer play because he has no pieces on his side.

The other player takes the pieces still left in his holes and captures them, adding them to his store.

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Redistribution

This is followed by a redistribution of pieces.

  • each player takes the pieces he has in his store and uses them to fill his holes from left to right so that there are 7 pieces in each hole.
  • If all the holes are completed and there are pieces left over, they go to your warehouse.
  • If there are not enough pieces for the last hole to have all 7 pieces then those last pieces go to the warehouse, both the ones that were in the last hole and the ones still to be distributed. In other words, in each hole there are either 7 pieces or none at all.

Burned holes

The holes that have been left empty are eliminated from the board, they are said to be “burned” and in the following rounds they can NOT be used at any time and by any player.

As the game progresses there will be more and more holes burned!

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Next rounds

The following rounds are played in the same way as the first round, but now without the burned holes. First turn simultaneous and then alternate turns.

Game over. Who wins?

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When does the game end?

The game ends when one of the players has ALL his holes burned.

The other player takes the pieces still remaining in his holes and captures them, adding them to his point hole.

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And the winner is…

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

Sungka Playing Tips

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Tip 1 – Burned holes

In the first games, when you are learning, you can use some object to mark the burned holes.

When both players know the game well, burned holes are not marked and if any player mistakenly leaves a seed, the other player captures that seed and takes it to his storehouse.

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Practice

Sungka games are faster and easier if played with fewer pieces. We recommend starting with 4 or 5 pieces per hole in the first games, especially for children.

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Limiting time per turn

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.

Example of a game

In this video you will see a live game and explanations of two girls from the Philippines, a country where Sungka is a game with a great tradition.

How to create a home-made version of Sungka

The pieces

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

Just make sure that they are easy to handle, that they fit at least 10 pieces in the same hole and that you need a lot of pieces!

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 as storage. Imagination to the power!

Games like Sungka

Before playing Sungka we recommend learning and playing many games of Mancala.

Oware-Abapa is another variety of hole-and-seed game, in simplicity more similar to Mancala than Sungka.

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Tips and buying guide

On our Mancala game page, you’ll find a detailed guide with plenty of tips to help you choose the perfect board that suits your needs. Check it out!

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LOODENS rating

 
We recommend learning to play Mancala first because Sungka adds almost everything Mancala has and adds several more rules and dynamics. If we continue comparing with Mancala, Sungka is a more complex game, the games are longer, and it has a little something that makes it more fun than Mancala.

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