Mancala Instructions!

Name: Mancala

Number of players: Mancala instructions call for 2 players

Recommended ages: 5 and over

Average playing time: 20 minutes


The Mancala Instructions are not very complicated, but don’t let the simplicity fool you into thinking this ancient game is easily mastered! No conclusive evidence exists for when this game began, but 1400 year-old Mancala boards were found in Egypt. It is played in almost every continent around the world with different variations. While the basic concept is the same, the game played in countries like Uganda, Nigeria, Ethiopia Sri Lanka and India vary in complexity. Once you learn the basics of how to play Mancala, you will be able to learn the other variations with ease.

How to Play

The pieces for the game depend on which type of game you play. The American variety has two rows of six cups on each side of the board horizontally and two larger cups called the “Mancala” located vertically on opposite ends. The right side Mancala is yours.

You can use anywhere from three to five beads or stones for each cup. Increasing the number of stones raises the level of difficulty. You will need 60 beads for the most complex game.

The object of the game is to end up with the most stones or beads in your Mancala at the end of the game. You set up the board by placing three, four or five stones in each of the 12 cups in front of each player and you begin to play.

The player who starts the game selects one of the cups on his or her side and picks up all the beads. You then move counter clockwise placing one bead in each consecutive cup until you run out of beads.

If the bead ends up on your Mancala it is a point for you and you get another turn. You have to place a bead on each cup except your opponents Mancala. If the last bead ends up in an empty cup on your side, you get to keep your bead plus the beads opposite to your cup. These beads are added to your Mancala increasing your score. When you clear all the cups on your side you also get to keep the beads on your opponent’s cups. Don't worry so much about getting too deep in the game at first. Follow the basic Mancala Instructions until you understand the game and then you can start to employ some strategy.

Winning the Game

The player with the most beads wins the game but it is mathematically possible to end with a draw. If each player ends up with the same number of beads, it results in a draw. You can finish the game early if a player has more than half of the beads in their mancala.


The most important part of this game is following the basic Mancala Instructions until they become second nature. Only then can you start counting the beads and cups. As a beginner, you should start with only three beads until you have a firm grasp on the rules of Mancala. After some practice, you can increase the number of beads as your ability to count improves. With enough practice, you will appreciate the complexities of this simple and addictive game.

After mastering the rules to the American Mancala, you can start learning Mancala Instructions from other parts of the world. These variations allow you to move on either direction from left or right. Another says you cannot use a cup with one bead and you are able to place a bead on your opponents Mancala. These variations make the game much more complex. To add to the complexity, games in Uganda, India and Sri Lanka use boards with up to 32 cups.

Final Thoughts

Board games are known to develop analytical thinking and reasoning. Mancala is no exception. For younger players, Mancala is a great way to introduce them to counting and forward thinking. There are players as young as five years old that enjoy the game tremendously. A game the whole family can enjoy, the simplicity of the Mancala Instructions means almost anyone can learn how to play it within minutes.

Remember to have fun!

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