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Parcheesi Rules: How to Play The Ancient Game of Parcheesi?

Parcheesi can look quite intimidating at first glance. Games like Chess are quite complex but even new players will likely guess how they navigate the board. But with Parcheesi, things don’t look quite as simple. 

There is a lot of history to Parcheesi, it’s based on the Indian board game of Pachisi. Which like Carrom inspired numerous other games. Now Parchessi, is not the same game but they are quite similar in many respects. Before we start looking at how you play, let’s take a more in-depth look at Parcheesi’s history. 

What is Parcheesi?

how to play parcheesi

Parcheesi is essentially the American version of Pachisi. Pachisi is an ancient Indian cross and circle board game. You could consider Parcheesi to be a simplified version of it. But that doesn’t mean you won’t enjoy it. 

Now while it isn’t quite as old as Pachisi, Parcheesi is still a very old, ancient game in its own right. The Parcheesi name was first trademarked in 1874 and the rights have gone through numerous different companies. 

Like many board games, Parcheesi is now held by the Parker Brothers. Who themselves are now owned by Hasbro. While a Parcheesi board looks quite colorful and confusing the game is simpler than you might think. 

Players need to travel around the cross shape in the middle. They’ll move from their starting position to the designated home square at the center. Sounds simple enough right? But of course, things won’t be quite that easy. We’ll talk more about the gameplay below. Let’s first look at what you need to play. 

What You’ll Need 

To play Parcheesi, you’ll need a game board. Parcheesi might be a very old game but it isn’t a hugely popular one right now. Ludo is another game derived from Pachisi and is much more popular. 

So, finding a Parcheesi game board might be a little difficult. However, you can still find sets online. Just expect to see a lot of Ludo games in the search results as well. The Parcheesi set below is a great example of what to look out for. 

Hasbro Parcheesi

The Counters 

Parcheesi is usually classed as a 4 player board game. However, it can be played with just 2 or 3 people. Each player will have four counters that they’ll need to move to the home square. Counters come in numerous designs, they can be basic colored circles or more intricately designed.  

The Dice 

Parcheesi is played with 2 dice. This is good because players will need to traverse a lot of squares to reach home. In traditional Parcheesi sets each player would have their own pair of dice, and a dice cup. Nowadays, this isn’t as common, most Parcheesi sets will just include one set of dice. 

The Board 

Finally, let’s talk about the Parcheesi game board. This board can look a little confusing at first. But if you’ve played Ludo before then you can likely spot the similarities. They’ll be 4 colored circles in the corner of the board. 

These are the starting zones where each player begins the game. They’ll be a cross-like shape taking up the rest of the board. Each of the 4 rows will be split into 3 with one red middle row. These are the tracks that take you to the home space at the center of the board. 

You only move up one red track once you have moved all around the board. Let’s now take a look at the rules and gameplay you need to know about.  

Parcheesi Rules and Gameplay 

parcheesi rules

The Aim of The Game 

The aim in Parcheesi might seem simple, you just need to travel around the board and reach home. However, there is more strategy involved than just that. Player’s can capture and block other pieces, and sometimes an unlucky dice roll can leave you stuck right at the finish line. 

Setting Up 

The first thing to do when playing Parcheesi is to decide the roll order. To do this every player should roll a single dice. Whoever rolls the lowest number will go first, play then continues clockwise. 

Every player should choose a color and then place their counters in one of the 4 starting circles. Your aim is to move around the board till you reach the leftmost red row of your starting circle. To do this you’ll need to move around the board, traveling across the white rows around the cross-shape. 

However, things aren’t quite that simple as first you’ll need to move your counters out of the start zone. To move you’ll need to roll a 5. In Parcheesi player’s roll 2 dice, to get out of the start zone you need to roll either a straight 5 or numbers that add up to 5. 

If you roll a double 5 then you can instantly move 2 counters out. If you don’t roll a 5 (in any way) then play moves to the next player. Once you get a counter out you can start moving it around the board. 

Generally, it is best to (at least) get two counters out as quickly as you can. Because this gives you more versatility when rolling the dice. In Parcheesi, you can split the dice rolls between two counters. 

For example, let’s say you have two counters out of the start zone on the board. Then you roll a 5 and 6. You could then either move one counter 5 spaces, and the other 6. Or add the numbers together and move one counter 11 spaces. If a player rolls a double then they can roll again.

Blocking and Capturing 

parcheesi rules

In Parcheesi moving around the board isn’t the only aim of the game. You also want to slow your opponents down. This can be done in two different ways namely blocking and capturing. 

To capture a piece you need to move onto the same space as it. This needs to be done with an exact roll of a single dice or both. If you do this you send your opponent’s piece back to their starting zone. 

Blocking an opponent can only be done with 2 counters. You’ll need to move both your pieces to the same square. However, a blockade does block your other pieces from moving past it as well. So, these are only going to be temporary. 

If another player rolls a double 1 then they can break a blockade as well. Some rule variants also add a rule that blockades can only last a certain number of turns. 

Captures and blockades can’t be set up on safe squares either. Each row will usually contain one safe square, these are usually light blue in color. These squares are where counters start when they get out of the safe zone. 

Winning Parcheesi 

parcheesi how  to play

To win Parcheesi you need to get all 4 of your counters to the home square. You do this by moving around the board till you travel up the final red row. However, you can only move into the home square with an exact roll. 

If you have one counter that is 5 spaces away, then you can’t move into it if you roll a 6. It doesn’t matter if you use a single dice value or add both dices values together though. As long as the number is exact you can move a counter to the home square. Once all 4 are in the home square you win! 

Parcheesi – An Ancient Strategy Game   

With its colorful design, Parcheesi can look quite confusing. But the gameplay is quite simple and there is a lot of strategy involved. Because you can split the two dice between different counters, there are a lot of different ways to approach gameplay. This is further enhanced because you can capture and block your opponents as well. 

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