Parcheesi is descended from an ancient South Asian game with a similar name. Parcheesi was brought to America in the years just after the American Civil War. It remained a top seller in American stores for decades afterwards.
Parcheesi requires a player to move pawns toward the center of the board. This is done by rolling dice for movement, though the dice control other aspects of the game, too. Opponents attempt to capture, or "eat", each other's pawns, which return those pieces to the starting point.
Before we go too much further, though, I should mention something about the ancient background of Parcheesi.
Pachisi is the national board game of India. The word pachisi means twenty-five, which is an alternate name for the game. It is thought to have originated on the sub-continent in the 4th century A.D.
Pachisi was descended from a vaguely similar game named Ashte Kashte, which dates from much earlier times. It is one of a family of board games originating in East Asia which are given the name "cross and circle" games.
Cross and circle games have a central circle, which is often the goal to be reached in the game. There are also two perpendicular columns which cross over the circle, which form a cross.
The board of a cross and circle game looks like an x or a plus sign with a circle at the intersecting point.
Games like Pachisi and Parcheesi are the most famous examples of these types of game, though Ludo and Yut also use the same kind of board. Ludo is an English game, while Yut is native to Korea.
Pachisi Comes To America
In 1867, an American man named John Hamilton introduced the game to his native country. He registered the name and the game with American copyrights. He used the name Patcheesi on the documents.
Three years later, Hamilton sold the rights to a game company in New York State. This company would later be known as Selchow & Righter, which was a name in the game industry in the latter parts of the 20th century.
Parcheesi was trademarked in 1874. This was the Victorian Age, when Europe and America were becoming interested in the world beyond. No doubt, part of the allure of Parcheesi was its exotic origins. In early marketing, and for decades to follow, the game's subtitle was Royal Game of India.
Parcheesi is played with four players. Each has four pawns, which start in their own designated area. Players attempt to move their pawns one full circle around the board. Movement is determined by the roll of a pair of dice.
While proceeding around the board, pawns can be "bopped" by an opponent's pawn. If this happens, all progress is lost. That pawn must return to the starting point and restart its journey from the beginning.
The first player to move all four pawns around the board and return back home wins the game.
The Game Board
As mentioned before, Parcheesi is played on a circle and cross.
The game board has four stalks jutting from the center of the board. Each stalk is designated to one of the four players. These stalks are color codes to match the respective player's playing pieces. The colors are blue, red, green and yellow.
There are twelve safety spaces on the board. These are colored purple. When a pawn occupies a safety space, that pawn cannot be bopped. Such spaces cannot be entered by two pawns of two different colors.
If a player rolls the correct number, that player can move a pawn from the starting point and bop a player's pawn sitting in a safety space. This is the only time that a purple space is not safe.
Players roll two dice in Parcheesi. Each die dictates the movement of a pawn. If a 2 and a 5 are rolled, then one pawn can be moved 2 spaces and a second pawn can be moved 5 spaces.
One pawn can be moved twice in a turn. It would could move 5 spaces. Then it could move 2 spaces. These are separate mini moves, so this is not the same as simply moving 7 spaces.
It should be noted that Pachisi is not played with dice. It is played with cowries, which are marine shells use much like dice. Cowries are used in both gaming and divination.
There are several rules which stipulate bonus movement.
Double Bonus happens when a player rolls any double number on the dice. If two fives are rolled, it is a double bonus. This means the player gets to move fourteen spaces, the maximum number of movement in the game. The Double Bonus applies only when all pawns are out of a starting area.
When a Double Bonus is rolled, a player gets an extra turn. If a second Double Bonus is rolled, that player once again gets an extra turn. If a third Double Bonus is rolled, it becomes a negative.
The player loses the rest of his or her turn. Also, the player's pawn which is furthest from the starting point is returned to the starting point.
If a player does not roll a third double bonus, then that player simply takes the third turn as if it were normal.
When a player's pawn enters home row, that player gets a special "home bonus". The home bonus equals a roll of ten. Therefore, another pawn belonging to that player can be moved a full ten spaces.
When two pawns of the same color occupy the same space, these pawns create a blockade. Pieces of other colors cannot pass that particular space.
When moving out of a blockade, both pawns in the blockade cannot be moved at once. Therefore, one pawn must remain behind and possibly be placed in danger of a bopping.
Home Row is the colored section of spaces on a person's stalk. This is the final destination of one's pawns. When all of one player's pawns enter home row, that player wins the game of Parcheesi.
When entering Home Row, the pawns must roll the exact number to enter the row. This is the same for all pawns. This might leave a pawn in jeopardy, since it might be sitting before home row for some time.