How to play Congkak in Malaysia

Congkak board

Congkak board

How to play Congkak in Malaysia
It was a cloudy afternoon in the island of Langkawi, when I first played Congkak. Apit and Chong had showed us around the island and stopped at a giant playing board. “Ever tried?”, Apit asked, knowing that I was a big fan of new games. I hadn’t tried it before, but I had seen some people playing and I was eager to learn.


A house with only one stone

Congkak is an old game, brought to Southeast Asia via Malacca back in the 15th Century and it was played by the King and his family before it found its way to the General population. Nowadays it is so popular that the playing board is printed of the backside of the 10 Sen coin (0.1 Ringgit).

10 alte Sen (mittlerweile gibt es eine neue Version) mit dem Congkak Spielbrett

10 old Sen (there is a newer version out now) with the congkak board

The name Congkak might come from the old Malay word Congak, (Mental Calculation), and that’s what the game is all about.

Usually Congkak is played by two players each seated on one side if the long Congkak board. The board has fourteen small holes in two rows of seven.

Die Häuser werden gefüllt. Das Loch am Ende des Brettes ist das Dorf.

Filling the houses. The hole in the end is the village.

On each far end of the board there is one bigger hole. The smaller holes are called Rumah (house) and the big ones are Kampung (village). Sometimes the big ones are called houses and the small ones Anak (children). The small houses are filled with tokens. The Malaysians are rather creative with their choice of tokens.

Congkak spielen

Apit called me a “lucky winner”. I called myself a good mental calculator!

They can be stones, coins, seeds, shells or bottle caps. We played with stones, but the most traditional tokens are shells. Each player has one row of seven houses in front of him/her and every hole is filled with seven stones. The big villages remain empty. The aim of the game is to bring as many stones as possible into the village.

Ein Haus voller Steine

A house full of stones

The first move is played simultaneously by both players. Both players can chose one of their houses to start with. They grab every stone in the house and then spread them clockwise to the other houses, one stone for each.

Malaysia Congkak Spiel

I was quite cinfused at first, but after two rounds I played confidently

Players leave one stone in their own village, but not in the opponent’s village. If a player drops his last remaining stone in a house (on either side of the board) with minimum one other stone in it, he/she grabs all stones and continues distributing. If the last stone falls into the player’s village, he/she can chose any of his/her holes to start a new move from.

Congkak ist kein Spiel für lange Nachdenker sondern für flotte Züge

Congkak is not like chess. Don’t think too much. Play!

If he/she drops his last stone in an empty house of his/her own side, he/she can now grab all stones from the house right opposite plus the last stone from his/her hand and place them in their own village. After this, the player’s move is over. If the last stone falls into one of the opponent’s house that does not contain any other stones, the player’s move is over and the last stone remains in the opponent’s house.

Congkak Spielbrett

Apit plays at his best

The player who finished his/her move first, waits until the other player is finished as well and then he/she starts his/her second move. When a player has no more stones in any of his houses, he/she needs to pass and wait until the opponent drops a stone on his/her side.


Apit fills up his houses

When there are no more stones in any of the houses, both players count the quantity of stones in their own village. The player with most stones is the round’s winner.

Congkak Spielregeln

How to play Congkak

This game has simple rules and all you need is a board and 98 seeds, stones, shells or other tokens.

Congkak Dorf

The stones remain in the villages until the round has come to an end.

I could have spent all afternoon playing Congkak. It is simple and fun and can be played on windy days.

Congkak spielen Malaysia

Plopp, plopp, plopp, one stone after another falls into my village

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  1. Héctor says:

    Seems like a lot of fun! Perhaps it could be played with bowls and glass marbles.

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