Sungka Rules

Sungka is actually one game from a group of games called mancala games.  There are actually many variations of the Sungka rules and it seems to me that different households play with very different rules, but I have done my best here to describe to you how the game of Sungka should be played. 

How to win at Sungka

The aim of the game is to capture as many shells as you can and to place them into your "ulo" (head).  You can learn about the Sungka Board here.

How to set-up a Sungka game

To begin a new game, you must place the Sungka board horizontally between the two players so that each player has seven houses in front of him and the heads should be at the far ends to the left and right.  Each player's "ulo" is the hole/pit to his extreme left.

Next, take the 98 shells (or beads or seeds) and place seven into each of the "bahays" (houses).  You are now ready to start your game of Sungka!

Sungka Turn Procedure

Sungka is a turn-based game.  However, the rules of Sungka are unusual in that the first turn for each player is taken at the same time and therefore the game has a real-time element to it.  Some players attempt to gain an advantage by delaying their start in order to react to their opponents first move and this is perfectly acceptable within the rules of the game.

For the first turn, a player may decide which of the seven houses directly in front of him (on his side of the Sungka board) he wishes to begin with.  He picks up all of the shells from his chosen bahay and he should then move his hand around the board in a clockwise-direction, dropping one shell in each house or head he passes over, including all of the houses on both sides of the board and the player's own head but NOT the opponent's head.

Where you release the last shell from your hand is very important, as this dictates whether you may continue your turn or not.

If you land in your own head, then you may continue your turn from any of your houses.

If you drop your last shell into a house that already had shells in it, then you may pick up every shell in that house (including the one you dropped) and continue your turn.

However, if you drop your last shell into an empty house, then your turn is over.  If this happens in one of your own houses, on your own side of the Sungka board, then you may claim all the shells in the house directly opposite (from your opponent's side of the board) and drop them in your head, although the turn is still over.

Both players play simultaneously and it can be quite hectic.  Once a player has ended their first turn, he must wait for the opponent to also end his turn and from that point on, players simply take it in turns to play their turns.  For each subsequent turn, you may only start with a house on your side of the board.  The game ends when neither of the players can play on.

Subsequent games of Sungka

The game does not end here! For future rounds, the shells must be re-distributed.  Start by taking the shells from your own head and filling up your houses with seven shells in each  house, starting at the left-hand side of the board.  Any excess shells should be placed back in the head.  If you do not have enough shells to completely fill the quota of seven for a house, then you should not put any shells in that house at all, but instead, put the remaining shells back into the head.  Any houses that are not filled with seven shells have been burned and are entirely unavailable for this game and cannot be used by either player at any point.

The games continue in this way until one player's side has been totally burned out!

That concludes my guide on Sungka Rules.

Now that you know all about how to play Sungka, now is the perfect time to buy your sungkahan and get started playing today!

Good luck!