Parcheesi: Aristocratic gambit or children's game?

By: Staff

4 Min Quiz

Image: refer to hsw

About This Quiz

The history, math and strategy behind the board game Parcheesi -- often thought of as a children's passtime in the West -- have earned it royal renown for centuries. Test your knowledge of this perennially popular game with our Parcheesi quiz.

Parcheesi is a member of a group of games named for the shape of their boards. What are these types of games called?

Parcheesi boards are traditionally shaped as a cross or a plus sign, with circles in each quadrant created by the cross (or a circular movement of play around the board). Games that use this shape are known as cross-and-circle games.

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Which country has adopted Parcheesi as its official game?

Parcheesi has its origins in India, where it's known as Pachisi; while you may not have known that countries even have official board games, India has granted Pachisi that honor.

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How many players can play Parcheesi?

It's a competitive game, so one person can't play Parcheesi alone, but the game can accommodate up to four players at a time -- one for each arm of the cross-shaped board.

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Modern Parcheesi sets use the familiar black-pipped white dice. What objects did traditional sets use instead?

Classically, Pachisi players used either three long, four-sided wooden dice or six two-sided cowrie shells as dice.

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Each player is assigned a home row -- one arm of the cross-shaped figure -- in addition to a home circle. How is this assignment given?

This part of Parcheesi is easy: Players are assigned the home row that matches the color of their pawns. If they're not color coordinated, that'll be the row to the left of the player's home circle.

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Players pieces don't start directly on the board in Parcheesi. What do they need to do to move a piece onto the board?

To begin the game, all of a player's pawns begin in her home circle. In order to move each pawn to the board, the player must roll a five on at least one die.

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When do historians believe Parcheesi's ancestor, Pachisi, was first played?

Pachisi's roots reach way back through history -- so far that historians have trouble pinpointing exactly when the game first came into being. However, most speculate that it dates back to around the 4th century A.D.

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What older and more complicated game was Pachisi based on?

Chauapar, an ancestor (or, perhaps, older sibling) of Pachisi, was played by Indian royalty and considered a very aristocratic game.

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How did one Indian emperor take advantage of his aristocratic status while playing Chaupar?

Emperor Akbar of India literally played games with his subjects: One of his pastimes involved playing life-sized versions of games like Chaupar and using his slaves and harem girls as pawns.

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In which of India's famous epics does Chaupar play a role?

In the Mahabharata, the character Shakuni defeats his enemy, Yudhisthira, in a game of Chaupar. Who needs weapons when you have board games?

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Where does the name Pachisi come from?

When Pachisi developed, it used cowrie shells instead of printed dice, and moves were calculated by the number of shells that landed with their open sides facing up. If no shells landed open-side up, the player was allowed to move 25 (pachis) spaces.

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Pachisi didn't just stay in India. Where did it travel first?

Still called Pachisi at the time, the game migrated west to England and Europe in the 1860s. In England, it was developed into a simpler game called Ludo, which was geared primarily toward children.

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The English derivation of Parcheesi is called Ludo. Where did that name come from?

Although Ludo is an English game, its name is actually a direct Latin translation of the phrase "I play."

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Parcheesi was the most popular game in America until 1935. Which board game giant outsold it?

When Monopoly entered the American game scene in 1935, Parcheesi couldn't quite compete. Although it's not at the top of the heap anymore, Parcheesi still remains one of America's most popular games.

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Parcheesi can also be used as an educational tool. What is one major skill that the game can be used to teach?

Math can be used to great effect in Parcheesi, primarily in the form of probability: As New York professor Karen Bell discovered, the concepts of probability associated with rolling dice offers innovative teaching opportunities as well as advantages to players who use them effectively.

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Pachisi made it across the ocean to America in the 1890s. What significant change occurred upon that migration?

The game didn't actually take the name Parcheesi until it came to America in the late 19th century.

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Parcheesi became immensely popular when it traveled to America, so it's not too surprising that the rights were snapped up by a few different entities in succession. As a result, any imitators had to be creative when naming their versions of the game. Which of these has been used as a name for the game?

You can copyright a name but not a centuries-old game: Milton Bradley makes a version of Parcheesi called "The Game of India" that plays the exact same way.

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Parcheesi and Pachisi are similar in many ways, but there's one major difference in how play occurs. What is it?

Pachisi is played in two teams of two players as opposed to two or more individual players. This forces a player to look out for his teammate's interests as well as his own, thereby adding another level of strategy to the game.

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Parcheesi is the basis for several popular American games. Which of these is one of them?

Parcheesi exists in many forms and under many names around the globe, including Sorry! -- others include Pig-a-Back in the U.K., Twenty-Five in Asia, and Der Weg zur Herbege in Germany.

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Many variations of Pachisi weave a theme into the game. Where do historians believe this practice began?

Germany's variation on Pachisi, Der Weg zur Herbege (The Way to the Inn) emerged in the mid-1800s and was framed as a traveler's journey to shelter. France later developed Petits Chevaux (Little Horses) with a horse-racing theme.

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