Review Of The Mancala Game By Cardinal



Today I will be doing a review of the Mancala game by Cardinal.  This is a game that I played for countless hours with my father growing up.  The game itself is a very ancient game and is suspected to go back to when we were just learning how to cultivate crops.

Mancala By Cardinal
Mancala By Cardinal. Solid wood board in metal case.

Mancala by Cardinal

  • Ages – 6 and up
  • Players – 2
  • Time – Short (15-30 minutes)


  • Strategy
  • Piece Movement
  • Capture
  • Resource Management

How To Play

Mancala Board Set Up
The Mancala board is set up with 4 pieces in each regular hole.

The board is set up so that each player has 6 holes per side and 1 larger hole or Mancala on either end where they score.  Each of the 6 regular holes starts with four pieces in them.  Players then take turns selecting piles of pieces to move around the board in an effort to collect the most in their Mancala.

Taking a turn consists of picking up all the pieces in 1 hole.  Then you drop 1 at a time and move counter clockwise around the board.  You drop 1 piece in each hole until you reach your Mancala.  After dropping one in your Mancala, you then progress down the other player’s side of the board.  You do not place any pieces in your opponent’s Mancala and if you still have pieces left, start going back down your row again.

There are three special rules that you need to pay attention to as you play the game:

  1. If, when taking your turn, you drop the last piece in your Mancala you may take another turn.
  2. If you place the last piece from your hand in an empty hole on your side of the board, you capture any pieces straight across in your opponent’s row.  These pieces go right into your Mancala.
  3. If at anytime when a player’s turn ends and there are no pieces in any hole on one side of the board the game is over.  Any pieces left in the other row are then placed in that player’s Mancala.

The player that has the most pieces in their Mancala at the end wins the game.  Since there are only 48 pieces in this game you can play until a player has 25 pieces in their Mancala.  Of course you can always play the whole game out and then keep score over several games.


The biggest positive to this game in my mind is the ease of play.  From young to old and never played before, the game is very easy to pick up and play.

Even while it is easy to play, there are still many layers of strategy to this game.  Can you set your self up to keep getting extra turns or do you go for trying to capture your opponents pieces by landing in an empty hole on your side?  Either way you will be doing a lot of counting in your head to try and figure out how to win!

Mancala By Cardinal Play
Top notch quality with this game.

The overall quality of this game ranks top notch in my book.  It comes in a metal case and is a solid wood board with a nice oak finish.  The gemstones used as the pieces are big enough that they are easy to pick up.


13 Mancala Pieces In A Hole
This is 13 pieces in one hole. If needed, just place the any extras on the table beside the correct hole.

In reading reviews of what other people thought of this particular game as well as playing it myself, the biggest challenge of this game is the size of the pieces as compared to the regular holes.  It is very possible to not be able to fit all the pieces in the hole.  I was able to pile up to 13 pieces in a hole before I could not get another to stay easily.

The only other thing that you need to watch out for is the way that the game is stored.  While the quality is great, the way the metal case holds the game can be precarious at times.  The wooden board folds up in half with all the pieces inside of it.  Then it slides in one end of the case which is open.  There in lies the danger as if you are not careful how you carry the case it could slide out and fall.

Mancala By Cardinal Good Quality
Be careful how you store, transport and carry the game as you don’t want it to fall out.


This is a great two player game that will fit just about any two players.  Very easy to play, yet still has a lot of strategy.  I would definitely recommend that this game be a part of your collection.

Wrap Up

If you have any further questions about the game or how to play, please feel free to ask in the comments below.  I also found a lot of good information at the site How to Play Mancala as well.  I would also love to hear about your stories of playing the game and how it has impacted your life.

Lastly, if you are interested in purchasing this game you can buy Mancalahere at Amazon. You could also click directly on the ad below as well.  We appreciate your support!

James W D

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12 Replies to “Review Of The Mancala Game By Cardinal”

  1. James, I had never even heard of this game, it looks like it would be a fun game to play! My 2 grand kids love to play games I will share this with them, they will love it. I really like your website and will be back!

    • Thanks for stopping by Dennis. Mancala is a great game to play for all ages. I know I enjoyed it a lot as a young teenager when my father and I played it all the time.

  2. I didn’t even know that Mancala was for players ages 6 and up!
    I’ve been playing ever since I can remember! (First game I owned with my sister was KidCala – basically, Mancala, but with fruits shapes instead of marble pieces.) And I play it with all of my younger cousins (definitely below the 6 year mark).

    If a child can grasp the goal of the game, there’s no reason not to start playing earlier. (Just be mindful of choking hazard.) And the more they play, they will get the gist of the smarts behind it and will start learning to play with their brain…

    • You nailed it there Stephanie. Once you are past the putting things in mouth phase this is a great game to play with a younger child. It will really help to reinforce their counting and learning how to develop strategy.

  3. Mancala is one game that I did not know about.
    A simple but strategic game like that reminds a little of checkers , easy to play but the knowing, developing and using strategy makes all the difference.

    I like games that exercise the gray matter a little. I especially think they are very good for children in developing their mathematical skills.

    Great review James, very enjoyable read Thanks

    • Hey Chris, Checkers is very similar in those regards and I appreciate you sharing that perspective with us. I think that is what makes these games a great addition for the family. Fun and easy to play, yet they still offer a very deep strategic aspect.

  4. Hey James thanks for this article, you reminded of a game I really liked to play in earlier days! Thanks to you now I know its name ‘Mancala’. It is a very good game for training the mind, I think and lots of fun…

    Anyways I like your website with its niche family game… long time ago I had some friends we used to meet up once a week, everyone brought some snacks and something to drink and we had wonderful gaming nights with lots of fun… definitely got to find some gaming-friends again…hehehe and definitely a good Idea for families the kid will love it!

    Cheers 🙂

    • Hey Dennis, glad I was able to put a name to the game for you. Thank you very much for endorsing the game as well. I remember many a game nights when I was a kid and visiting with my cousins. I enjoy the benefits and values that it brings to a family and thus why this site is here. Thanks for stopping by and hope to see you again.

    • I spent many an hour devising strategies to be able to beat my dad. The game can be very deceptive in how much strategy there really is. I hope you enjoy it.

  5. I have never heard of this game. It looks rather fun to play. How do you get the jemstones to stay in place when you close the board?
    I like the way you have presented your review, it’s very clear and to the point and easy to follow.

    • Hey Garth, you simply put all the pieces on one side of the board and fold the other half on top of it. The holes all line up so that they hold them in place then. I hope that you get the game and give it a whirl, it is a lot of fun!

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