Buffalo head terminal to African mancala board

the game to count on

Decorative end to mancala board, probably from Africa.

In the western world we are familiar with boardgames like chess and draughts, backgammon and ludo, but one of the world’s most widespread groups of games is hardly known and rarely played, other than in a few minority ethnic communities. Mancala is the name usually given to this simple but taxing game, which relies on the ability of the players to count accurately and predict the effects of moves. From the Far East to the Americas, the game crops up in dozens of forms and with often widely different rules.

Attempts to ‘westernise’ it have been made on numerous occasions, but they have never taken off in the way that other westernised games like ludo and snakes and ladders have.

This talk is illustrated and I will bring along examples of the boards both old and modern, and from across the world.