Unlike pits, stores don't exist in all mancala games. With the exception of a few games, they only exist in those games in which counters are captured in the playing pits and then removed from them. However, not all mancala games for which this is true have stores because captured stones can be collected in other ways, too.
Stores are most common in one cycle mancala games and don't usually exist in four-row games. Boards with stores are most widespread in the Caribbean, West Africa, Central Africa, and Asia. Often they have particular names; e.g. kazan (literally "boiler") in traditional game toğız qumalaq and "graveyard" or "black hole" in modern games geisterfahrer or space walk, respectively.
In bao usually there is a single store, although captured seeds are not removed from the game. It can be used to have there the seeds that will be introduced into the game, but more usually it is just used to hold the keys or the money of the players.
In oware, in Ghana, although usually boards have stores, players don't use them. They can be used, however, to keep the match score. Also for oware, in Antigua & Barbuda players use the stores to hold the captured seeds, but also to keep the match score, using bottle caps.
The stores tend to be larger as they must be able to accomodate many counters. Usually they are at the distant ends of the game board, whereas in India and Sri Lanka they are mostly in the center of the board. In those games in which the counters are distributed counterclockwise, the player's store is at his right, while in games in which counters are distributed clockwise, it is at his left.
It can be considered that there are two kinds of stores: aesthetical ones, and functional ones.
In some games, at least some ones played in Southern Asia (e.g. sungka, tchonka...), rath, played by the Shilluk in Sudan and waurie on Grand Cayman, seeds are sown on the stores, usually only on the player's own store. The store has in some of these games an additional function, that is, if the last counter of a move (or lap) is dropped into the player's own store, he gets a bonus move.
The Malaysian game of papan-dakon, the Sudanese rath, wauri from Grand Cayman, and the modern games space walk, geisterfahrer and diffusion have stores, although no stones are captured in the usual way. The stores are only filled by distributing counters.
Moves or laps cannot start from stores.
In many games the only function of the stores, some times called scoring pits or storing cups is to store captured counters. It means the stores are not actually needed to play. In many games captured seeds, even if there are stores, are kept on the hand (left hand, the one not used to play).
- de Voogt, A.
- (1997) Mancala Board Games, London: British Museum Press.
- Townshend, P.
- (1979) 'Mankala in Eastern and Southern Africa: A Distributional Analysis', in Azania: Journal of the British Institute in Eastern Africa; 14: 108-138.