How to Play Sungka: A Step-by-Step

Sungka, also known as a mancala game, is a traditional Filipino board game that has been enjoyed for centuries. This two-player game is not only entertaining but also offers numerous benefits, including enhancing mathematical thinking and observation skills. In this comprehensive guide, we will walk you through how to play Sungka step by step.

Understanding the Origins of Sungka

Before we dive into the gameplay, let’s explore a bit of history. Sungka is believed to have originated in the 17th century and was first documented by the Jesuit priest Father José Sanchez in 1692 as “Kunggit.” To this day, the Aklanon people still refer to the game as Kunggit.

The Sungka Board

To play Sungka, you’ll need a solid wooden block with two rows of seven circular holes and two large holes at both ends called “heads.” Each player controls the seven holes on their side of the board and owns the “head” to their right.

Setting Up the Game

  1. Board Placement: Position the Sungka board horizontally between the two players so that each player has seven houses/holes in front of them, and the heads (large holes) are at the far ends to the left and right.
  2. Preparing the Pieces: Take 98 shells, beads, or seeds and place seven into each of the “bahays” (houses).

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Gameplay Rules

Sungka is unique in that both players play simultaneously, creating a real-time element to the game. Here’s how it works:

  1. Taking a Turn: On your turn, pick up the contents of one of your holes. Distribute the pieces, one by one, in a counterclockwise direction, skipping your opponent’s “head.” If the last piece of a move lands in your “head,” you get to take another turn.
  2. Capturing: If the last piece of a move lands in an empty hole on your side, and the opposite hole on your opponent’s side has pieces, you capture both your last piece and your opponent’s pieces and place them in your “head.”
  3. Game End: The game ends when no pieces are left in any hole on both sides. The remaining pieces are captured by the player who still has pieces in their holes, and they are placed in their “head.”
  4. Scoring: Count the number of pieces in each player’s “head.” The player with the most pieces is the winner.

Educational and Fun

Sungka is not just a game; it’s an opportunity to enhance your mathematical thinking and observation skills while having a blast. It’s not surprising that this game has remained popular in the Philippines and is also enjoyed in other Southeast Asian countries, such as Indonesia and Malaysia, where it is known as “Congkak.”

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What You’ll Need

To get started with a game of Sungka, you’ll need the following materials:

  • Sungka Board: A solid wooden block with two rows of seven circular holes and two large holes at both ends called “heads.” If you don’t have a traditional board, you can easily create a DIY version using an empty egg carton or by digging little holes in the dirt and using stones.
  • Game Pieces: You’ll require 49 small shells, marbles, pebbles, seeds, or beads to play the game. While small cowrie shells are traditionally used, you can also use other small objects such as beads or sunflower seeds.
  • Empty Egg Carton (for DIY version): If you choose to create a DIY board, an empty egg carton can serve as a substitute for the Sungka board.
  • Glue, Tape, or Staples (for DIY version): To secure the egg carton in your DIY board, you will need glue, tape, or staples.
  • Optional: If you want to add a personal touch to your DIY board, you can use paint or other decorative materials to customize it.


1: Is Sungka only played in the Philippines?

A: Sungka is popular in the Philippines, but it is also enjoyed in other Southeast Asian countries like Indonesia and Malaysia, where it is known as “Congkak.”

2: Can I make my own Sungka board?

A: Absolutely! You can create a DIY Sungka board using simple materials like an empty egg carton and small stones or seeds.

3: What are the benefits of playing Sungka?

A: Playing Sungka can help improve mathematical thinking and observation skills while providing entertainment.

4: How many players can participate in a Sungka game?

A: Sungka is typically played by two players competing against each other.

5: Are there variations of Sungka?

A: Yes, there are regional variations of Sungka with slightly different rules and board designs.

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