This week was Mancala week at our Board Games Club for Adults. Mancala refers to a genre of games, rather than one specific game. There are hundreds of variations. The board has a series of shallow holes (or pits), and players take turns to move (or sow) their pieces (or seeds), dropping them into each pit in turn in an anti-clockwise direction. The winner is the player with the most seeds at the end of the game. There are only a few rules, but they take a bit of thinking about (especially the capture rule).
According to Mohr (The New Games Treasury, 1997), the “very earliest boards come from northeast Africa. Boards have been found carved into the stone of the pyramid of Cheops and in the temples at Luxor and Karnak, establishing Mancala as one of the oldest games in the world”. Mancala spread throughout Africa (in almost every African nation some version of Mancala is played) and into Asia, the Caribbean and South America. It is known in Europe where (to quote Mohr again) “unfortunately it has remained little more than a curiosity”. Mohr is correct: this is a great game that deserves to be better known.
You can play Mancala online for free. There is no need to log in – play as a single player. Choose your difficulty level and start playing. The one advantage of this online version is that it tells you the number of seeds in each pit, saving you the time of counting them!