Possibly dating to the reign of Pharoh Seti I (1366-1333 B.C.), Mancala was spread to the east by Islamic peoples, and west by African slaves. There is a theory that the board may have evolved from a tool for counting livestock. It is a deceptively simple game that is now played all around the world. It is very much a folk game that does not have internationally standardized rules like Chess. So we have collected 20 variations in rules that can be played on the most common style of board. They rang from the West Indies to the Phillipines. (Full list of variations below).
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Rules Variatons included
Ba Awa (Ghana), Baqura (Mesopotamia), En Dodoi (Kenya), Halusa (Mesopotamia), J'erin (Nigeria), J'odu ( Nigeria), Kale (Gabon River), Kiuthi (Masai) Koro (Dogon Tribe), Li'b al-ghashim (Egypt), Lontu-holo (Surinam), Main chongkak (Malaya), Mangala 1 (Bedouin-Arabian), Mangala 2 (Egypt), Mangala 3 (Northern Sudan), Meusueb (Sumatra), Um el banat (Sudan), Uthi, (Kenya), Uugg (Ethiopia), Vai lung thlan (Assam, India), Wari (Gold Coast, Ghana), English Wari (Barbados / British West Indies), Whyo (Nigeria),
Excerpted from our Mancala Games booklet.
Mancala, or Wari is a game whose variations are played throughout sub-tropical Asia, the Middle East, Africa, and the West Indies. "Mancala" was originally an Arabic word and is the generic name used by anthropologists for this huge family of games. Because of its wide distribution around the world, it is difficult to trace the connections between all of the variations, but it seems to have originally spread outward from Egypt, and Arabia.
The earliest known mention of Mancala in Europe is in a description of West Africa in Richard Jobson's Golden Trade (1623). in which he described his 1620 ascent of the Gambia River. But unlike other games which may have returned to Europe with the crusaders, Mancala never gained a foothold in Europe (outside of areas influenced by Islam) until modern times.
There are a number of traditions which have been attached to Mancala games in various societies. In the "old world" Mancala games are primarily recreational, but in the West Indies there are more frequently religious connotations to its play. The New World version called Awari was often played in a house of mourning to amuse the spirit of the deceased until the body was buried. Scholars have speculated that these customs were brought by slaves from Africa where the beliefs may now be obsolete, or forgotten.