Pictured below is my new game of Mancala. It cost me $13 at Toyworld. After reading the history and rules of the game at Wikipedia, I couldn’t resist buying it. It is a very old game (at least 1300 years), but like most good games it has few rules and is easy to play. Note easy to play, not easy to win!
After a few games, I still couldn’t see any obvious strategy! So I searched the www and came upon Fritz Dooley’s Mancala Center. The optimum opening move is explained but despite a great deal of computer modelling, he concludes:
“We did not find a backward-induction sure-win strategy that resulted in such a quick, clear and decisive win that memorizing a series of plays several levels deep into the game would yield a practical way of consistently winning without having to apply soft strategy. Thus, the relevance to a real player of our proof of mancala’s triviality is small. In this regard, the triviality of mancala is more akin to that of chess than to that of tic-tac-toe.”
And so I will continue playing Mancala in search of winning strategies that have so far eluded me. Do you have any good strategies?