Parcheesi

Parcheesi

It stands to reason that some of those favorite board games from childhood don’t always hold the same appeal for adults. It’s rare to see a group of grown-ups playing Candyland, for example. But one game has always had its share of cross-generational interest. Perhaps that’s one of the reasons that Parcheesi has remained a favorite for some sixteen centuries.

Parcheesi (a.k.a. Pachisi) is the National Game of India, the country of its origin, way back in the 4th century A.D. The name is derived from the Indian word “pacis,” which means “twenty-five.” This number is significant because it represents the highest score that can be thrown with the dice in Parcheesi.

The game made its way over to the United States sometime during the mid-1800’s and was first copyrighted by James Hamilton. He sold this copyright to the game company Selchow and Righter, who trademarked Parcheesi and began selling it far and wide.

Up to four people can partake in a Parcheesi game. Each player receives a set of colored sets of pawns (red, yellow, blue and green) and a pair of dice. All four players start in their own corner of the game board and each takes turns rolling their dice.

The first to roll a five gets to move his pawns first. As each person takes his turn, he moves the pawns up and down a series of four rows on the board. The objective is to move all four pawns around the board in a counterclockwise fashion so they can return ‘home’ (the center of the board). When a pawn returns home, the player gets a bonus of ten spaces to use on another pawn. If all ten spaces can’t be used at once, they must be forfeited.

Each player must look out for the other three, because they can ‘knock’ a player’s pawn back to its starting place by rolling the score that allows them to land in that space. If a player successfully knocks another player’s pawn out, the knocker is allowed to move twenty free spaces. However, if all twenty spaces can’t be used at once, they must be surrendered.

There are two ways to avoid getting one’s pawn sent back home: The first is to land the pawn in one of the “safe spaces” that occurs every 5 to 7 spaces on the board. The other is to form a blockade by putting two pawns on the same space. This can only be done if the player’s other two pawns are free to be moved around.

As more pawns enter the board, the complexity of Parcheesi increases. Once a player gets all four pawns on the board, they are allowed to use the top and bottom of the dice score they roll if they roll a double. For instance, if a player rolls two fives, they are allowed to uses the fives, as well as the twos on the other side of the fives.

Players can split the value of the roll between two pawns any way they want so long as the total amount of spaces moved adds up to the doubled value of the score rolled. Just the same, a player must exercise caution regarding how many doubles they roll: if they roll three in a row, they must send their pawn that is closest to home back to its starting place. This can make or break a game.

Any youngster can be taught how to play Parcheesi, yet it also contains enough strategy to keep adults interested. It truly is the game the whole family can not only play, but also enjoy. As such, its sales and popularity show no sign of diminishing anytime soon.

Do you have a bit of experience playing Parcheesi? We’d love to hear your thoughts and memories on this ancient board game in our comments section below.

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