How to play Mancala, one of the oldest board games: rules and strategies to apply

How to play Mancala, one of the oldest board games: rules and strategies to apply

Mancala is a fun and simple game that anyone can learn. You only need to know its rules and what moves you should make in different situations. The game doesn't have many regulations, so you can master them easily. The only thing that will challenge you when learning how to play mancala is the game's strategies.

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How to play Mancala
Mancala game setup. Photo: @MancalaGames
Source: Twitter

Mancala is a game that has been played for centuries, and it is still popular today. Originating in Africa, this game was first described by an Arabic scholar as early as the 8th century. The rules of mancala are simple enough to be learned quickly and enjoyed by people worldwide. Here are some basic strategies, rules, and tricks to help you play better and win more games.

How to play mancala game

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Before you start playing mancala, you must at least be versant with it. In addition, you need to know the game setup and the rules. So, before getting into the mancala strategy part, here is what you should know.

How does mancala work?

Mancala is a board game played by children and adults alike. It is similar to chess but has a simpler setup. In mancala, there are two players who each have a set of stones arranged on their side of the board.

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The game's goal is to capture more stones than your opponent by picking up all pieces from one place and distributing them counterclockwise. The player with the most pieces at the end of the game wins.

Mancala setup

The game equipment includes one board and 48 stones. The board has 2 rows, each containing 6 small holes called "pockets." Two large holes called "mancalas" or "stores' are located on the ends of each side of the board.

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Each player owns a full row with 6 pockets and one mancala. The 6 pockets contain 4 stones each. The colour of the stones does not matter.

Mancala rules

When learning how to play mancala capture, you should adhere to the following rules:

  • When playing, choose stones from one pocket and distribute them in all the other pockets. Each pocket takes one stone.
  • If the last stone you drop is in a pocket with other stones, pick them and distribute them.
  • If the last stone you drop is in an empty pocket on your side, you have won any pieces in the pocket directly opposite. The won stones should be stored in your mancala.

How to play mancala game

How to play Mancala
Two men playing Mancala. Photo: @MancalaGames
Source: Twitter

The first thing you need to do is capture your opponent's stones. You can only capture stones if they are in front of you and on the same side of the board as your stones. If there are no stones in front of you, you cannot capture any.

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Pick up all the pieces from one pocket to take your opponent's stones. Then, redistribute them counterclockwise one at a time. You can only put one stone in each hole on your side of the board, so if you have more than one piece to move, you will need to do it in turns.

If no more legal moves can be made (meaning the last piece would have to go into an occupied hole), you must forfeit your turn. The game continues until one player has no pieces left or cannot make a legal move.

Mancala strategy

If you are learning how to play mancala, it may be hard for you to beat your opponent by simply moving pieces clockwise around the board. That is why some playing tips will help you learn about different strategies and teach you how to win at mancala:

  • Use space advantage - If there is an empty hole right next to yours on one side of the board, take all your pieces out and line them up in a way so they can attack more than one place at once.
  • Protect yourself – Try not to let many stones occupy one pocket. If your opponent captures the stones, you will have a lot to lose.
  • Form a blockade - Another strategy is to form a blockade with your pieces so that your opponent cannot move any of their stones. This can be done by putting two or more pieces next to each other in an empty space.
  • Bait your opponent – This is when you purposely leave one or two pieces unguarded to tempt your opponent into capturing them. If they take the bait, you can easily capture more of their stones.
  • Watch the board – Always keep an eye on what moves your opponent makes and try to predict their next move. Doing this will give you an advantage over them.

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What is the trick to mancala?

So, what things can you do to ensure you do not lose? Well, here are some cunning tricks you can use on your opponent to defeat them. Make sure you have mastered the tricks before employing them to avoid messing.

  • Start by choosing a move that will allow you to take another. Then, make calculations such that your last stone lands in a pocket with others. The strategy will help you empty your side faster.
  • If necessary, take "defensive" moves. For example, make moves that will prevent your stones from being captured.
  • Empty your rightmost pocket as early as possible.
  • Make sure your last move drops a stone into your mancala to earn a free play.
  • Look ahead. The essential trick to winning mancala is planning. It is like chess. You must know what moves you will take even before your opponent finishes their turn.

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How to win mancala in one turn

There are a few different tracks that you can do to win mancala in one turn. The easiest way is to trap your opponent's pieces. You can do this by playing around with their pieces so they can't make any more moves or surround them with your own. Once you have trapped their pieces, scoop them up and win the game.

Another way to win mancala in one turn is by trapping all of your opponent's stones on the board. This can be done by playing strategically and blocking all of their possible moves. Once you have accomplished this, pick up all their stones and end the game.

How to play mancala on iMessage

How to play Mancala
A person playing Mancala on his phone. Photo: @MancalaGames
Source: Twitter

Mancala is directly available on the Apple store. However, many people love playing it on iMessage. So if you have been searching for an app called iMessage on the Apple store, then you're searching for the wrong thing.

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To play mancala on iMessage, go to any iMessage conversation. Then, click on the App Store icon on your bottom left side. Search for "GamePegeon" and install the app. Then, open it and click on mancala.

How to play mancala alone

Mancala is made for two players. However, you can play it alone until you win all the stones. Then, take your moves as you normally do if playing with another person.

Tips to improve your gameplay

Now that you know how to play mancala and some basic strategies, it's time to put your skills to the test. Here are some tips on how to improve your game:

  • Play against someone better than you – this will give you an idea of what it feels like when playing with someone that knows more about mancala, and it can also help teach you something new.
  • Study the board - try counting all the holes in each row before starting a match so that you can keep track of all possible moves while looking for weak points where stones may be captured next turn.
  • Keep calm - don't start panicking if things do not go as planned during one round or another; There's always time to change strategies mid-game! Instead, be patient and wait for good opportunities.
  • Play often – the more you play, the better you will get. So make sure to challenge your friends and family to a game of mancala.

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Now that you know how to play mancala, it's time to put your skills to the test. But, first, make sure you adhere to all the tips and tricks covered in this write-up.

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