The mancala board game originated in the Arabian world and has been a part of many African and Asian cultures for centuries. Learn about the many variations of this exciting game and find out where you can buy a mancala set.
Archeolgists have uncovered evidence that mancala has been played for at least 1300 years. English merchants began playing the game in the 1600s, and there are records of a similar game in early twentieth century Louisiana. Today, the game is very popular in the United States and throughout the world.
"mancala" actually refers to a group of board games, including the following variations:
- Kalah: This version was brought to the United States in 1940 and is the type of mancala most widely played in the United States today.
- Oware: The official national game of Ghana, this version is more challenging than Kalah and is often played in competition.
- Bao: Played mainly in Tanzania, Kenya, and other parts of Africa, this type of mancala is considered to be one of the most complicated and challenging.
- Congkak: When playing this version in Malaysia, Borneo, and Singapore, players often use game pieces made of cowrie shells.
- Unee tugaluulakh: This version of mancala is played in Mongolia and is a favorite of the Kazakh people.
- Omweso: Popular in Uganda, this African version of mancala uses a larger board than Oware.
- Igisoro: Used mostly in Rwanda and Burundi, this version also uses a larger board.
mancala Games in the United States
In the United States, the mancala game was popularized by William Julius Champion, Jr. Champion, a native of Colorado, who became fascinated by the ancient game around 1910. He believed that the game was educational, and he began to manufacture versions of the mancala game in 1940. By the time Champion died in 1972, the game had become popular.
mancala Board Game Play
In most versions of the mancala game, players have a pitted game board and a certain number of seeds. They place these seeds in the pits. Players then take turns capturing the opponent's seeds. In the end, the player who captures the most seeds is the winner.
The following sites offer specific rules for the many versions of the mancala board game:
Where to Buy mancala
Whether you're an experienced board game enthusiast or you're looking for a fun kids' board game, there is a version of mancala out there for you. You can find great mancala games for sale at the following sites:
- Board Game Central has several versions of mancala, ranging in complexity and price. Many are made of solid wood and other quality materials.
- Melissa and Doug is a noted educational toy company, and they offer a beautiful mancala board. This version is the standard Kalah variation played in the United States.
- BoardGames4Us offers many types of mancala, including a variation that can be played with up to four people. This site also has a travel version of the game.