Most mancala games are traditionally played without game clocks or other forms of time limitations. Play is usually very fast in Africa, Asia, or the Caribbean and often resembles Blitz games in Chess or Draughts.
Oware has been played with game clocks on "NonSoloGo" tournaments in Italy. In 2004, each player had 15 minutes and 30 seconds byoyomi, a Japanese term borrowed from Go, which means that participants had 30 seconds per move, after they had run out of time. With the rise of the internet, more and more sites offer to play Oware and other mancala games, such as Kalah, Bao, Afrika, 55Stones, Diffusion or Zig Zag, either turn-based or real time. At PlayOK, a large Polish game site, each Oware player usually has a total of 5 minutes to play his moves.
Toguz Kumalak is exceptional as game clocks are used in all important tournaments. This is probably due to the influence of Chess during the Soviet occupation of Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan. Top-ranked players have in major tournaments up to three hours for their moves. This reflects the depths of the game and the high quality of the competitions. In blitz tournaments, however, players may have as less as seven minutes. This turns the game into a manual dexterity exercise just as much as one of the mind. If the game hasn't ended before a player runs out of time, all of the counters that haven't been captured yet are awarded to his opponent. Game clocks are even used when Kazakhs play other mancala games, such as the Bohnenspiel and Omweso.
Until the early 20th century, Omweso games used to be rather long in Uganda. In modern tournaments, however, players have only three seconds of thought per turn. The referee counts omu, ebiri, and, if the turn isn't started then, the other player may steal it.
Speed Volcano is a variation of Volcano where a Chess or G8 game timer is used to limit the time a player has to make a move. Optionally, an overall time limit can be set for the entire game. When time runs out, the game ends and it is scored like regular Volcano.
Effects of Game Clocks
Time limits imposed by game clocks have the following effects:
- they make the game more interesting for spectators, when the players run out of time
- the competition appears to be more serious
- each player is treated the same (to give the weaker player more time than the stronger player is a handicap to equalize the game)
- they prevent "analysis paralysis"
- never-ending moves would result in defeat because they cannot be finished within any time limits
Condi Mancala, a fun variant, which combines physical exercise with playing mancala
Adapted from the Wikinfo article, "Time-limited Mancala" http://www.wikinfo.org/index.php/Time-limited_Mancala, used under the GNU Free Documentation License.