Owari is a humble, basic game of Mancala. I had no idea what Mancala was going in, but now I know that its a two player game with two rows of six pits. You have a row, your opponent has a row and inside of these six pits are four beans each making for a grand total of forty-eight beans. The object of the game is to capture at least twenty-five beans before your opponent.
How do you capture these beans? When its your turn, you select one of your pits with beans in it, grab the beans, then distribute the beans one by one in pits going clockwise until you run out of beans. If your final bean makes a pit of two or three beans in your opponent’s row, you’ve captured those two or three beans. When you collect two or three beans, you can also collect a previous pit’s beans if there are two or three. Think of it like a combo for big points! Its a simple game played for generations. We can play it in the dirt with rocks, stones or leaves if you want.
Thankfully, this is the video game adaptation and we don’t have to waste time by physically picking up beans and dropping that. No. Now we have technology to do that for us. You get to see the beans disappear from the collecting pit and appear one by one moving counter clockwise. Its just as simple as that. You use your mouse to select the pits and hovering your mouse over a pit shows you how many beans are in there. A beginners mode for children would have been nice to show you where the final pit will be. You can still count them in your head of course, but some people are just lazy.
If you have enough beans in a pit to go around all twelve spaces, the game will skip the pit that you started. So you’ll never end up with any beans in a pit that you just cleared out. As a game, Mancala really requires strategy and planning. Too little beans in a pit and you risk having them captured. Too many beans in a pit and that pit becomes detrimental if you have enough to wrap around through your opponents lane and back into your own. There’s also a sense of do you defend or attack? Do you get a bean out of the way from being captured or do you capture your opponent’s bean.
Now that I’ve explained Mancala, what about Owari itself? Its a beautiful game. Its a less is more sort of low fidelity beautiful. The colors really fit and they’re nice on the eyes and the background color changes based on your difficulty. The music is soothing and fits a relaxing strategy game. It can also be turned off if you so desire.
For those that know nothing about Mancala like myself, there’s a brief tutorial that explains things with text before it lets you continue playing after the explanation. Its a nice short guide that forces to click where it wants you to. Then if you’re looking for a real game of Mancala, you can select solo or versus mode. Solo gives you a choice of three difficulties. Playing through the easy difficulty I found myself noticing where the computer was deliberately making mistakes. Meanwhile, on medium difficulty is gave me a run for my money and I failed to defeat the computer. Of course, I’m just not the Mancala player that others of you are out there. I can’t even imagine what hard would be.
As for versus mode, you can play locally where both players will control the same mouse. You can also play online by hosting or joining a match. When I tried hosting or joining, I was unable to find any matches being played. That seems to be the case with a lot of Desura games. If its not on Steam, no one is playing it.
Owari is just a simple game that has no frills or extras. Its like a game of checkers or chess. It will always be the same game every time even if its different every time. Each game can take around five minutes and perhaps if I was a better player, they’d last longer.
While Mancala will always be everywhere, there is a need for Owari. Someone might be bad at math, have arthritis so bad they can’t pick up the beans or just have no one to play with. I can see it being better on a touch screen played by two people at a coffee house or at a park. Owari is a good free-to-play game to solve that need. I just wish that it had more frills to keep me playing.