Mancala is an old and popular Arabic game played across Africa and Asia, with many local variations. The word Mancala itself translates to “to transfer” or “to move” in Arabic, referring to a large portion of the gameplay, which involves moving stones.

History of Mancala

The earliest known references of Mancala are from the 6th and 7th Centuries AD. Although popular in the Arabic and Asian regions, it is perhaps most popular across Africa. Almost all African countries have variants of Mancala, with the game proving very popular in Egypt.

Mancala has never been overtly popular in Europe, although it has a small dedicated following. It is popular in various states in America, such as Louisiana, where it was brought over by immigrants throughout America’s history.

The traditional Mancala game often goes by the name of Warra, especially in America. In the 1940s, another variant known as Kalah become popular and was often sold commercially.


Most games of Mancala feature a board. This board often has holes in it, typically in rows of two, although rows of up to four have also been known. Players start off by placing a number of stones or seeds into the various ‘bins’, or pits, on the board. How this is done is often predetermined by the variation of Mancala being played.

Gameplay then consists of sowing. To sow, a player takes the seeds from one bin and places them consecutively, one at a time, into the other bins. In the last bin or pit placed with a seed this way, everything in that pit is typically captured by that player.

In most formats, the goal is to use seeding to capture your opponent’s seeds and restrict their movements. Some formats restrict which rows the player can seed into, whilst others focus on different aspects. Since Mancala has a long history, many variants focus on different parts of the game.