Mancala - The Abstract Board Game

Mancala - The Abstract Board Game


Mancala is a count and capture board game that dates back to 500/700 AD. It is derived from the Arabic word ‘manqala’, based on the verb ‘naqala’, which means to move. Mancala boards have also been found in Egyptian tombs.
The game is played between two players. The board for this game is usually made of wood or stone and consists of rows containing a number of cups/pits. Small objects like beans, seeds or nuts are arranged in various ways in the cups. The aim of the game is to redistribute the seeds or beans in such a way that each player captures as many seeds as possible.
How is it played?
Players place equal number of seeds in the cups or pits of the board. The game begins by a player picking all the seeds from a pit and redistributing it by dropping one seed in each of the consecutive pits, in clockwise or anticlockwise direction.
The game continues this way, till each player is left with no seeds. The players then count the number of seeds they have accumulated in the large pit towards the corner of the board. The player with the maximum number of seeds wins the game. The game is known by various other names like Ali guli mane or pallanguzhi (in South India); Bao (in East Africa); Kalah (in North America) and Congkak (in South Asia).
Why should you play Mancala?
This game not only engages the players but also develops their strategic thinking. Mancala will engage the students in the classroom by teaching them about addition and other numeric operations. It will also help the them develop their cognitive skills. The game can also be played by adults, to help in strategic thinking and problem solving.
This article was originally published in TheTeacher.in magazine in the month of July, 2019.