Mancala World
Banking Ball Game
Inventor: Serge B.
Escuadra, 1941
Variant of Kalah
Ranks: Two
Sowing: Single laps
Region: USA

The Banking Ball Game, a modern mancala game, was invented by Serge B. Escuadra from New York City, USA. He patented his game on August 19, 1941.

Its rules are similar to Kalah which was invented at about the same time, but we may never find out how these two games are related.

Escuadra suggested that the game board should have two ash trays, one for each player, for "receiving ashes from cigarettes, cigars and pipes". He then described these ash trays to have a radial recess "adapted to receive and hold a burning cigarette". Today such an idea appears to be strange, but it just mirrors the fact that smoking was still socially acceptabtle in America at this time and that Escuadra meant his game to be played by adults.

The rules seem to be incomplete or misinterpreted by Escuadra's attorney (apparently the ghostwriter of the document) as the game is hardly playable. The name of the attorney is rather difficult to decipher, but could be Gordon Blacksmith.


The Banking Ball Game is played on a board which has two rows of five small holes called "small receptacles" and one store at either end described as "bank receptacle". Every player owns one row of holes and the store to his left. At the beginning, there are five "balls" in each hole.


Initial Position

In the first move, a player distributes the balls of one of his holes, one by one, in a clockwise direction into the following holes and his own store.

Afterwards, the patent document states that "the other player then goes by picking up the balls in the smaller receptacle immediately adjacent the last ball played by the first player."

This rule is, however, hard to believe as eventually a situation will arise in which no adjacent hole will contain any balls to move with (there will be just one ball left at the end of the game). Perhaps Escuadra explained the game to his attorney in his office by making some moves, which were then misinterpreted as fixed rules. It has been claimed that comparable misunderstandings happened to experienced ethnographs when they tried to understand the rules of traditional Mancala games. If we accept this interpretation, a move may be started from any hole that is owned by the player. However, it could be this rule is only applied to the second player's first move.

If a player reaches the opponent's store, it is skipped without depositing a ball into it.

If the last ball falls into an empty hole of the player's own row, he may continue the move by distributing the contents of the opposite enemy hole.

It appears that a player must move if he can and that he must pass if he can't because the game ends not until the last ball has been deposited in a store.

The game is played in several rounds as the goal cannot be achieved in one game.

Each ball counts for one point, and if one player accumulates 100 points, he wins.


Escuadra, S. B. 
Banking Ball Game (US 2,292,219). United States Patent Office, Washington DC (USA) August 19, 1941.


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By: Ralf Gering
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