Mancala World
Inventor: David Parlett,
Ranks: Two
Sowing: Multiple laps
Region: England

Widdershins ("anticlockwise") was invented by the renowned English game designer and game historian David Parlett in 1996. Parlett's most successful game is Hare and Tortoise, which was sold over two million times since 1974.

Widdershins is an innovative mancala game, just one of the few, which are played with cards (others are Cow Poke, Octagon and Rondell). Quite unusual for a card game, it is also a game with perfect information.


Widdershins uses a regular 52-card deck with four suits from ace down to 2, without jokers.

It can only be played by two players.

After the pack had been thoroughly shuffled, twelve stacks of four cards are formed. Each card must be face up. The stacks form two horizontal rows of six, which constitute an unchangeable game board (even when a position becomes vacant in the course of the game). The cards are dealt in an anticlockwise direction ("widdershins") starting at the left end of the lower row ("South"). The last four cards are dealt also face up on the first two stacks from the left of the South row and from the right of the North row. Each player's first stack is the one at the extreme left of his row.


Initial Position (Number of cards per stack.)

The color of the topmost card of South first stack (either Red or Black) is his colour in the game. The other color is his opponent's color.

Later the topmost card of a stack determines who ownes the stack.

The first turn of the game always starts by South distributing the first pack on his side, no matter who owns this stack.

Later a player only distributes the contents of his own stacks.

The stack that is distributed must come from the player's own row if possible.

  • When he owns no stack in his own row, he takes one from the opponent's row.
  • A player may pass, if he owns no stacks.

If the stack consists of two or more cards, its contents are sown, one by one, onto the following positions (whether occupied or vacant), starting with the topmost card, in an anticlockwise direction.

A player may also move stacks that have just a single card:

  • number cards move exactly as many spaces anticlockwise as indicated by their value (2 - 10)
  • an Ace moves one space either clockwise or anticlockwise
  • Jacks, Queens, and Kings jump to the opposite space

A move is continued mancala-like in another lap if the last card that has been distributed is owned by the player AND this card is dropped on one of his own stacks.

The move ends when the last card falls on a vacant position or on an opponent's stack.

If the last card falls on a card of the other color, which has the same value, both cards are captured.

If the last card is falls on a card of the other color, two things can happen:

  • If one of your cards falls on an opponent's card of inferior value, all the opponent's cards of this stack are captured.
  • If an enemy card is dropped on one of your own cards, which has a higher value, only the opponent's card is captured that was played last.

The value of a card is indicated by its number and symbol, and increases from the Two to the King. The Ace is the highest card when dropped, beating a King, but the lowest when dropped on, being beaten even by a Two.

The captured cards are removed from the game.

After capturing the move ends.

Widdershins ends when all cards of one color are captured, or the player with the smaller number of cards left in play resigns (when less than 13 cards in all remain), or no position has more than one card.

The player who has more cards left in play scores that number divided by the number of enemy cards left in play, ignoring fractions. If no enemy cards are left in play, he scores twice his own number.


Parlett's original rules in regard to the end of the game can often lead to cyclical patterns.

Ralf Gering therefore suggested the following rules' changes:

  • The game ends as soon as a player has less than six cards left in play.
  • The player who has more cards in play wins.
  • The game is a draw when the players have the same number of cards in play or the board position repeats with the same player to move.
  • A player scores as many points as he has more cards left in play than his opponent.

External Links


Parlett, D. & Sylvester, P.
Entensuppe. Bambus Spieleverlag Günter Cornett, Berlin (Germany) 2008, 110-112.


Adapted from the Wikinfo article, "Widdershins", used under the GNU Free Documentation License.