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Parcheesi Board Game Review and Instructions

How to Play | My Thoughts | Final Verdict | Comments

How to Play

Setup

To begin the game each player picks a color/animal and takes all of the pawns of the color/animal and places them in the corresponding start space on the board. All of the players roll the dice in order to determine who starts (highest roll). The object of the game is to move all four of your pawns around the game board (counterclockwise) and have them all reach the home square.

Entering Pawns Onto the Gameboard

On their turn a player rolls both of their dice. In order to move a pawn from the start section onto the gameboard the player must roll a five either on one dice or from a combination of both dice. When a player rolls a five and they have a pawn remaining in their start spot, they must use the five to move their pawn onto the game board.

Entering a piece onto the gameboard in Parchessi
The player has rolled a five. The player is required to move one of their pieces onto the game board.

Movement Around the Board

Other than moving pawns onto the game board, the dice rolled are used to move pieces around the game board. A player can use their dice roll in a couple different ways. First the player can use the total of the two dice to move one piece the corresponding number of spaces. The player could otherwise choose to move one pawn with one of the dice and another pawn with the other die. For example if a six and a two are rolled the player can either move one pawn eight spaces or they can move one pawn six spaces and another pawn two spaces. You cannot forfeit the roll of one or both dice if you can make a valid move with them.

While moving if a player lands on a space that has a flower printed on it, that pawn is safe from capture unless it is on another players enter space. If that player enters a pawn onto their start space, your piece will be sent back to your start zone (see capturing opponents).

Safe zone in Parcheesi
The yellow playing piece is currently in a safe zone so no other player is able to take the piece.

Doublets

If you roll doublets (two of the same number) you will earn an additional roll after you move your pawns. If you have all of your pawns out from your start space you get a bonus. With this bonus you get to use the numbers on the top and bottom of the dice rolled. These numbers (which will always total 14) can be either used by one pawn or multiple pawns. If you are unable to use all of the spaces, you are unable to use any of them. If all of your pawns are not out of the home space, you only get to use the numbers on the top of the dice. After moving your pieces you get to roll the dice again. If you roll doublets three times in a row, your pawn that is closest to the home space will be sent back to the start zone even if it was in the home path. A pawn is only safe from this if it has already reached the final home space.

Rolling Doublets in Parcheesi
The player has rolled doublets. The player first either moves one of their pawns forward four or moves both of the pawns forward two. The player then gets to roll the dice again.

Capturing Opponents

When a player lands on another player’s pawn, the other player’s pawn is sent back to their start zone. When a player successfully captures another player’s pawn the capturing player is allowed to move one of their pieces forward 20 spaces. If the player cannot move their piece the full 20 spaces, they forfeit the 20 space bonus.

Capturing an opponent in Parcheesi
The yellow player has rolled a three. If they choose to use the three to move the pictured pawn, they will land on the space occupied by the green player. By landing on the same space, the yellow player sends the green player back to their start space. The yellow player is also able to move one of their pieces forward 20 spaces.

Blockades

At any time only two pawns from the same player may occupy a space. In this situation the player has created a blockade. With a blockade a player blocks all other pawns (including their own) from moving onto or through the space occupied by the blockade. Players cannot capture pawns that are part of a blockade. A player is not allowed to move both pawns that were part of a blockade in order to form another blockade in the same turn. For example if a player rolls two threes, the player cannot move one pawn from a blockade three spaces and then move the other pawn from the blockade three spaces.

A blockade in Parcheesi
The yellow player has created a blockade. No player will be able to move to or past this space until the yellow player moves one of their pieces.

The Home Space and Winning the Game

A player can only enter the final home space by exact count. When a player gets one of their pawns home, they can move one of their pawns ten spaces. If a player is unable to move one pawn the full ten spaces, they forfeit all of the bonus spaces. When one player gets their final pawn home, they win the game.

Home zone in Parcheesi
The yellow player needs to roll the exact number in order to reach the final home space and make their pawn completely safe for the rest of the game.

My Thoughts

Parcheesi (the westernized modern version of Pachisi) has had a long history. According to Board Game Geek, the game dates back to 4 AD which makes it by far the oldest game we at Geeky Hobbies have ever played and is probably one of the oldest board games still in existence. Pachisi/Parcheesi has had a great impact on the world of board games and is considered by many to be a classic game. Is it actually a good game though? Parcheesi is a decent roll and move game but otherwise is a very average board game.

As a whole Parcheesi is a pretty simple game. Like most roll and move games, the main emphasis in the game is to roll the dice and move your pieces. Parcheesi does have more strategy than quite a few roll and move games but it is still kind of lacking enough strategy to be a good game. While a player’s decisions have more impact on the game than in most roll and move games, luck of the roll will be the leading factor in whoever ultimately ends up winning the game.

The most interesting mechanic in Parcheesi is the idea of the blockade. Before playing the game I thought this was a great idea. While not a particularly complicated mechanic, I thought it would allow players to make some strategic decisions not present in other roll and move games. I thought the blockade could be a good mechanic to slow down the other players. Unfortunately (at least based on the 2001 Milton Bradley version of the game) the blockade is way too powerful.

