DIY Mancala / Sungka Game

Sungka is a game I learned in the Philippines when I did a test drive in the Ford Escape. I’ve seen other versions of this game in Africa called mancala.  This game has ancient origins, although the exact history trail isn’t known. It’s largely played in Africa and Asia and has hundreds of variations. I’m sharing how we have learned to play it, and there are also many instructions and rules around the web (just google ‘mancala game’ or ‘sungka game’). It’s such a worthwhile game to play with kids, because of it’s history and simplicity. 

Below is a Sungka board from the Philippines. For the DIY board, I simplified it using an egg carton. This game can even be played in the dirt by digging little holes and using stones (pictured here). 


To make your own mancala game at home, below is the materials you’ll need.


  • Empty egg carton
  • Glue (or tape/staples)
  • Marbles, shells, stones, glass beads, seeds, lentils, dried beans

Note: You can buy uniform shells from craft/discount stores. Marbles are easy to find, and you can find stones/glass beads from Bunnings, Spotlight and other stores with nursery sections. Or even just use dried beans and lentil from the pantry.

The Board

The boards I have seen have been made out of wood. However, this game has been known to be played in the dirt by making holes in the ground and even carved  in stone. The board I used in the Philippines had 7 holes, which is typical of this game, however it works perfectly well with the 6 holes provided in an egg carton.

DIY Mancala / Sungka Game

The board needs to have a collection part for the beads, I like to call it a home. There is one for each player. These can be made my simply cutting the top part of the egg carton in half.

DIY Mancala / Sungka Game

Simply glue/tape/staple this underneath the base of the egg carton as shown, allowing enough space for the collection cup.

DIY Mancala / Sungka Game

I used glue so I pegged this and allowed to dry.

DIY Mancala / Sungka Game

The beauty of this game is you can use many items for the ‘beads’. I used glass beads you can find in many places including Bunnings and Spotlight. You could also use dried beans or lentils, shells (collected or purchase shells from craft/discount stores), pebbles, stones, beads  etc.

DIY Mancala / Sungka Game

DIY Mancala / Sungka Game

Setting Up the Board

I painted our egg carton board, but this is optional. The Sungka game I played had 7 pieces in each hole. However, you can keep it simpler and place 3 or 4 beads in each hole. Leave the ends empty.

DIY Mancala / Sungka Game

DIY Mancala / Sungka Game

DIY Mancala / Sungka Game

How to Play

As I mentioned, there are many ways to play this game. The aim of the game is to collect as many beads as possible. First I’ll share a few guidelines how I learned to play this game.

1. There are two players. I’ll call them Player 1 and Player 2. They sit on either sides of the board. Each player owns the home space (indicated as 1 and 2) to their right.

2. For the purposes of this instruction, I’ll call ‘beads‘ (pictured as shells below) the pieces you move, each collection spot ‘home‘ and the houses on the board ‘holes‘.

3. You move the pieces in an anti-clockwise movement around the board, depending on where you start on your side of the board and how many beads you have, will determine where the beads finish (this may be on the player 2 side of the board).

4. Each player has 7 (or 6 in the case of the egg carton board) holes on their side. This is the side of the board they control and pick up from. When it comes to their turn, the player can pick up from any of the holes on their side. So either 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7. The last image in the series below gives an example of a turn option. Player 1 here might pick up all the beads from hole 1 and drop them in an anti-clockwise movement around the board, one bead in each hole, and in this case, they will end on their own home.

how to play Sungka / Mancala


  • If you land in your own home (example above), then you may continue your turn from any of the holes on your side. So you repeat the process and pick up the beads form any hole and distribute them in an anti-clockwise direction. 
  • You place a bead in every hole on the board until you have finished that turn, EXCEPT skip the other player’s home. However you always place a bead in your own home as you go around the board (this helps you collect beads in your home).
  • If you drop the last bead into a hole that already has a bead in it, then you pick up every bead in that hole (including the one you dropped) and continue the turn. So on until you land on an empty hole. When you start the game with many beads, one player might have 3 or 4 turns in a row.
  • If you drop the last bead into an empty hole with no beads, then the turn is over. HOWEVER, if you land on an empty hole on YOUR OWN SIDE OF THE BOARD, then you take all the beads in the hole directly opposite (from the opposite players side of the board). Place these in your own home.
  • Once all the beads are distributed between the homes, count them, and the winner is the one with the most beads. 

DIY Mancala / Sungka Game

DIY Mancala / Sungka Game

It helps to see this game played, and my girls demonstrate a game that took about 4 minutes in the video below. 

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