Instructions for How to Play Congklak
Number of Players: 2
What you need: congklak board and 98 small shells, seeds or stones (for a board that has 7 holes on each side)
Object of the Game: to get as many shells as you can into your store house. Your store house is the hole at the end of the board on your left side.
To Win: You win the game if you have the most shells in your store house (menang biji) - or - if you are the last person to run out of shells on your side of the board (menang jalan).
To Play - The First Round
Count 7 shells into each of the holes on your side of the board. Leave your store house (at the end) empty. (If your board has less/more than 7 holes on each side, fill each hole with playing pieces equal in number to the number of holes on one side of the board).
Decide who will go first.
The first player takes all of the shells out of any hole on their side of the board. Move clockwise around the board and drop one shell into each hole in an effort to reach your own storehouse at the end of the board. Do not drop a shell into your opponent's store house.
If the last hole into which you dropped a shell:
Has shells in it - take all of the shells in that hole and put them in your store house and continue moving around the board just like you did in the beginning of the game.
Is empty - leave your shell in that hole and end your turn. You are mati and it is now your opponent's turn.
Is your store house - You get another turn. Take all of the shells out of any hole on your side of the board and continue to play moving around the board clockwise.
Is empty + is on your side + you move gone around the board at least one time . Take this last shell, and all of the shells from your opponent's hole which is directly across from you, and put them all into your store house. It is now your opponent's turn.
After the first player's turn ends (mati), the opponent begins his/her turn and plays in the same manner.
The round ends when one player runs out of shells on his or her side of the board. If you run out of shells first (kalah jalan), your opponent wins the round (menang jalan). The winner of the round goes first in the next round.
When one player has run out of shells, both players take all of their shells out of their store house, as well as any leftover shells from their side of the board.
Each player recounts the 7 shells into each hole on their side of the board, starting with the hole nearest your own store house. If one player has leftovers after putting 7 shells into each hole, they are menang biji and put all the extra shells back into their store house.
Since the losing opponent will not have enough shells to put 7 in each hole, they must ngacang, have some holes with less shells. This is done by filling in as many holes as possible with 7 shells, and splitting the remaining shells up amongst the remaining holes on their side of the board. The ngacang holes are the holes closest to the opponent's home. The number of ngacang holes will depend on the number of shells remaining after the previous round of play, but should never be more than 3 holes. Some ngacang holes may even be empty if you're really low on shells.
The ngacang holes become protected from your opponent in this round. As your opponent goes around the board, they must skip these holes, not dropping a shell in them. Neither player can take shells from these holes - but you can drop shells in your own ngacang holes. Ngacang shells are also protected from tembak if your opponent ends up in an empty hole across from them.
This is an important, strategic handicap, as the player who has at least one shell in her rightmost hole can always continue the jalan on her side of the board.
In the second and successive rounds, the person who begins play is the one who goes out of shells last (menang jalan) in the previous round.
End of the game
Play continues with successive rounds until one player loses all of their shells, or both players wish to stop playing, at which time you would count the shells to see who has the most, and is thus the winner.
While the game is simple enough, strategies develop with practice and skill that enable the player to maximize the chances of having at least one shell left in a position to carry on the journey and to create the opportunity to harvest the opponent's shells in a tembak.
Players with mathematical talents have an advantage, for the rules enable the player to determine in advance whether she will win or lose before selecting an odd or even numbered pile of playing pieces.