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Histor y
Pachisi is a cross and circle board game that originated in ancient India; it
is described as the national game of India. It is played on a board shaped
like a symmetrical cross. A player's pieces move around the board based
upon a throw of six or seven cowrie shells (a sea snail), with the number of
shells landing opening upwards indicating the number of places to move.
The name of the game comes from the Hindi word pachis, meaning twenty-
five, the largest score that can be thrown with the cowrie shells. Thus the
game is also known by the name Twenty-five. It is a descendant of the
game of Ashte kashte. The westernised version of the game is spelled
Parcheesi and otherwise called Ludo.
The Indian Emperor Akbar I of the 16th century Mogul Empire, apparently
played Chaupar on great courts constructed of inlaid marble. He would sit
on a Dias four feet high in the centre of the court and throw the cowrie
On the red and white squares around him, 16 beautiful women from the
harem, appropriately coloured, would move around according to his
directions. Remains of these boards can be seen today in Agra and
There is apparently a mention of Chaupar being played between two sets
of princes - cousin brothers of the Bharata family (Pandavas and Kauravas)
in the epic, Mahabharata. During this game the righteous Padavas lost the
game and their entire fortune to the devious Kauravas, which put his family
through a lot of hardship and suffering.
This was ended by a great war among them which led to destruction of the


Pachisi is a game for four players, usually in two teams. One team has
yellow and black pieces; the other team has red and green ones. The
winners are those two people who both get their pieces to the finish first.
Each player has four beehive-shaped pieces. The pieces of one player are
distinguishable from another by their colour: black, green, red and yellow
are used for each player.
Six cowrie shells are used to determine the amount to move the players'
pieces. They are thrown from the player's hand and the number of cowries
which fall with their openings upwards indicate how many spaces the
player may move:
0 25 Can choose to take another turn (called a grace)
1 10 Can choose to take another turn (called a grace)
2 2
3 3
4 4
5 5
6 6 Can choose to take another turn (called a grace)

There is a large square in the centre, called the Charkoni, which is the
starting and finishing position of the pieces. The four arms are divided into
three columns of eight squares. The players' pieces are moved along these
columns of squares during play.


Twelve squares are specially marked as castle

squares. Four of these are positioned at the end of the middle columns of
each arm; the other eight are four squares inwards from the end of the
outer columns on each arm.
A piece may not be captured by an opponent while it lies on a castle

Each player's objective is to move all four of their pieces completely around
the board, counter-clockwise, before their opponents do. The pieces start
and finish on the Charkoni. The playing order is decided by each player
throwing the cowries. The player with the highest score starts, and turns
continue counter-clockwise around the board.
Each player's first piece may leave the Charkoni on any throw. Each player
moves their pieces down the centre column of their own arm of the board,
then counter-clockwise around the outside columns.
A player may have any number of their pieces on the board at one time.
One piece only may be moved with a single throw, or if the player chooses,
they can decline to move any piece on a throw.
If a 6, 10 or 25 is thrown, the player gets a grace. This enables them to
introduce another of their pieces from the Charkoni onto the board, and
they also get to repeat their turn. More than one piece of the same team
may occupy a single square. However a piece may not move onto a castle
square that is already occupied by an opponent's piece.
If a piece lands on a square (other than a castle square) occupied by any
number of the opponent's pieces, those pieces are captured and must
return to the Charkoni. Captured pieces may only enter the game again
with a grace throw. A player making a capture is allowed another turn.


A piece completes its trip around the board by

moving back up its central column. Returning pieces may be placed on
their side in order to distinguish them from pieces that have just entered. A
piece can only return to the Charkoni by a direct throw.
Four of the castle squares are placed so that they are exactly 25 moves
from the Charkoni. A common strategy is for returning pieces to stay on
these squares, where they are safe from capture, until a 25 is thrown. Then
they can finish the game directly. This is where the name of the game
comes from 25 or Pachisi!

Var iations
The rules to Pachisi itself vary from place to place. The rules given above
are chosen from amongst variations to be the most straightforward. Here
are some alternative rules that are commonly played. If the game seems
too simple, Games from Everywhere recommends either using the last
variation given to increase the skill level or alternatively, try Chaupar.
Seven cowry shells can be used instead of six. Different amounts
can be allocated to the different permutations of cowries.
Sometimes there are only 2 grace numbers - 10 and 25.
Pieces can finish in the Charkoni only with a grace throw.
A square occupied by two or more pieces cannot be passed by an
opposing piece. This rule, which is possibly a non-Indian modern
invention, naturally changes tactics significantly since, whereas in
the basic rules outlined above it is inadvisable to put two pieces
from the same side on the same square.
Under this variation, putting two pieces from the same side
together is a good defensive strategy.
If three graces are thrown in a row, a penalty is forfeited.


The commonest penalty is for the turn to be

missed, any pieces moved being returned.
Some versions play the grace throws differently. Instead of using
the actual amount of 6, 10 and 25 to enter or re-enter a piece, the
amount thrown can only be used to move a piece already on the
board in the normal way. The grace is played separately and
allows a single piece to be moved one square on the board or a
single piece to be moved from the Charkoni onto the first square of
the arm.
Each turn consists of two parts - first the cowries are thrown one or
more times according to the numbers thrown. And only once
throwing is completed are the piece or pieces are moved according
to the cowry throws. So, to begin a turn, the player throws the
If a grace is thrown, the player is allowed another throw and so on
until a 2, 3, 4 or 5 is thrown. Then, for each throw made, the player
moves one piece as indicated by the amount on the cowries. So if
three throws were made, the player might move:
1 piece 3 times
1 piece twice and another once
three pieces once each.


A very similar but more skilful, complex and older game game called
Chausar, Chaupar or Chaupad also exists. This is the form of the game
that the Emperor Akbar 1 of India would have played using slave girls for
pieces in the sixteenth century and the game probably dates back to well
before the time of Christ. Again, there are no standard rules, but Masters
Games has compiled a typical set of rules that should be enjoyable. Play
is the same as Pachisi with the following differences:
Three long dice are used instead of cowry shells. Each long die
has 1 and 6 on opposing faces and 2 and 5.
(or sometimes 3 and 4) on the other faces.
There are no graces or extra throws.
Castle squares are absent or, if played upon a Pachisi board, are
Pieces start on specific squares instead of the Charkoni although
captured pieces are returned to the Charkoni. To prepare to start
the game, position each set of four pieces
on squares 6, 7, 23 and 24 from the Charkoni.
Pieces can be melded together to form a "super-pieces". If two
pieces of the same shade land on the same space, then those
pieces are lumped together and thereafter play as a single piece
with double the power. Triple and quadruple pieces can be formed
in the same way.
Conglomerate pieces move using the throw of the dice as if they
were a single piece.
However, a double piece can only be captured by a double, triple
or quadruple piece, a triple piece is only vulnerable to a triple or


quadruple piece and a quadruple piece can

only be captured by another quadruple piece.
Each throw can be split into its constituent parts and shared across
the pieces. For instance, if a 1, 2 and 6 is thrown, a player might
choose to move one piece 9 squares or three pieces 1, 2 and 6
squares respectively. It would also be possible to move a piece 2
squares to form a double piece and then move the double piece 7
further squares, for instance.
A throw cannot be passed in whole or part unless a player cannot
move and an exact throw is required for a piece to get home.
All the blacks must be got home before a yellow piece can go
home. All the reds must be got home before a green piece can go

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Acknowledgement: Masters Games.