The blockade almost sucked all of the fun out of the game I played. At one point in the game there was a blockade in place that blocked probably at least six to eight different playing pieces from moving anywhere. Playing pieces got so congested behind the blockade that three other blockades had formed due to necessity behind the first blockade. I don’t blame the player at all for creating the blockade since it was a smart strategic move. While everyone else was stuck, they were able to move one of their playing pieces around the entire board and into their home space. The blockade made the game pretty boring for two players though since towards the end they couldn’t even move any pieces which made their turns totally pointless.

After finishing the game I discovered that some versions of Parcheesi do limit the power of the blockade. This is a very good idea in my opinion. I don’t think the blockade should be eliminated entirely since that would take out a large portion of the strategy of Parcheesi. The game is not fun though with the overpowered blockade. I would recommend implementing a rule where a blockade can only last a given number of turns before the player who formed the blockade is forced to break it up.

The other mechanic that I found interesting was the ability to either use your dice roll as a total or use each die individually. I think this is a good idea. Giving the player flexibility on how to move their pieces is always a good idea. This does lead to players regularly capturing other players pieces though which does make the game last a lot longer than it should.

The length of the game is actually my biggest problem with Parcheesi. Due to the never ending blockades and the constant capturing of other players pawns, the game seemed to go on forever. Parcheesi would work best as a 30 minute game. At that length I would consider it an average roll and move game. Unfortunately with all of the delays, the game takes well over and hour which is way too long for the game.

Parcheesi/Pachisi are regularly considered to be the inspiration behind the classic game Sorry! Both games have very similar concepts where you are trying to move your four pawns from a start space to a final home space. Both games feature an element where if you land on another player’s pawn that pawn is sent back to their start. Both boards even look quite similar. If it did not outright steal the idea from Pachisi/Parcheesi, Sorry was heavily inspired by it.

With the heavy inspiration from Pachisi, I don’t know how Sorry took a well known game that had been in existence for well over a 1,000 years and somehow found a way to make the game worse. I am not a huge fan of Parcheesi but I will say that it is a better game than Sorry since it actually has some strategy which Sorry! doesn’t have. For some reason Sorry decided to get rid of the blockade and splitting dice mechanics (decided to switch to cards for some reason) which added some strategy to the game. The blockade rules have quite a few problems of their own but the idea of the blockade is a good idea.

Final Verdict

Parcheesi (Pachisi) is generally considered a classic board game being over 1,000 years old. While the game has some interesting mechanics for a roll and move game, many better games have been created over the years. While it is not a game I would ask to play, I wouldn’t be opposed to playing the game if someone asked. If you like roll and move games you probably already own a copy of Parcheesi or Pachisi. If not I think you would like the game. If you like the game Sorry I think you would really like Parcheesi since it is a much better game. If you don’t particularly like roll and move game though I think you would be better off skipping on Parcheesi.

7 thoughts on “Parcheesi Board Game Review and Instructions

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  • December 27, 2016 at 10:35 am
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    Good review of Parcheesi. You are absolutely right about blockades, they have a tendency to ruin the game when some players can’t move at all. The house rule that we have always used is: If you throw doubles and you have a blockade on the board then you MUST break your blockade. The two pawns in the blockade cannot be moved forward to form a new blockade together.

    Another house rule we use is how to put a pawn “Home”. Most rules say that “Each pawn must enter HOME by exact die roll”. We have always played that if the number rolled is greater than the exact number needed to enter HOME then you move the pawn into HOME and out again (counting HOME as one space) provided there isn’t another pawn that can be moved on the gameboard. Where this becomes interesting is when you have only one pawn left to get HOME, in this case it is possible to roll a number high enough to send you back down the Home Path and onto the gameboard path which could place your last pawn at risk!

    Reply
    • December 28, 2016 at 4:56 pm
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      These sound like two interesting house rules. Next time I play Parcheesi or one of the many other games with the same premise I think I will try them out.

      Eric

      Reply
  • January 16, 2019 at 1:40 pm
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    What happens if All my pieces are still Home and I roll doubles three times in a row and the third is double 5s? Is my turn over or can I move 2 pawns into play?

    Reply
    • January 16, 2019 at 4:56 pm
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      This rule might be different for different versions of the game. At least for the version of the game I have, this specific situation was not addressed. Therefore I think it is an area where the players decide what they think is right. I personally would say the first two rolls would do nothing as you don’t have any pawns out of the start section. The third roll would then let you move a pawn out of the start space. Since it was your third doubles though, I would think this would then send that piece back to your start section. If your group feels differently though, I would go with whatever you think is the right way to play it.

      Reply
      • February 13, 2019 at 8:44 pm
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        The third roll of doubles during one turn requires that you take a pawn off the travel path and put it back in your start area. If all the pawns are still in your start area then you have nothing to take off of the travel path. Then your turn ends. You never get to do anything with the spots on the dice on the third roll of doubles.

        Reply
        • February 14, 2019 at 11:25 am
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          After reading your comment I think you are right. The rules do make it seem like you immediately have to move one of your pawns to the start area and you never get to use whatever you roll on your third roll. Parcheesei/Pachisi has been around for over a thousand years though so there may be some versions of the game that treat this situation differently or don’t even have the three roll rule at all.

          Reply

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