Mancala game rules


How to play mancala

Mancala is one of those games that’s hard to describe but easy to play, and which then gets horribly tactical and nasty once you’ve mastered it!



The idea is that players ‘sow’ and ‘capture’ the counters, by dropping them one by one into consecutive holes.

The goal is to capture more counters than your opponent.


Getting started

Put four counters in each of the 12 holes of the board.

Each player has a mancala, or store, at the end of the board.

The board is placed between the players. You own the row of holes nearest you, and the mancala to your right.

  1. The first player chooses one of their holes and picks up all the counters in it. Deposit one counter in each hole, working counterclockwise until all the counters are used.
  2. Every time you get to your own mancala, count it as a hole, and deposit one counter. If it’s the opponent’s mancala, miss it out and put the counter into a hole in your row.
  3. If the last counter is dropped in your own mancala, you get a free turn. You pick up all the counters in your mancala and play again.
  4. If your last counter is dropped into an empty hole on your side, you get that counter and all those in the hole directly opposite.
  5. All the counters you capture must be put in your mancala.
  6. Keep playing until all six spaces on one side of the board are empty, and the game ends. If you still have counters on your side of the board, you capture all of them and put them in your mancala.

The winner is the person with the most counters in their mancala.


If you go first, choose a hole that is five moves away from your mancala. This way, the last counter will be dropped in your own store. This gives you another turn.

Since you get another turn if the last counter is dropped in your own mancala, work out which hole to start with to make this happen.

Play the hole where the last counter in your hand will land in an empty hole on your side. If the hole opposite it has counters, you capture all of them.

There are many versions of Mancala, and you can play much more complicated games if you like. Also, if you’re playing with children, you can start with only three counters in each hole if you want to make the game quicker!





Place four stones (colour doesn’t matter) into each of the 12 pockets. Each player ‘owns’ the row of six pockets closest to them, and the storage space to their right.


It’s the number of stones you end up with that matters, not the colour, but for clarity, the stones will now be shown as back and white, so you can see how they move in the initial stages of the game.



The instructions on how to make this mancala board can be found in issue 57






























Continue in this way, moving the stones counterclockwise.

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