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Mancala: Ancient game with something for everyone

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Mancala in a box
 MANCALA Game Set by Cardinal ($5 at TARGET)

It all started with being bored. A quick trip to Target to find something to do ended up with the discovery of a mysterious game called Mancala.

The description on the box reads (copied exactly): "A GAME OF JUDGEMENT, STRATEGY AND PATIENCE. SOME HISTORIANS BELIEVE MANCALA TO BE THE OLDEST GAME IN THE WORLD. MANCALA USE OF COUNTING AND ESTIMATING MAKE IT AN IDEAL FAMILY GAME. THE RULES ARE SIMPLE YET CHALLENGING. FOR 2 PLAYERS." The writer of this description couldn't get more vague. That and the person that wrote this didn't have a large english vocabulary and understanding of basic english grammar. Was this the lost key to the origins of fortune cookies? In any case, the cost of 5 bucks means a person can't go wrong in trying it out.

Surprisingly, it is easily learned but obviously hard to master. This game is one of those that is so simple to play but hard to win. It is easy to get hooked on this game very quickly. It involves a bit of strategy and counting, but mainly luck. This game is recommended for those who like chess, checkers, or backgammon and are looking for something different and new to try out. It has the simplicity of checkers but requires the strategy of backgammon or chess to win. Players start with 6 spots of stones or marbles on their own side and their Mancala to the right. Each player drops the stones / marbles in to the successive spots. The object is to drop the stones in to their own Mancala but all the time avoiding getting trapped. It ends up being a cat and mouse game. The winner is the one who can think ahead a few moves for the most part.

For more info:  There are various web sites where one can try it out or read more about it (try a Google Search with "Mancala rules" or "Mancala online" keywords.  This writer was able to buy a real version of the game for about $5 at Target. The AFL/CIO has a nice free online version at the link below online, but beware of the endless advertisements and pro union messages.

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