Lots of board games have a knack of making you, well, bored. Not so Mancala. This ancient African game has been keeping the Dark Continent entertained for thousands of years. Indeed, Mancala (meaning 'to transfer') is rumoured to be the oldest game in the world. Hardly surprising when you consider it comes from the continent that brought us, er, mankind!
When our intrepid product hunters arrived back at Firebox HQ they could hardly contain their excitement over this innocuous looking game. Why, they'd hardly had time to remove their pith helmets before they were regaling us with tales of Mancala's incredible popularity down in the jungle. Apparently, some form of Mancala is played in practically every African country and its riveting gameplay transcends class, language and tribal loyalties Â– the wealthy may play on carved ivory boards covered in gold, whereas humble villagers simply scrape a few holes in the ground and use pebbles as playing pieces.
So what is it that's so continent-engrossing about Mancala, then? Well, the object of this game of mathematical strategy is to accumulate the most stones in your scoring pit through a series of moves. Each player chooses their side of the board, which consists of six bowls and a scoring pit (or 'reservoir'), and makes tactical moves to hopefully earn free turns or trap opponents into making bad moves. The player who finishes with the most stones wins.
If all this sounds like a confusing heap of Um Bongo, don't despair. Like all of the classics Mancala is easy to learn but difficult to master, and is undoubtedly one of the most fascinating and addictive games we've ever played. In fact, for the full African effect, why not crank up the central heating, stick on your latest Best Jungle NoisesÂ…Ever! CD, and invite some friends over for a 2, 3 or 4-player Mancala marathon. But get your skates on Â– we confidently predict Mancala is going to be the most popular thing to emerge from the jungle since Phil Tufnell!