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Rules to Mancala
The word Mancala refers to a group of games that come from Africa, so talking about Mancala games is the same as talking about domino games or card games. The game is played on a board and it most commonly known in the UK as Mancala, Oware, Aware, Ware, Wari or the misspelt Worry. The most common mancala board is two rank, with two rows of six holes and two store pits on either side. There are variations to this board, you can have more holes on either side or more rows, to create four rank mancala boards.There are rules and instructions for a few different games below.
R.C Bell, in Board and Table Games from Many Civilisations describes how Awari has traditional spiritual significance. It is played in a house of mourning to amuse the spirit of the dead before it is buried. It is very unlucky to play the game at night as the spirits will want to join in and may carry off the living at the end of the game. Each village would have two types of board, one with a flat top and one with a curved top, a bit like a banana. When a man died the villagers would play on the board that was not his favourite, so that his spirit would not want to join in. Traditional Awari boards are not carved out very intricately so that they can become smooth and worn by many years of play.
For all these games you will need a mancala board with two rows of six pots and a store at each end and up to 60 playing pieces (seeds).
How to move your pieces around the board
In play it is the position of the seeds on the board that determines whether or not you can move them, not the colour of the seed. You can begin by moving any of the seeds on your side of the board, but you can’t start from your opponent's side of the board. Always pick up all the seeds in the pot you are moving from. Place one seed in each pot as you go around the board. Travel round the board to the right, ie anticlockwise.
The board is placed between the two players. Each player controls the row closest to him and the store on the right.
Remember a player can only capture on the opponent's side and only if he is sowing his last seed in a pot that already holds either one seed or two. If there are three or more seeds no capture is made.
When a capture is made, the player also captures the seeds in the penultimate pot if it contains two or three seeds. If the pot before this one also contains two or three seeds the player can again make a capture. The player continues to capture in this way as long as the sequence is unbroken. The player may not capture on his own side of the board during this process.
A player is not required to make a move that results in a capture, but if he does make such a move he must take the captured seeds and put them in his store.
The number of seeds in each pot will vary dramatically as play proceeds. Enough seeds may accumulate in one pot to go round the board more than once. In this case the pot used for the beginning of the turn remains empty at the end of the turn (you skip over it).
At any time, a player can count the seeds in any pot to help him plan a move. As the game draws to an end many pots will be empty.
The game can end when one side of the board is empty. If player 1's side is empty then player 2's seeds must be arranged in such a way that he cannot pass any seeds to the empty side of the board on his next move. The remaining seeds become the player 2's.
It is also possible for the last seeds to circulate with no captures possible. The players may agree to end the game and each take half of the remaining seeds or they can be disregarded.
The player with the most seeds in his store wins.
So the player 1 sows seeds around the board until she lands the last seed in an empty pot. If the empty pot is on the player 2's side the turn is over. If the empty pot is on her own side and the opposite pot is empty the turn is over. But, if the empty pot is on her own side and the pot opposite is occupied with seeds then player 2 captures all the player 1's seeds from that pot and puts them in her own store. This is the end of the turn. Players take turns sowing and capturing.
If a player starts his turn from a pot that contains enough seeds to go all the way round the board she skips over that original pot when sowing past it.
The game ends when a player cannot make a move because all her pots are empty. If player 1's side is empty then player 2's seeds must be arranged in such a way that he cannot pass any seeds to the other side of the board. The remaining seeds become the player 2's.
The player with the most seeds in her store wins.
Game 1: The first player takes all 6 seeds from a chosen
pot, on their own side and sows these one in each pot in either
Captured seeds are placed in the players store.
A turn cannot begin from a pot containing only one seed and if a player cannot move the turn passes to the other player. Players alternate turns until neither can make a move then each player adds remaining seeds on their side to their store.
To start the next game, the loser distributes all
their seeds placing at least one seed in each pot on their side. The other
player then matches this distribution.
If the loser of the previous round has less than half his original seeds, he may shorten the board for the next round using only four pots per side instead of six. If he has less than a quarter, he may shorten it to three pots per side. Less than an eighth and he may shorten the board to two pots per side. If the previous loser regains any seeds in succeeding rounds the board must be restored to the appropriate size.
The winner of one round begins the next and it is likely that several rounds will be played before one player is reduced to four seeds or less and therefore loses.
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