Pachisi vs Parcheesi: Battle of the classics

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Pachisi is an ancient Indian game that especially found favor with royalty in medieval India. In fact, Kings were known to use real men and animals as pawns in the game to endorse their social standing.

While in this modern day and age, this may not go down well with human and animal rights activists, a harmless game of Pachisi, nevertheless, is still a sure-shot way to have an entertaining afternoon while dabbling with some old-world charm.

Parcheesi, on the other hand, is a fully westernized version of Pachisi which opened the idea of this game to western audiences in the year 1869 by E.G Schelow and company. And lo and behold, there sprung out Ludo, sorry, and Trouble Board games, decades later, out of the various adaptations of this great Indian game. And now you know that you don’t just have Yoga and Taj Mahal to thank India for.

Pachisi: The Amusement of the Aristocracy

It is believed that the ‘Pachisi’ word is derived from the Indian numeral Pachis, i.e. twenty-five. This was the highest number that could be thrown with the cowrie shells.

However, now it is mostly played with a single die. In case you want to pace up the game, you can also use three dice. The elongated ancient versions of the dice are also available in the market, in case you are really into authenticating the whole experience.

Hand made Pachisi Board Game Set
Hand made Pachisi Board Game Set

His Excellencies’ Rules:

Pachisi is played over a cross that is usually made of cloth and is spread across the floor. The cross consists of 24×4 boxes, i.e. 96 boxes in all and a common center. It can be played by 2 to 4 people and has 4 pawns for each participant.

The game begins with rolling the dice and whoever gets the highest score starts the game. The Pawns thus move through the board in a counterclockwise direction to the common center. If your pawn lands on the pawn of another opponent, it has to start all over again.

There are three cross spaces across each leg of the cross, which acts as a space safe and the pawn cannot be killed on this space.

pachisi board game dices

As the pawn moves across the cross, it reaches its final home path that is present in the middle section of the leg of the cross. However, here lies the catch. You cannot enter this middle path if you have not killed any pawn on your path to it! I guess the medieval kings did have a violent streak even when playing an indoor sport.

If you are thus caught in a position where you have reached your home path unhindered, you will again need a five or six to enter it to reach the common center.

Two pawns on the same space also create a blockade over which other pawns cannot cross over and this move is called ‘Chal-bandh’ or stalemate. It is a situation that is to be avoided.

The winner of the game is the one who guides all his four pawns to the center the fastest.

Parcheesi: The Pastime of the Proletariats

Parcheesi is a board game adaptation of Pachisi and is played over a board made up of cardboard and with two dice. There are multiple similarities in the rules of playing Pachisi and Parcheesi. However, the rules of Parcheesi are obviously more defined.

The Protocol of the play:

The game can be played between two to four players. The game board consists of four corner spaces and four pawns. The objective of the game is to work your way around the board to the Common hotspot. The pawns can be moved out of the home space only if you roll the die to get a single five or a combination adding up to five.

You can thus move the pawns across the board by either using the entire combination of dice on a single pawn or the numbers on the two die separately on two pawns. This will eventually lead to the home path and then the common center.

parcheesi rules board gaame set

The safe spaces on this board are the ‘blue spaces’ where not only are you safe, but you disallow other color pawns to share the space with you too. That’s the pawn’s own little temporary niche until the master decides that he needs its service further along!

 Oh…and there is a slight catch here too. If you are in the safe space in front of the other team and the same team decides to move its pawn out..Well, the safe place in this scenario becomes unsafe again. It’s not a perfect world after all!!

If the pawn is not the safe space, the pawn of another team landing on it can send it flying back to its home space. Two same-color pawns can also share a common space, and this in fact creates a ‘blockade’ that prohibits other pawns to cross over them.

The winner of the game is the player that manages to gets all his four pawns in the common space first.

Pachisi Vs Parcheesi: The Comparison

The Visual Representation:

Alright, we have to hand to down to Pachisi. While Parcheesi is a visual delight as well, the varieties and Indian art and culture that are splashed across the Pachisi cross and shells are unprecedented. Not to mention the different types and clothe textures that are used to form the crosses. You can almost imagine yourself sitting on the courtyard in the sultry heat of the Indian sun, sipping your sherbet and playing the game of Pachisi.

The Rules Conundrum:

Parcheesi is a game that, having been invented later in the day, has fairly uniform and standardized rules. Pachisi, on the other hand, has withstood the weathering and deposition of the sands of time, and hence there are multiple versions of the rules which govern it. Hell, you even have a choice between the regular die, three dices (if you want a faster pace), or those elongated versions that are called ‘Passe’.

A piece of advice: when in confusion, make your own rule. And then stick to it (and not only when you are winning.)

The Plausibility Element:

In Parcheesi, the player needs to bring his gaming skills on the table a few times to decide on whether to play entirely on one pawn or to split the numbers on the dice to move the two pawns. Also when to dilute the blockade is a tough call.

Pachisi, on the other hand, is largely a game of luck. Heard of King Yudhishthir who lost his kingdom in a match of Pachisi that culminated in the epic war of Mahabharata which made kings across India draw swords against each other?? Well, that’s a story for another day.

The Replayability factor:

Although both games are ideal for a lazy Sunday afternoon, the replayability factor of Parcheesi is a slight notch above then Pachisi, once its novelty wears off. This is partly because, as said, there is some amount of decision-making that is attributed to players in the game of Parcheesi.

Our Verdict

While both games are similar on multiple levels, Parcheesi is our pick, only because it is slightly more board gamey compared to Pachisi.

However, there is no doubt that the game of Pachisi has its own old world aura that makes you want to explore the culture of its origin. Well, let’s see…we may rethink the verdict if you get us those humans and elephant pawns…

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