Mancala Strategy

What’s Your Mancala Strategy?

Mancala can hardly be enjoyed without employing a great mancala strategy every now and then. This game is one that relies strictly upon strategy, which makes it quite different from other board games which factor in some degree of chance. Therefore it only makes sense that anyone wanting to play mancala takes the time to learn a bit of mancala strategy! To an inexperienced gamer, the idea of strategy can be a little scary, but a bit of guidance and a solid foundation will go a long way with mancala. Let’s take a look at a few ways that you can increase your skill in the game…



Starve Your Opponent

“Starving” is a strategy in which you avoid putting pebbles in your opponent’s side. In order to use this strategy, you have to make sure that you have enough pebbles on your own side to force your opponent to go out. This requires you to have a pretty good foresight as to your opponent’s own strategy and as to whether they will go out as soon as you predict. The downside to this strategy is that a simple miscalculation could cost you the game. You must also keep track of your own pebbles to ensure that your opponent cannot use them to their own advantage.

Buying Time

This is a similar strategy to starving your opponent. For this, the idea is to delay your opponent from running out of pebbles. You do not necessarily have to keep from placing pebbles on your opponent’s side of the board, but instead try to ensure that each move you make gets you closer to collecting a solid portion of your opponent’s pebbles. This mancala strategy requires you to be very observant as well as able to adjust your own plan on the fly.


A Worthy Sacrifice

As with games such as chess and checkers, it can be quite beneficial to understand when the loss of something can prove beneficial later in the game. The same can be true with mancala. For some—particularly newbies to the game—the ultimate concern is to avoid having their pebble stash looted. While this concern can be beneficial in some instances, it can also become a hindrance when a player goes to extreme attempts to protect their pebbles, often resulting in a loss of concentration at what their opponent is really trying to accomplish. Play the game often and experiment with sacrificing pebbles in order to hit a big profit in future plays. This strategy can definitely be a little risky, but learning how to sacrifice a few of your own pebbles to gain more of your opponent’s will go a long way in this game.

Watch the Numbers

It is imperative that you concentrate on how many pebbles you have around the board. Allowing more pebbles to collect in the bins around the board than you can spare will put your own mancala at risk. The best way to do this is to keep the number of pebbles you have on the board equal to or less than that which you need to win. This also makes the board more flexible for yourself and allows you to jump to other strategies such as “starving out” your opponent as necessary.

These are fairly basic strategies, and the chances are that you have already started trying these out without even consciously realizing what you are doing. Bear in mind that your opponent may also recognize your strategy and adjust his or her own to outmaneuver you. That is why it is equally important to pay attention to your opponent’s moves and their motives in addition to your own. Most of all, enjoy this terrific game!