Weikersheim castle, the ancestral seat of the aristocratic family von Hohenlohe, near Bad Mergentheim in south-western Germany, is famous for its old game boards, such as Backgammon, Chess, Draughts, and Nine Men's Morris. It also harbors two mancala game tables from the early 18th century. They are works of the well-known artist's family and cabinetmakers Sommer in Künzelsau in 1709 (or perhaps in 1704?). The oldest written record on mancala in Germany dates from 1699, when Job Ludolf mentioned qarqis (i.e. Gabata) in his Lexicon Aethiopico-Latinum:
- Qarqis: At secundum Gregorium Aethiopibus est Ludi genus cum factis aliquot in tabula forminibus blobuli mittuntur; quo genere lusus aliqui ad sortilegia abutuntur.
In the second half of the 17th century mancala was also described in French and English travel literature as a popular African game.
It will probably never be solved how a mancala game eventually reached a small town in Germany.
The tables are made of oak wood in the baroque style. They are 80 cm high and their upper surface is sized 110 x 74 cm and 168 x 70 cm respectively. Each table has two rows of six holes and a large store at either end. The counters have been lost and no rules survive.
In 1964, the Weikersheim game tables inspired Peter Mieg, a toy-maker from Schwenningen, to produce a mancala game, which he called Conference. The cover of his game shows university students in historical costumes while playing on the boards. The rules of Conference were, however, borrowed from Kalah.
- [Über deutsche Spiele]. In: Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ). 24th December, 1965, 6.
- Gering, R.
- Personal Communication with Peter Mieg, October 2004.
- Ludolf, J.
- Lexicon Aethiopico-Latinum. Frankfurt (Germany) 1699, 154.