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The Chief's Rule Book

Learn How To Play Mancala (No Laps)

Mancala most accurately describes the wider family of sowing games rather than any specific variant but that has not stopped lovers of the game in America referring to their local version as Mancala. Two noticeable differences when you learn how to play mancala, is the ability to earn EXTRA BONUS TURNS and the fact that a players capture pits are included in the sowing process.

This game is also sometimes played with the continuous laps rule click here for more info.

Learn How To Play Mancala - Board Layout

The board is divided into two parts, your side and your opponents side. The row of six cups closest to you is considered your territory. The bigger cup closest to you, or to your right side is also yours and serves as your capture pit. The same applies for your opponent, their territory is the six cups and the capture pit closet or to their right hand side.

How To Set Up Your Mancala Board

  • Place the mancala board between you and your opponent with the long side facing you.

  • Place 4 seeds in each cup, excluding the capture pits. This should total 48 seeds.

* You can use any small item as a playing seed as long as a decent amount will fit in the cups such as pennies, marbles, or even stones.

Deciding Who Starts First

There are several ways to decide who will take the first turn. This is an important consideration because the first player technically has a slight advantage. When playing The Chief’s Table the first player is decided by the Guess Which Hand challenge. This is where each player has an equal chance to select who will hide the seed (players can select for either themselves or opponent to hide the seed) and the other player has to guess which hand its hidden in.

  1. A countdown will appear on screen and the first person to make a selection is the decision that will stand – The choices are you can either hide the seed or your opponent hides the seed.

  2. The player hiding the seed will have to choose a hand and their opponent must guess which hand the seed is hidden in. If the guessing player guesses correctly then they take the first turn, if they guess incorrectly, the player hiding the seed takes the first turn.

Outside of The Chiefs Table, players can use many different methods or rules to work out who plays first, for example rock-paper-scissors, a coin flip, winner of last game starts, the choices are endless.

Learn How To Play Mancala - Taking A Turn

  1. Choose a cup from your own territory and pick up all the seeds in that cup.

  2. You should then begin to drop a single seed in each subsequent cup in a counter-clockwise direction around the board (including your opponents cups) until you have no more seeds to sow. This is known as sowing.

  3. YOU MUST include your own capture pit in the sowing process but skip your opponents capture pit.

  4. how you proceed is dependent on where that last seed lands.

  5. You can earn an EXTRA BONUS TURN if your last seed lands in your capture pit. There is no limit to how many bonus turns you can get in this way.

  6. Your turn ends once you have sown your last seed in a cup other than your own capture pit.

How To Capture Seeds In Mancala

You can only capture seeds when your last seed lands in an empty cup in YOUR OWN TERRITORY and there are seeds on the opposite side.

  • If the last seed you sow lands in an empty cup on YOUR OWN SIDE, you capture that last seed sown and all the seeds in the cup directly opposite (in your opponents territory). If the cup opposite is empty however, you capture nothing

  • As mentioned above, you also capture a seed as part of your sowing process.

How To Win

The winner is the player who captures at least 25 seeds because at this point the player has won over half the seeds in a complete set.

  • If you have no seeds to play when its your turn, then the game is automatically over and your opponent captures all remaining seeds on their side. Players must still count there seeds to establish who has won. 

  • The winner is the person with the most seeds in in their capture pit after counting.

Learn How To Play Mancala Like a Pro

Try this opening strategy now that you know how to play mancala. On your first turn (and if you’re going first), play the cup that is five holes away from your capture pit. That way, the last stone you place will land in your capture pit, and you get a free turn.

After using your second turn, if your opponent plays a cup that is two or one cup(s) away from their capture pit, play the cup that is six cups away from your capture pit. You get another free turn!