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How To Play Mandala


Mandala is a 2 player only game and it has to be one of the prettiest games available. The playmat included is so pretty that it also includes washing instructions in case you get it dirty. But you don’t want to just stand there all day admiring the game, you want to actually play it. So how do you? Read on to find out.

Set Up

Take that oh so pretty playmat and lay it on the table in between the players. After you finish admiring it, shuffle the sand cards and place them in a face down stack next to the mat. In the mountain regions (central section of the 2 mandalas) place 2 sand cards face up. Each player is given an overview card and 6 cards in their hand. 2 further cards are drawn and placed in each players cup face down (you may take a peek at your own cards in your hand and cup).

You are now ready to play Mandala.

Let’s play

This is one of those games with very little rules but lots of strategy. On your turn you can do only 1 of the following 3 actions.

  • Build Mountain. You play 1 new card from your hand into a mountain and then draw up to 3 cards. Finally check to see if the mandala is finished.
  • Grow field. Play as many cards as you like from your hand (all the same colour) to one of your fields (area below the mountains). You do not draw more cards. Check to see if the mandala is finished.
  • Discard. Place as many cards of one colour from your hand into the discard pile (next to draw pile) then draw as many cards from the draw pile.

Play continues like this between the players taking 1 action at a time each.

Colour Rules

One very important rule to consider when taking the first two actions is the rule of Colour. Each of the 6 sand colours can only be in exactly one of the 3 areas of the mandala (the mountain, your field and your opponent’s field). This basically means that if your opponent has a red sand in their field you cannot play a red sand into that mountain or your field. However you may be able to play it to the other mandala. Keep in mind you may play it to an area you have access to. So if red sand is in the mountain or your field you may add it to the same one (just not a new area).

Hand Limits

When drawing new cards you must never go over your hand limit of 8 cards. Also you may never end your turn with no cards in your hand. If you were completing the action ‘grow fields’ and you had 4 yellow cards in your hand you would not be allowed to place all 4 cards in the field.

Completing A Mandala

A mandala is completed as soon as all 6 colours are present in any of its 3 areas (mountain, your field, opponents field). When a mandala is completed you destroy it by dividing the cards in the mountain. The player who played the most cards in the fields gets to choose a colour present in the mountain and takes all of the cards of that colour. Then players alternate taking colours from the mountain. If both players have the same number of cards in their fields the player who did not complete the mandala picks first.

As you take the cards from the mountain you must place them in your river and cup. If the colour you have taken is not present in the river place it in the first free space from left to right then place the remainder of that colours cards in the cup. If the colour is already present in the river place all of the cards in your cup.

In the rare case that a player did not have any cards in their field when the mandala was completed they still take cards from the mountain but place them straight in the discard pile without adding them to their river or cup.

Once all of the cards have been claimed from the mountain discard any cards in the fields to the discard pile. Unless the game end has now been triggered place 2 cards from the draw deck in the mountain to start a new mandala.

Game End Trigger

The game ends when either the draw pile is empty or a player places their sixth card in their river. If the draw deck is the reason for the end of the game being triggered you shuffle the discard pile to make a new draw pile and continue playing until the next time a mandala is completed. Otherwise if the game end trigger is a player placing their sixth river card, the game will end once all the cards in the completed mandala are taken from the mountain.

Final Scoring

Scoring is completed by using the cards in your river and multiplying them by the cards in your cup. Each position in your river is worth a different amount of victory points from 1 point for the first position to 6 points for the sixth position. Take your cards from your cup and place them below the matching position (same colours) in the river. Multiple the number of cards in your cup by the position it is in the river for all of your river cards and add all of your scores to get a total. The player with the highest score wins. Note that some river cards may not score you any points if you do not have the same colour represented in your cup. In the event of a tie the player who has the fewest cards in their cup wins.


I hope this has helped you to learn the rules and how Mandala plays. Obviously I would always recommend people use the official rule book to learn the rules in depth but this blog should give you a really good flavour of how the game flows.

I really enjoy the game and if you want to find me on twitter to discuss how brilliant Mandala is please do @boardgamehappy.