Close variants are Dakon or Dhakon (Java), Sungka (Philippines), Chongka' (Marianas), Jogklak (interior of Java); Dentuman Lamban (Lampung), Mokaotan, Maggaleceng, Aggalacang or Nogarata (Celebes), Chonka (Sri Lanka) and Naranj (Maldives).
Congkak, which is often considered a game for girls, has simple rules that allow the boards to have different numbers of holes. Congkak boards are often made of teak or mahogany wood are often elaborately carved into various shapes such as naga or birds.
The word congkak is believed to originate from old Malay "congak", meaning "mental calculation" which is mainly practiced in this game. It is regarded that an efficient player who mentally calculates a few steps in advance will have an advantage in collecting points to win the game.
The oldest mancala game boards were found in a ruined fort of Roman Egypt and date back to the 4th century AD. The game was likely introduced to Southeast Asia by Indian or Arab traders in the 15th century.
It is believed to have spread throughout Malay world through merchants via Malacca, an important trading post at that time. In the early days, it was thought that this game was for the king and family and palace residents, however later it spread to the general population of the kingdom. Beside the Malays, the Indian Peranakan also enjoy playing Congkak.
In Java, the term "dakon stone" refers to the similarly pitmarked stones from the bronze-iron age period of Indonesia. These stones have rows of 4 or 5 cup-shaped holes and two holes at each end, a formation which has much in common with that of the similarly named game in Java. This prehistoric dakon stones is unrelated to the game and were probably employed in ceremonies to propitiate ancestors. Such stones can be found around Java.
The current Malaysian Ringgit 10 sen coin has a Congkak board on the reverse in recognition of the long history of congkak in Malaysia.
The Congkak board has fourteen holes in two sets of seven (some have ten holes in two sets of five, some have eighteen holes in two sets of nine), plus an additional bigger store-hole for each player. Each player controls the seven holes on their side of the board, and their score is the number of seeds in their left-hand store. In Indonesia, the holes are called anak ("child"), while the larger store holes are called indung ("mother").
A total of 98 pieces are used in the two sets of seven board version. In Southeast Asia, cowrie shells and tamarind seeds are the most common. Seven seeds are placed in each hole except for the players' store. The objective of the game is to capture more seeds than one's opponent.
The main method of play has rules as described below.
Players take turns moving the seeds except in the first move which is performed simultaneously, beginning with the hole closest to his/her own store. After this first simultaneous movement, once the last seed falls into an empty hole, the players' first turn is over and the opponent of the player who reached an empty hole first commences his/her turn after the other player has finished his opening move too. On a turn, a player chooses one of the seven 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 a player is unable to fill a hole with seven seeds that hole is considered sunog ("burnt"); all excess seeds are returned to the store. The round begins with the player with no sunog holes taking his/her turn sowing first.
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.
If the last seed sown falls into a player's own store, they immediately earn another turn, which can begin at any of the seven holes under their control.
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.
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