Mancala World

Kauri → German, Portuguese.

Inventor: Ralf Gering,
Ranks: Two
Sowing: Single laps
Region: Germany

Kauri (German for: "cowrie"; pronounced like the English word), a mancala game, was invented on June 26, 2006, by Ralf Gering in the village of Hain (Brohl Valley), Germany. He got the idea to the game right after lunch while he was dozing, shortly before he fell asleep as the popular German saying goes:

"Den Seinen gibt's der Herr im Schlaf" (The Lord giveth (blessings) to His beloved in sleep. - Psalms 127:2 Lutheran Bible)

Several rule changes were made in December 2007.

Arty Sandler (Israel) added Kauri to the igGameCenter on April 17, 2008, a special online game gadget that allows playing abstract board games with other opponents in real-time directly from the site or from the Google Personalized Homepage.

On January 5, 2012, there was a Kauri tournament in Novouralsk (Russia), which was organized by a local boardgames club. The tournament was won by a 15-year old boy who is said to be also a promising Chess player. A total of 12 persons took part.

Kauri received five hate ratings on BoardGameGeek: the first one in 2008 by Chris Steere, after the game's author wrote a critical article about his father Mark who is well-known as a psychopath all over the internet. A second hate rating came from "abstractfan", a fan of the Spanish game designer Néstor Romeral Andrés, after several of his games (e.g. Coffee, Domina 4, Omega, Taiji) were identified by Ralf Gering as rip-offs that are based on earlier games. After a thread was opened on BoardGameGeek on March 8, 2012 to discuss this issue, three more hate ratings were given by Sam Houston (March 8, 2012), Sam Houston, Jr. (March 9, 2012) and Sam Houston, Sr. (March 9, 2012). These were all sockpuppets of Mark Steere, which was acknowledged by him in a public chat at igGameCenter (screenshots were taken as a proof). Their hate ratings affected all five games on BoardGameGeek, which were created by Ralf Gering. BoardGameGeek surpressed any discussion about these hate ratings, closing or removing threads and suspending the games' author for a day for starting a discussion in the complaints department of BoardGameGeek. Eventually all hate ratings were removed by BoardGameGeek except the first one. However, Mark Steere created another sockpuppet account on March 14 named "Christine Steelrush", giving two hate ratings and then gloating about that in an e-mail to the game's author.


The game is played on a standard mancala board of 2 x 6 holes. Each player owns one row.

Initially there are six counters in each hole: five "seeds" (Caesalpinia bonduc) and one "cowrie". Snakehead cowries or Lehokupa (Cypraea caputserpentis) are used by the author of the game.


Initial Position

At his turn a player distributes the contents of one of his holes according to the following rules:

  • The hole contains at least one cowrie.
  • The player takes the seeds in his right hand and the cowries in his left hand (if he is right-handed).
  • He distributes the seeds first, one by one, in the anti-clockwise direction into the succeeding holes.
  • Eventually he distributes the cowries, also one by one, continuing in the same direction.

The move ends after one lap.

The players capture counters according to the following rules:

(A) General Rules

  • Only seeds can be captured.
  • Cowries cannot be captured.
  • The capture takes place immediately when it is effected, even when the move hasn't yet ended.
  • Several captures, even of both types (see below), can happen in one move.
  • Captured seeds are removed from the board and collected until the game ends.

(B) Direct Capture

  • Seeds are captured from opponent's holes that have no cowries.
  • The capture is effected when a cowrie is dropped into such a hole.
  • The seeds are captured by the moving player.
  • The cowries effecting the capture remain on the board.

(C) Indirect Capture

  • Seeds are captured when they are dropped into opponent's holes that contain only cowries.
  • The seeds are captured by the opponent.
  • The cowries are not removed from the board.

A player must move, if he can. If a player still has seeds, but no cowries, he must pass until he can move again.

The game ends when no seeds are left on the board.

The player who captured most seeds wins the game. If the number of captured seeds is equal, the game is a draw.

Suggested Tie-Breaker

If both players have captured the same number, the game continues until one player can't move. His adversary is then declared the winner of the game.

