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I first heard about Mancala last year, when at a family Easter lunch we ended up playing the game many times as it was so addictive.
No one knows the exact origin of the game, but evidence has been found of this being played as far back as the 6th century in what are now Eritrea and Ethiopia. It is said to be an ancient game of counting and strategy.
The Manacala board is oblong, with six round pockets parallel to each other on each side and an oblong one at either end which runs the width of the board. There are also 48 stones with the box.
To play, four stones are placed in each of the round pockets. The aim of the game is to collect more of the stones in your oblong pocket than your opponent. There are many different ways of playing this game, but this is the version we have learnt and enjoy. You pick up all four stones from one pocket, and putting one in each of the next pockets, including your own oblong one, but excluding your opponents. The numbers of stones in the pockets will then go up and down so the number you collect from each pocket will vary. If you finish your turn by placing the stone in your oblong pocket, then you have another go. If it lands in any other pocket, it is the turn of your opponent. Once a stone is in the oblong pocket, it is not moved again, and the game ends when all the round pockets are empty.
One of the reasons I enjoyed playing this so much, was because I kept winning! I found it really simple, but my other half has still not figured it out so can never win! It is not a hugely tactical game when you are playing with someone who doesn’t get it, but when you are playing with someone who does, you have to think a few moves ahead and try to anticipate their move, much like in chess.
When we first started playing, we used a children’s board like the one pictures. Whilst in Cape Verde later that year, we started playing Mancala with one of the hotel reps on one very wet afternoon and brought a lovely wooden carved box complete with shiny stones.
Overall a great game to play for all the family, but you do need a good opponent or it gets boring!