Javascript mancala (v. 1.1: 1997)
Flash mancala (v. 3.6: July 2008)

rules, history, notes, and shareware too

15 Nov. 2009: I've decided to turn the game into freeware. For reasons (if you're curious), I have them on my general contents page. If you registered the game in the past few months and would like a refund, please e-mail me. Or, if you like, consider it a donation.

28 July 2008: Downloadable versions of my Flash Mancala are now available: both the shareware and registered versions (version 3.7). Overall, I've uploaded six versions and six readmes in zip and sit files. No wonder I delayed doing working on the game for six years. But it's here!

27 July 2008: The online Flash version has a random option for fantasy mancala: each cup has a different stone total (although the total number of stones - 24 for each side - remains the same). (I haven't added the option to the downloadable mancala versions yet.)

20 July 2008: For the online Flash version, I've added a stone speed option: Either the stones move at their normal rate or twice as fast. (I haven't added that option to any of the downloadable versions yet, but I'll get to it.)

4 July 2008: I've actually made a few notes for a few improvements, and one of these days I hope to write them.

25 August 2002: In addition to PC and classic Mac, I now have a version of Mancala native to OS 10.x on the download page.

24 August 2002: I now have a shareware version of Mancala! Screen shots have their own page as well, except if you played the game online here, you probably have a better idea of what the game looks like. The shareware is essentially the same as the online version, except that it is completely self-contained in a single file; the registered version has a couple of new features.

21 August 2002: While testing the download version of Mancala, I thought I'd add George's various IQ levels to the online version as well. The second and third levels are more a personality change than anything else. It adds some more K to the overall game file (64K), but I think the play variety makes that worthwhile.

16 August 2002: A totally redesigned Flash Mancala! I decided to have each stone of the 48 on the board as a separate animation. Although this has resulted in a larger file, it is still very small compared to just about anything else on the web. Moreover, it's quite good looking (in my opinion). The stones are chosen at random from a pool of 13 types. Each selection, therefore, will be different for each game you play.

Having all the stones present (and arranged randomly) has advantages and disadvantages. It's possible for one stone to closely overlap another, especially when there are many stones in a cup. For the outset of the board, each stone is clearly separate; in the midst of play, there have been occasions when only two stones in a cup masked a third one. It means paying attention! The javascript variation, on the other hand, clearly shows each of the stones in play (but to the maximum of 6). I prefer this new Flash version very much.

Options chosen in the Flash version are persistent: They stay the same from game to game (whereas in the previous Flash version, they had to be selected again). New options include (1) a warning beep for each new turn and (2) two people at the same computer (or for you to test a new strategy). (I intend to have a download version within a week.)

The Flash version will run on anything which accepts the Flash plug-in.

The javascript version works on most computers even in the newest browsers, but with one Mac exception (IE, whether in OS 9.x or OS X, skips a for loop which cripples the game).

Comments are always appreciated.

 Rules  1.  
Your set of six boxes is on the bottom, George's the top. Your score total on the right, George's the left.
 2.   Play moves counterclockwise: Click on a bunch of stones, and each box counterclockwise increases by 1. If your stone lands in your total box, your score increases by 1.
 3.   If your last stone lands in your total box, you have another turn.
 4.   If your last stone lands on an empty box on your own side (the bottom half), it is added to your total. And if there are any stones in George's opposite box (on the top), you get those too.
 5.   If you have that many stones that you sweep around the entire board (and the only box you never touch is George's total) and land in an empty box of your own, that stone goes to your total box, as well as any stones in George's box on the top.
 6.   George gets to take any of your stones if he lands in an empty box of his own and you have stones down below.
  If an entire side is cleared (no matter how it happens), that side receives all the remaining stones. For example, if George's side clears first, he gets all your stones.
OPTION: In the Flash version, you choose (before starting play) who receives the remaining stones: the person who goes out first or second. I prefer my original rule 7, but enough people prefer it otherwise. The world is large enough for both variations.
  Originating in Africa, mancala is a game that goes back thousands of years . . . so it has withstood the test of time. However, mancala has survived with all sorts of rule variants, from the number of stones the game begins with to how stones are captured.

Mancala is generally described as an agricultural game, and its stones are also referred to as seeds, which are being sorted for planting. It's reasonable. At the same time, sorting seeds does not seem as important as sorting stones.

Stone sorting is the first step for either slings or throwing. Having a stone of approximately the same weight and size can be all the difference between a successful shot and no dinner. Furthermore, look at any type of ballgame: imagine the confusion if baseballs, for example, came in all different sizes and shapes for a single game; players would not be able to throw with the highest accuracy.

Consistency in stone cannot be underestimated.


  Last year I looked at my javascript to see about making various improvements, but I made it so dense as to be almost incomprehensible. So I turned to Flash, since Macromedia's Flash (with version 5) combines javascriptlike coding and excellent animation features.

The first Flash version (earlier this year, 2002) was a copy of the javascript. The present Flash version (3) is a new approach. It does make an enormous difference to see exactly what happens. Will that group of stones reach the home cup? Will it make it all around? Even if you can't count the exact number of a large group, you can see each stone falling in place while the group travels above or below the board. It's more fun to play, and it was more satisfying to program.

The computer player (George) still isn't as sophisticated as I'd prefer, but George is getting decidely better. He can easily beat the earlier versions of himself, and I added four variants to his IQ that a player can pick. There are times when most everyone prefers an easy win.

  (Note: As of Nov. 15, 2009, the game is freeware, not shareware.)

One of the fun aspects of Macromedia Flash is that it can create its own application: Imagine, no browser, no plug-in required, just the game itself. Anyway, the game is now of "age," and you can download a self-contained copy of my mancala. George is the same guy, but the rules and other notes are incorporated within the game itself. (The download page also lists all the technical requirements and features.)

Flash Mancala, v.3.1  |  Javascript Mancala, 1.1  |  MiniGOLF, v.1.2

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