Best Mancala Sets
Last Updated: 8th Mar, 2023
Are you looking for a game that's fun to play and tests your mathematical and strategic thinking? You got to try the game of Mancala! If you've never heard of Mancala before, then there's never been a better time to start playing. The game is simple enough for kids 5 or older to pick while complicated enough to challenge grown-ups.
It also happens to be one of the oldest strategy-based games around with the earliest mention of the game dating back to 6 to 7 the century. While the game originated somewhere in Egypt or Ethiopia, its variations are played all across the globe, especially in Africa and South Asia. Particularly in America, the Oware version of the game is quite popular.
But if you're new to the game or have never played Mancala before, it can be quite a task to pick your very first set. We understand the pain! So, we have done the hard work for you and reviewed 5 of the best Mancala sets available.
Our Top Picks for the Best Mancala Sets
1. Yellow Mountain Imports Mancala Set - Pro Pick
To start with, check out this gorgeous Mancala set from Yellowstone. Everything about it has been designed to reflect the game's origins, making it an excellent pro-quality set for enthusiasts. It's also perfect if you want something that will look great in your home, even when it's not in use.
The solid rubberwood board measures 17.3 x 4.5 x 1 inches and is carved in fetching patterns that you're sure to love. It's a unique design that you just won't find anywhere else. It comes complete with quartz pebbles that are a genuine stone and come in a variety of earth tone colors. These pebbles are reminiscent of the 'seeds' the game originally used, and complement the board beautifully. There are 48 pebbles, and each one measures around 10 mm across, although that will vary. You'll see that it looks fantastic on your coffee table, so even when it's not in use, it's a feature of your decor.
This is a simple yet beautiful Mancala board that any serious player would love to have.
- Intricately carved rubberwood board that will look amazing anywhere you put it
- Genuine quartz pebbles in earthy tones
- A board game and a piece of décor
- Design evokes the original game of Mancala from centuries ago
- Designed for players aged five and up
If you want something that looks great and plays perfectly, this is the board for you.
2. Mimgo Shop Mancala Board Game – Best Overall
This set has a great overall design, as it offers you pretty much everything you need to get started playing Mancala. At the same time, it's priced affordably.
The board itself has a simple wood design, measuring 18.5 x 5.45 x 0.75 inches. What's especially great about this game is that the whole thing is designed to be able to be folded up.
The board folds in half, keeping all of the pieces inside. This means the game board is essentially its own box, so you don't need to keep the stones separately and risk losing them. Due to the smaller size, it also makes it an excellent travel Mancala set, which is brilliant if you want to take the game on the go.
The board comes with 72 glass stones. These come in a variety of colors and look gorgeous as you play, especially against the natural wood. There are lots of spare stones included, so you'll never have to worry about losing any.
- Folding board feature, perfect for both travel and storage in packed shelves
- Lots of extra glass beads, so no problem if one goes missing
- Easy to slot in with the rest of your games
- Colorful glass beads
This is the best overall set and ideal for most players. It's foldable, making it quite handy, and at the same time, construction is top-notch. The board itself is perfect, especially with the colorful glass beads.
3. Wooden Folding Mancala Travel Board Game – Budget Pick
Are you looking to just try out the game of Mancala, and see if it's for you? There are lots of options for you, and you just want one that's good value. If that sounds like you, you've got to pick up this copy of the game. The price is an absolute steal, and you'll get everything you need to play.
The glass stones used in this game are larger than usual, which also makes it easier to play and spot. Also, it's hard to enjoy the game, if you're worried about a child or a pet managing to get into the pebbles. These larger ones mitigate those worries, and are also great for those with limited vision too. They come in a variety of bright colors, so you'll be sure to love them.
This also down in half, making it portable and travel-friendly. Want to take the game elsewhere and challenge your friends? You can do that with this board. When totally unfolded, it measures 17.9 x 5.3 x 0.8 inches, which is big enough to play without feeling cramped.
- Folding feature which makes it perfect for travel
- Large colorful glass stones, easier to see and harder to lose
- Plain wood design that will blend in with the rest of your board game collection
- Larger dips to store your won stones
- Heavy-duty hinge and locking mechanism
This budget set offers you so much when it comes to Mancala. You'll be hard-pressed to find a better value set than this.
4. Yellow Mountain Imports Mancala Set Lacquer Black – Unique Design
One of the real draws of Mancala is that the board can be as simple or as elaborate as you want it to be. There are lots of boards out there that are designed to be gorgeous, and this is very much one of them. The inspiration behind the design is the African tribal and cave paintings. If you want a board you can leave out when it's not in play, this is the one you've got to buy.
The board itself has a black base color, with red indentations for play. What's really interesting about it is that there's a different animal depicted in each indentation. You'll see a snake, a lizard, a frog, a fish, and more. The artwork evokes the origins of the game and looks stunning every time you use it.
As for playability, the game board measures 17.3 x 4.5 x 1 inches, giving you plenty of play room. The indentations are more than deep enough too, to hold pebbles during play.
The pebbles themselves are small genuine quartz pieces, measuring around 10 mm each. This size will vary slightly from pebble to pebble, due to the nature of quartz. They come in earth tones, complementing the board beautifully. There are 48 pebbles included with the game.