This rule, which is implemented on igGameCenter, has been used only once in the Kauri games played there (over 120) as of January 3, 2011. The tie-breaker is therefore considered to be largely superfluous and was removed from the official rules in May 2010. However, it still continues to exist as a rules variation. It can result in sophisticated endgames.


Kauri played by students in Lisbon, Portugal

Although cowries are not counted in the end, they are important because on the one hand they can protect seeds against capture, while on the other hand they effect a capture. They serve for attack and defense.

Before a player captures, he may feed his opponent's holes that cannot be defended with seeds. The weakest holes are those which are most difficult to protect, usually the left-most ones in a row.

Zugzwang (German for "forced moves") is an important tool to control your opponent. Remember that only the contents of holes can be moved which contain cowries.

Kauri Proverbs

"An early lead - an early defeat."
An early lead is often bad because it could make the player vulnerable for a counter attack that would be even stronger.

"If in doubt, wait."
Don't capture too early.

"First sacrifice, then attack."
Sometimes it is even advantageous to force your opponent to capture your seeds.

"Feed yourself with cowries."
More cowries often mean more waiting moves and more choices for attack.

"The fattening period is followed by slaughter."
In German: "Nach dem Mästen folgt das Schlachten."


Board position in the middle game (North to move)

A game takes on the average 40 plies (half-moves) until it is decided (range 13 - 170 plies). The average branching factor is 3.6, but a player can have more than 200 options to move, when the adversary is temporarily blocked. However, moves with three or four options are most common. Thus the game-tree complexity of Kauri is approximately 1.8 x 10^22, which is lower than that of Oware (4.4 x 10^32), but higher than that of Kalah(6, 4) (6.00 x 10^18).

Example Games

(1) Arty Sandler (Israel) - Ralf Gering (Germany) - April 21, 2008

1. f D; 2. e F; 3. b (+1) D; 4. d E; 5. c C (+1); 6. a (+6) B (-1); 7. a B; 8. b D! (+25);
9. d F (+5) - Gering won by 31 : 8 points.

(2) Arty Sandler (Israel) - Ralf Gering (Germany) - April 29, 2008

1. d B; 2. e F; 3. f B; 4. b D; 5. a (-1) A; 6. c (-1) B; 7. d (-1) A; 8. c C (+1;-1); 9. d D (-1); 10. c E (+9); 11. c A?; 12. e D (+9); 13. f B (-1); 14. b (+17) E; 15. d (+9) E; 16. b D; 17. c (+4) - Sandler won by 33 : 22 points.

(3) Ralf Gering (Germany) - Gregory K. van Patten (USA) - November 5, 2008

1. e E; 2. e F; 3. b C (+2); 4. e D; 5. c A (+2); 6. e B; 7. d-a-f (+34) - Gering won by 34 : 4 points.

(4) "Vitaly" (Russia) - Ralf Gering (Germany) - January 3, 2011

1. c D; 2. f E; 3. b (+1) D; 4. e (-1) F (-1); 5. d (-1) A (-1); 6. a (-1) C (-1); 7. b A; 8. c (+4) E (+5); 9. a C; 10. b D (-1); 11. e A; 12. a D; 13. f F; 14. c (+3) C; 15. b D; 16. e C; 17. f (+6) E; 18. d (+1) B-B-A (+7); 19. d C; 20. c D (-1+3); 21. d A; 22. c B; 23. e (+6) E; 24. f (+1); 25. d E?; 26. b! C; 27. e E; 28. f (+2) D; 29. d B; 30. c A; 31. e C; 32. d B; 33. f A; 34. e B; 35. f F! (A); 36. f E! (+8); 37. a D; 38. b E; 39. d C; 40. f F!

Endgame Position at Move 35 (South to move!)

According to the old tie-breaker rules, Africa has more tempi and wins. The strongest continuation is: 5,5,4,4,3,2,2,3,1,5,5,4,4,5,5,1,3,5,4,4,5,5,2,3,3,4,4,5,5,2,6,5. According to the new rules: draw!

A: According to the new rules a draw could be achieved by playing E-D-E-A-B-C-W-D-E-F! However, according to the old rules (tie-breaker!) this would result in a loss!

External Links


Gering, R.
Kauri - A New Mancala Game (e-mail to Yahoo's Mancala Games mailing list). June 27, 2006.


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