I promised to write this a while back in my review of the boardgame Sorry!, but things got in the way and… okay, I admit it, I forgot.
But here I am to make up for it in my review of the classic board game Parcheesi!
Parcheesi is a modern take on an ancient game developed in India, perhaps as early as 500AD, called Pachisi. It uses a particular layout for racing games called the “cross and circle” for obvious reasons, looking at the board. If you read my review on Sorry!, you’ll see that it is just an even more modern adaptation of the same game concept, although clearly, there are some differences.
In Parcheesi, the players begin with four tokens (specifically identified as “men” in the rules). Each starts in one of four large circular areas on the board and their job is to circle the board and move up one of the red tracks to the central home space. The first player to get all four of their men to the home space wins the game. Unlike Sorry! though, each player has a pair of dice, which they roll to make their moves. If they roll doubles, they can split the dice between different men that are on the track, for instance, if they roll two 4’s, they can move one man 8 spaces, or two men 4 spaces. If you roll a five, you can move one man from your starting circle into the blue space next to it and get them moving around the track. Like in Sorry!, if someone lands on you, you are sent back to your starting circle, but the blue spaces on the board are safe, you cannot be sent back if you are in a blue space. Anyone landing on and “capturing” another player’s token gains an immediate 20 space move for one man, if they can do so. If they cannot move the entire 20 spaces, that bonus move is forfeit. Now, you can have two of your own pieces occupying the same space on the board and if you do, no one can pass that space, you have blocked the path. It is possible to block another player from entering the play field at all if you have blockaded their entry space. We actually found it interesting that people tended to lock up behind those blocks, creating blocks of their own. At one point in our test game, we had four blocks, all in a row, which could not be cleared until the person in front decided to be nice and let everyone pass. This could, in theory, allow someone to move two of their pieces all the way around the board and into the home space before anyone else in the game can do anything at all. For each of your men that reach the home space by exact count, you get an immediate 10-space move for one of your remaining men, but again, only if you can complete it in it’s entirety, if you cannot move 10 spaces, you forfeit the move. First one with all four men home wins.
Now I will say it was interesting playing Sorry! and Parcheesi back to back, noticing all of the similarities and all of the differences between the two. This, like so many other classic games, has been played at one time or another by just about everyone, but there are nuances to the rules that a lot of people forget from their childhood games. Unfortunately, at least in my 1959 version of the game, the rules are written in very bad English and it took several readings to make sense of them. I’m not sure about the rules in other editions, hopefully they have been improved over the years. Comparing Parcheesi to Sorry!, I find that I prefer the dice-rolling element from Parcheesi to the card-drawing mechanic of Sorry! In one, you change the randomness of the roll every turn, the other, you’re a slave to the shuffle, what you’re getting is already determined before you start to play.
This is a great family game that can either be kind or cruel, depending on who you play with. It plays quickly, you can complete a game in about a half hour and repeat games can be quiet different from each other, as who gets the best rolls at the beginning of the game can have a dramatic effect on how the entire game plays out later on.
ParcheesiSelchow & Righter, among other publishers Released: 500 (Modern commercial versions unknown, it’s more than 100 years old, our version is 1964) Players: 2-4 Age 8+ Game Type: Family