- Gorgeous board design, featuring animals in every indentation
- 48 earth toned quartz playing pieces
- Solid wood board designed to stand the test of time
- Sturdy box perfect for storing the set when not in use
- Perfect decor piece if you want to leave the board out
This set is one of the best looking ones out there. You're sure to get compliments on it every time you use it, so it's a great decor piece as well as a board game.
5. Classic Mancala – Bargain Pick
Do you want to pick up a game for your kids that you think they'll enjoy? This bargain Mancala board is just what you want. It gives them everything they need to learn and master the game, keeping them occupied for hours at a time. If you have school holidays coming up, this could be just what you need.
The set itself comes in a folding board, which measures 6.5 x 1.5 x 8.8 inches when totally unfolded. This is good for you, as it means there are fewer pieces to worry about. Simply put all the beads back in the board at the end of the play, fold the board over, and lock it. You're done, and you can just put it back on the shelf. It also makes it much easier to hold onto the beads themselves.
The glass beads themselves are brightly colored and slightly larger than regular pebbles. This ensures that it's easier for little hands to hold and move them, and it's harder to lose them too. There's 48 in the pack, more than enough to get started with.
- Folding board keeps all pieces together for easy storage
- Bright beads are fun for kids to learn the game with
- Larger beads make it harder to lose pieces for the game
- Bargain price for the game, making it a great starter set
- Designed for ages 7 and up
Kids will love this bargain set, and you will too for the price on offer. It's cheaper than you think to give them a new game to learn and master.
Mancala Set Buyer's Guide
For such a simple game, there are so many different iterations of the set that you can buy. Where on earth do you start? Is there one version that's better than others? If you spend more money on it, are you going to get a better set?
Here's what you need to know when you're buying your Mancala board.
<Simple Vs. Elaborate Designs>
Firstly, let's take a look at the style of board you can buy. As you've seen, you can get everything from a simple, plain wood design, to intricately designed boards with all kinds of exotic designs. There's honestly all kinds of designs you could buy, so where do you start?
Firstly, you'll want to think about your budget. If you're trying to pick up something cheaper, then you're going to want to go with a simpler board. If you have more money to spend, then you'll be able to get a more elaborate board, if that's your thing.
That's the other thing you need to keep in mind. What appeals to you more? Do you want a plain board that doesn't have a specific style, or do you want one that's been decorated? If you know which one appeals to you more, then you have your answer.
You'll also need to consider whether you want your board to be just a board or a piece of decor. Many people love having the boards out on their shelves and coffee tables, even when they're not using them. If that sounds like you, you'll want to go with a more patterned board. If you just want to put the board away when it's not in use, grab a simpler design.
As you've seen on this list, there are lots of options when it comes to travel games of Mancala. Do you want to be able to take the game on the go? Then you're spoiled for choice. When looking at these travel versions, look at how they fold and lock shut. Most will have a small metal latch that will help you keep the game shut when you're transporting it. Take a look at the customer reviews to see if it does stay together properly. The last thing you want is to open your bag and find glass beads everywhere.
What you may also want to consider is how you want to store the game. Do you have limited space on your shelves or in your cabinets? If so, then you'll need to consider the overall size of the set as well.
If you want a game that's easy to store, a travel version works well here too. You won't need as much space as the game folds up. It'll hold all the pieces inside too, so you won't have to deal with an extra box creating more bulk.
Next, let's think about the size and shape of the beads used in the game. Going back for centuries, these beads have represented 'seeds'. As this is the case, they're often quite small. In many sets, you'll see they're quite tiny pebbles, which aesthetically are quite pleasing. If you're choosing a set based on looks, then this is going to be just right for you. Also, the smaller the beads are, the easier they are to fit into the indentations on the board.
However, as mentioned earlier, you may not want tiny beads. You may want to give this game to your kids, or you'll want to ensure that small children and pets won't put them into their mouths. You may also just want to ensure that they're not as easy to lose. If that's the case, look for boards that have larger beads with them. There are plenty out there, so you can use them to keep everyone in the house safe.
Something that Mancala players feel very strongly about is the indentations on the board. These are designed to hold beads, both ones that are in play and ones that are in your store. You should have several across the board, as well as larger ones at each end, for each player's store.
Some players find that often, you won't get indentations that are quite big enough for use. Sometimes it's a mismatch between the size of the beads and the indentations. The beads are too big, or the indentations are too small, making the game frustrating to play.
The best way to avoid this happening is to read customer reviews carefully. Many will tell you if there's a problem, so you can be warned before you decide to buy a particular set.
Finally, take a good look at the build quality of any particular game you're looking at. Is it going to give you what you need? It's true that Mancala doesn't have many moving parts, but it's worth checking it out. Look at the type of wood used, and the number of beads given. Are these enough? As you play, you're bound to lose a couple of them or more. So, it's a good idea to choose a set that comes with an extra set of beads.
Plus, check out whether the hinges and locks on travel sets are good enough quality.
Let's Wrap Things Up:
Hopefully, with this guide, you'll be able to pick up the right Mancala board game for you. Whether you're looking to get started or you're a Mancala expert, you'll find just the right board. Pick one up and start playing today.
Some of the other board games worth checking out: