Mancala: The Game That Isn't

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Mancala is actually just a generic name for an entire family of two-player games that share the mechanism of moving groups of pieces from one location to another in a staggered manner. Hundreds of games incorporating variations of the Mancala mechanism have been played all over the world for hundreds of years.

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24 COMMENTS

  1. This video was cringy but not in a bad way. I don’t know how it’s possible. It’s like a giant dad joke I guess.

  2. Urubugu is a crazy version of Mancala. I’ve barely seen any info on it! I barely have a grasp on the rules now, but it looks like you can win one a couple of turns if you’re smart!

  3. I loathe American "kalah", for the reasons many have stated, below. Now, bao la kiswahili, omweso, oware? Those I play joyfully!

  4. I love Kalaha, but it's a solved game 🙁
    If I begin, i win.
    It's more interesting with six seeds for hole.
    I'm curious to try some other mancala family game 🙂

  5. I'm interested in all kinds of strategic board games, old and new. I learned about these games because Nokia 3310 had a version. The game was called Bantumi, but I think the real name is kalaha. So I googled (or whatever the hell we did back in the day) and found the program Awale that has many versions of mancaa, including Oware which is said o be the best.

  6. I have to deal with this confusion on a regular basis. I have a Mancala app that plays the "Kalah" rules on the Google Play store. And every once in a while in a someone posts "this plays the rules wrong" or "this game cheats". When following up, I find out that they are expecting to play "Oware" Mancala, which is a completely different game that uses the same board and stones. I even renamed my app to "Kalah Mancala" but I still get that. General rule of thumb: folks in US, Canada, and the UK expect Kalah. Central America, Western Africa, and much of Europe expects Oware.

  7. A lesser-known mancala-style game is the cooperative game "Bethel Woods" where you pass workers around in a circle, ending the movement by picking up parts of the color of the last worker placed, or divert from the circle to build on the machine in the center with those parts.

  8. I….I actually don't own any.  Mancala was just a word I heard tossed about in some reviews.  Thanks for the education. The bit where you talk about it as just a mechanism but then show the game: "Mancala" is a bit confusing though.  So they do sell the mechanism stand alone?   🙂

  9. Also, I love this series. Might I suggest taking a look at Hanafuda on a future episode? I'll admit that my exposure to the game was brought about by acute Japanophilia, but the history of these picture cards as a way to play a card game without it being strictly considered a "gambling device" by the Tokugawa shogunate is pretty interesting. The modern card game Hanabi send to have inherited it's DNA.
    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hanafuda

    also Veebug is shook, is she gonna be okay

  10. I love… Mancala. One of my favorite 2 player games. Can't tell you how many times I've played it, but there was a time in middle/high school where my dad and I played it after dinner every day for about an hour.

  11. There was an old (1999?) Macromedia Shockwave point-and-click adventure game for PC called Jewels of the Oracle with a fantastic solitaire mancala puzzle.
    It involved five bowls; and began with two seeds in each of the four regular bowls, and the "home" bowl empty; the goal being to move everything into the home bowl within a finite number of moves. I found it surprisingly difficult but really cleverly designed.

    This puzzle blew my formative preteen mind so much that I temporarily forgot stores and storebought mancala sets existed and carved my own board for the puzzle in my granddad's shop.

    So, existent or not, mancala kinda has a special place for me. That place is wherever the fond memories of Windows 95 powered games live on in retro vaporware Valhalla.

  12. No troll, but my favorite game with the Mancala mechanism is…Planes. Yes, THAT Planes, the 'misfit' of the Destination Fun series (even though it's an entire series of games where it's a marriage between a game mechanism…and a theme that you'd never expect that mechanism to be in. Trains is a modern train themed deck builder (alt Modern depending on which board you play. California allows you to connect to las vegas when there's no rail system in place in vegas) while Automobiles is a racing bag builder with a more deck building spin to it (discards don't get put back into bag immediately, only when you have to draw but can't, like in normal deck builders).

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