Homemade Bao Game Part 1


Bao is a complex Mancala game popular in Tanzania. I have been looking for a Bao board for some time now , and have not found any that are in my budget. So my solution is to make my own. This is a work progress and I hope it encourages you to try building a Bao or Mancala board of your own.

Bao boards are usually hand carved from a single piece of wood, but I thought I would make mine a little different. What I have done cut a 1/4 inch piece of plywood in to a 10 inch by 22 inch rectangle. Then I drew lines with pencil where I wanted the holes to be. Afterward I used a hole saw attached to a drill to cut 2 inch holes in the plywood. The two square holes were cut out using a jigsaw.

The next steps are to sand the wood smooth and glue the board on to another piece wood that will make it’s base. Then I can decide how to decorate it, and what to use for the beads.

I will post more pictures of the board is it moves closer to completion. If you have any thoughts or experiences on making game boards or playing Bao please post them in the comments.

For everyone who is interested in seeing how Bao is played here is a link to a youtube video of some games played on a tradional board.


Make Your Own Chalk Scoreboard


Here is an idea for a score keeper to use with your favorite game. All I did was take an old clip board and spray it with chalkboard paint. It is light weight, reusable, and can be used to score any game you chose.

This score board could be customized in many ways. Lines to separate the scores could be drawn in a contrasting color with paint or permanent markers. A card board drink coaster could be painted to make a miniature score board for the pub. A section of a favorite game table could be painted so you never lose the score board.

If you have any ideas on making a chalk scoreboard please share them in the comments.

Ship Captain Crew


Here is a dice game played in bars clubs around the United States. The players have three chances to roll a six,( the ship) a five ( the captain), a four (the crew), and the highest combination on the remaining two dice( the cargo). To keep it challenging the ship, captain and crew must be rolled in order.

Players 2 or more
Five dice for each player
Dice cup
How to play

Each player has up to three rolls

On the first throw all the players roll five dice at the same time. The player with the most qualifying dice or the highest score becomes the boss. The player who is boss waits while other players re roll their dice trying to roll more qualifying dice or tie/beat the score of the boss. That player then becomes the boss. Play moves clockwise around the table.

On the players turn he or she may save any dice that qualify and re roll the rest. To qualify a player must roll the six, five, and four in sequence. For example a player must roll a six before they can keep a five, a six and five before keeping a four.

Once a player rolls the qualifying dice he or she scores the value of the two remaining dice. If the scoring dice are re rolled they most be rolled together.

The player who rolls the highest score wins the round. Ties are replayed. First player to win three round wins the game.


Ship Captain Crew can be be played for low score rather than high

Some people play that scores from each round are added up. The player who first reaches a target score ( i.e. 50 points) wins the game.

Some play for stakes by anteing into a pot won at the end of the round. It can also be played each player pays the difference in their score to the winner.

When playing with larger groups some play that there is no boss. Each player rolls up to three times on his or her turn only.

Fives and Threes Dominos


Fives and Threes is a pub game that will put your math skills to the test. Unlike most domino games players do not earn points by the left over pips on the opponents dominos. In this game players earn points when the ends of the layout equal a multiple of five or three. To make it even more challenging in order to win you must score exactly 61 points. If you go over 61 you bust and return to your original score. So if you are up for a challenge, grab your dominos and try Fives and Threes

Players 2-4
Double six set of dominos
Score pad or Cribbage board
How to play

The players pick a domino from the face down pack. The player who picks the dominos with the most pips leads the first hand. The next hand is lead by the player to the left of who lead the last hand.

Players then pick their dominos

If there are 2 players they pick 7 Dominos
If there are 3 or 4 players pick 5 dominos
The remaining Dominos are not used during the hand

The first player may lead with any domino they chose.The play moves clockwise. On the players turn he or she places a domino with a matching numbered spots on either end of the domino layout. If a player cannot play, he or she knocks on table and loses their turn. A player may not knock if he or she is able to play a tile.


When a player has added a tile to the layout, the two open ends are totaled. If this total is a multiple of five, three or both, the player scores

The possible scoring totals are:

3 is 1 point
5 is 1 point
6 is 2 points
9 is 3 points
10 is 2 points
12 is 4 points
15 is 8 points (because it is divisible by five and three)
18 is 6 points
20 is 4 points

Doubles count the total of their pips when they are at an open end of the layout. So in the photo above the double five and the blank score 10 for 2 points

The player who plays their last domino earns 1 point. When playing teams both players on the team must must play all their Dominos to earn the point.

A blocked game earns no score.

The game is played to 61 points exactly. If the player scores more than 61 the score is returned to what it was before the last play was scored.


Games can be played to 31 or 121 points rather than 61.

Some play with no score for playing all your dominos

Some play that the first tile played in a hand cannot be used to win a game.

Some play a player scores 1 point per pip when the total number of pips on the exposed ends of the tiles in the layout is a multiple of 3 or a multiple of 5. So if the ends add up to ten the player scores ten points. If the ends are a multiple of three and five score double. The winner of the hand also earns a score from the total number of pips left in his opponents’ hands (1 point per 1 pip). This variation is usually played to 251 points. And the score does not have to be exact.

Some play that if players can not play they must draw a domino from the remaining dominos.



The Tibetan game of Sho does not look like your traditional board game. Each player is trying to be the first to move all nine of their tokens clock wise thru the arc of cowry shells. Players must decide if they want to out run their opponents, make stronger groups or hit their opponents to send them back to the begining. This makes for game that will test your luck and your mind.

Players 2-3
64 cowry shells
2 dice
Dice pad and dice cup
Nine matching coins or tokens for each player

How to play
The dice pad is placed in the middle of the players with the 64 shells placed in an arc around the pad.

If played before noon the youngest player starts the first game. If the first game is played after noon the oldest player starts the game. Each game after that is started by the winner of the last game.

The direction of play goes to the left.

On the players turn they roll the dice around in the dice cup and then slap up sided down on the dice pad. The next player lifts the cup revealing the dice. If a player other than the next one in line lifts the cup the roll must be done over again. If the dice fall of the the pad the roll must also be done again. A move is made up the combined numbers of the two dice.

On the players first roll he or she places a stack of 3 coins on the space past the number of cowry shells rolled on the dice.

On the players following rolls of the dice he or she can move a coin or coin stack already on the board or enter 1 coin that has not been placed on the board.

If a player moves a coin to a space that already has some of his or her coins on it, the coins are stacked together to make one group. Stacks there after move as a single piece. The player may then roll again.

If a player can move a coin or stack of coins to a space where there is a opponent’s coin or stack of coins, the player may be able to make a kill. The player can kill if the number of the opponent’s stack is equal to or lower than the stack he or she is placing there. If the opponent’s stack is killed it is removed from the board and returned to the opponent to start from the beginning. The player making the kill rolls again.

A player can not move his or her coins on to a space if there is an opponent’s stack of coins that is larger than the one the player is moving. If this is the only move available to the player their turn is forfeited.

If a player rolls 2 ones this is called a Para. After moving or entering a coin the player rolls again. If a player rolls a Para three times in a row, it is a automatic win.

The first player to move all 9 of his or her coins past the last cowry in the arc wins the game. An instant win occurs if a player rolls a Para three times in a row or if the the dice are stacked one on top of the other when the cup is removed.

Be sure to this look at this youtube clip of a game of Sho in action