Mancala World

Congkak → German, Italian, Portuguese.

Other Names: Chonka,
Chongka', Congklak, Chun-
cajon, Dakon, Galatjang,
Kunggit, Main Congkak,
Mak Khom, Naranj, Ohva-
lhu, Sungca, Sungka, Sun-
ka, Tsjoncka, Tungkayon
First Description: Georg
Eberhard Rumpf, 1701
Cycles: One
Ranks: Two
Sowing: Multiple laps
Region: Brunei, Indonesia,
Malaysia, Singapore

Congkak is short for Main Congkak (in Indonesia: Congklak; attention: "congkak" means in Indonesian "arrogant"!). Congklak is Indonesian for "cowrie shell", but some people believe that actually the name of the game originated from the word congak, which in old Malay Language means mental calculation (without writing it down). Congkak is a popular mancala game in Malaysia, Brunei, Singapore and Indonesia. Minor variations are played on Java (Dakon), the Philippines (Sungka), the Marianas (Chongka'), southern Thailand (Tungkayon), the Maldives (Ohvalhu) and Sri Lanka (Chonka).

Many Indonesians believe that the game originated in Malacca Kingdom where it became very popular and spread to the South East Asia region. This spread was due to the many travelers who visited the kingdom because it was a trading city. In the early days, Congkak was mostly played by the royal family and palace residents, however later it spread to the general population of the kingdom and today it is usually played by girls and women. As the Congkak board is often shaped like a boat it is believed that it is based on the legend of a fisherman unable to go to the sea during rainy season who lost his income during this time. To prevent boredom he created this game which is similar to his boat.

A local variant of Congkak called Tsjoncka was mentioned in a herbal completed in 1701 by the German botanist Georg Eberhard Rumpf (1628-1702). He observed the game on the island of Ambon in the Moluccas in the late 17th century and described the seeds that were used to play it on a oblong board, which had twelve holes in two rows. The artist and explorer Jacques Etienne Victor (1790-1855) gave a drawing of Chinese playing Congkak in Kupang, Timor, in his book "Voyage Autour du Monde sur les Corvettes de l'Uranie 1817-20" (1825). The American ethnographer Stewart Culin gave the rules in 1894, which might have inspired the invention of Kalah, the most popular modern mancala game.

Today many Congkak tournaments are organized for children in Malaysia, e.g. in Kuala Lumpur, Kuala Terengganu, Pekan and Seremban. Several hotels in southern Borneo offer Congkak courses to tourists. Since 2004, the Malaysian Embassy and the Malaysian Association in France sponsore each year a Congkak tournament to spread Malaysian culture in Europe. Another tournament is held in Wales during the Cardiff European Games, an annual meeting of Malaysians from all across Europe.

In Brunei, Congkak is also played during the night of royal ceremonials such as the Istiadat Malam Berjaga-jaga at the palace or nobility's residence.


Congkak employs an oblong game board called papan congkak, which has two rows each one with five to 15 playing pits. These pits are called lubang kampung ("village") or lubang anak ("child") in Malaysia. Most widespread are boards with 2x7 playing pits. In addition, there is at either end a larger hole to store the captured counters. The store is called lubang rumah ("house") in Malaysia and indung ("mother") in Indonesia. Each player owns the store to his left.

Congkak Board, Malaysia

Each of the small pits contains at the beginning of the game as many counters (usually cowrie shells or tamarind seeds called anak-anak buah in Malaysia) as each row counts small pits.


Initial Position (2x7 Board)

Players take turns moving the seeds except in the first move which is performed simultaneously. On a turn, a player chooses one of the holes under their control. The player removes all seeds from this hole, and distributes them in each hole clockwise from this hole, in a process called sowing. Sowing skips an opponent's store, but does not skip a player's own store.

If the last seed falls into an occupied hole, all the seeds are removed from that hole, and are sown starting from that hole. The process continues until the last seed falls into a player's store, or an empty hole. The latter is called mati ("dead").

If the last seed sown falls into a player's own store, they immediately earn another turn, which can begin at any of the holes under their control.

If the last seed sown falls into an empty hole on the current player's side, then the player captures all the seeds in the hole directly across from this one, on the opponent's side and the seed effecting the capture. This is known as mati bela ("sacrifice"). If the opposing hole is empty, no seeds are captured.

The game ends, when a player has no seeds in his holes at the start of his turn. The remaining seeds are awarded to his opponent.

The objective of the game is to capture more seeds than one's opponent.

Comparison to Other Games

Traditional Congkak board

Congkak is very similar to other Mancala games playerd in South Asia, e.g. Naranj (Maldives), Dakon (Java), Sungka (Philippines) and Chongka' (Marianas).

The game differs from Kalah in being a multiple lap game. More differences to Kalah is that Congkak is played clockwise and that the first move is made simultaneously.

Sungka has a different cultural background, but is otherwise almost identical.

See also


Alifia, Ariani, F. & Krisanty, T.
Pencarian Solusi Optimal Pemilihan Lubang pada Permainan Congklal dengan Algoritma Greedy dan Program Dinamis. Laboratorium Ilmu dan Rekayasa Komputasi, Departemen Teknik Informatika, Institut Teknologi Bandung, Bandung (Indonesia) 2006.
Congklak: Traditional Game of Indonesia. Expat Web Site Association, Jakarta (Indonesia) 1997-2006.
Arago, J. E. V.
Voyage Autour du Monde sur les Corvettes de l'Uranie 1817-20. Paris (France) 1825.
Culin, S.
Mancala: The National Game of Africa. In: Report of the National Museum (Philadelphia (USA)) 1894, 597-611.
Hellier, M.
Notes on the Malay Game Jongkak. In: Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society (Straits Branch) 1907; 49: 93.
Ida, H., Nakagawa, T., Huy, N. Q. et al.
Game Information Dynamics and Its Application To Congkak and Othello (Conference Paper). In: I EEE (Ed.). 2012 International Conference on Information Society: 415-422.
Lim, R.
Gateway to Asian Games. Asiapac Books Pte Ltd, Singapore 2006. ISBN 9812294457.
Overbeck, H.
New Notes on the Game of Chongkak. In: Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society (Straits Branch) 1915; 57: 8.
Rumpf, G. E.
The Ambonese Herbal. Ambon (Indonesia) 1701 (date of completion).
Safwan Bin Mohd Shahidan, M.
Designing and Developping an Intelligent Congkak. Faculty of Information Communication Technology / Universiti Utara Malaysia, Kedah Darul Ama (Malaysia) 2012.
Skeat, W. W.
Malay Magic. London (England) 1900, 486.
Wilkinson R. J.
Papers on Malay Subjects. Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia) 1915, 57.
Yaacob, S. A. R.
Knowledge-based System Developement for the Game Congkak. (Bachelor Thesis). Universiti Teknologi MARA, Shah Alam (Malaysia) 2006.

External Links


© Wikimanqala.
By: Ralf Gering
Under the CC by-sa 2.5 license.

Rules starting with "Players take turns moving the seeds ..." were adapted from the Wikipedia article, "Congkak", , used under the GNU Free Documentation License.