Make your own Mancala game!


I grew up playing a game made from a discarded egg carton and a handful of paper clips. Later, I found out it was called Mancala, and today you can spend a lot of money buying a very nice wooden board and some polished stones for a luxury version of the same game.

If you'd like to give this game a try, without spending a fortune, just do what I did as a kid, and make your own set. It's quick, easy, and best of all, cheap.


Everything you need is easily found around the house.
Figure 1. The supplies you'll need.
The materials are simple and readily available:

That's it! Note: Egg cartons with a flat top (as opposed to the kind that dip down between the eggs) work the best.


Cut along the hinge between the top and bottom.
Figure 2. Separating the top and bottom.
  1. Remove the top of the carton from the bottom by cutting along the hinge. Remove the extraneous portion used to keep the carton closed when used to store eggs. Discard or recycle the small piece. Set the bottom aside for later. See figure 2.

    Cut the top of the carton in half to create the two end cups.
    Figure 3. Cutting the top.

  2. Cut the top of the carton in half, crosswise. (Cut across the short axis.) These pieces will be used as the end cups of the Mancala board. Figure 3 shows the resulting pieces.

    The two pieces of the top fit beneath the bottom of the carton, extending beyond the bottom a bit.
    Figure 4. Assembling the gameboard.

  3. Slide the two halves of the top underneath each end of the bottom, extending beyond the bottom by a couple of inches. Fasten together using the tape, staples, glue, or whatever method you find most convenient. See figure 4.

    Each cup (except the end cups) is filled with 3 markers.
    Figure 5. Ready to play!

  4. Deposit three paper clips (or the markers of your choice) in each of the twelve cups in the bottom of the carton. Leave the end cups (made from the top of the carton) empty. Figure 5 shows the game ready to play.

  5. Find someone to play with!

Game Play

Note: These rules apply to the game as I played it growing up. There are many variations. A simple search using the keywords "mancala" and "rules" will turn up many pages providing descriptions of the different games.

Place the game board between the two players, with the larger cups on the right and left of the players. The side of the board closest to each player, as well as the end cup on each player's right belongs to that player.

Players take turns picking up all the paper clips from one of their cups, (except for the end cups,) and then depositing one in each consecutive cup (including the end cups) in a clockwise direction, beginning with the cup to the right of the one from which the player took the paper clips.

For example, if, on the first turn of the game, player 1 picks up the paper clips from the fourth cup from the right, he would then deposit a paper clip in the third cup from the right, the second cup from the right, and finally, the rightmost cup.

If the first player had started with the rightmost cup, he would have deposited one paper clip in his end cup, then continued around the board, depositing paper clips in his opponents first two cups.

If, however, player 1 had selected the paper clips in the third cup from the right, he would have ended by placing his last paper clip in the end cup. When a player deposits the last paper clip in the end cup, he gets another turn, and may select the paper clips in another of his cups, continuing in the same manner.

The object of the game is to end your turn with all of the cups on your side empty (excluding, of course, the end cups.) Note that in this version, the number of paper clips, if any, in the end cup has no bearing on the game play.

Updated: Sept 9, 1998 Roger Louis Sinasohn and Associates Uncle Roger