I don’t play sungka. I never learned although it has always intrigued me as a child. When I got older, my interest was more on the solid wood board than the game itself. I so love solid wood objects. When I saw this crocodile sungka boards at Tiendesitas, I was drawn to them. But since neither I nor my daughters play the game, there really was no point in buying a sungka board, was there?
Having taken photos of what, to me, was a unique design for a sungka board, I decided to read up a bit to be able to say something other than “crocodile sungka boards”. To my surprise, sungka is not as uniquely Filipino as I thought.
Sungka is just one in a long list of mancala games played in South Asia, the Middle East, Africa and even as far as the Caribbean. It was “likely” introduced to Indonesia by Indian or Arab traders and, from there, it spread throughout Southeast Asia. There are many variants and the number of holes in the board differ. Sungka is one of the variants.
Despite the known 800 variants, the basic gameplay is the same — the holes are filled with seeds and one must capture the other player’s seeds in order to win the game. The description of the process gave me a headache. I suppose it’s easier to understand if one is watching an actual game being played than simply reading how it is played.