Pachisi is a four-player race game that is the national game of India. It is an ancient game played by the Indian emperors. The name originates from the Hindi word pachis, meaning twenty-five, the largest score that can be thrown with the cowrie shells. In 1896 a modified version of Pachisi was introduced into England as the game Ludo. There is also an American adaptation called Parcheesi.


Pachisi is a race game played on a board shaped like a cross using cowrie shells as shown in Figure 1. Each player has four pieces of colors yellow, black, red and green. Each player starts all his pieces on the center space called the Charkoni. Each player selects a different arm of the cross and then moves his pieces along the center row of their own arm and then around the board in a counter-clockwise fashion and then back up the center row of the same arm to reach the Charkoni again. The path for one player is show below. The goal of a player is to move all four of his pieces around the board and back to the Charkoni before his opponents.

The players take turns to throw six cowrie shells to determine the number of spaces to move their pieces. The number of cowries which fall with their openings upwards indicates how many spaces the player may move. The players may start with any throw value but must reach home with an exact throw.

Pachisi board
Figure 1: Pachisi board
Cowries with openings upwards Squares to move
2 2
3 3
4 4
5 5
6 6 and another throw
1 10 and another throw
0 25 and another throw

A player must move his pieces before the next player starts his turn. With each throw the player must move one piece the number of squares indicated by the cowrie shells. If he has more than one throw in a turn he may move different pieces, but a single throw cannot be split between more than one piece.

If a player lands on a square occupied by that of another player, the piece belonging to the other player is captured. It must be removed from the board and restart from the Charkoni with a throw of 6, 10 or 25. A piece cannot be captured if it occupies a castle square marked by an X. The player making the capture gets another turn. Four of the castle squares 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 when they can finish the game directly.

Players may double up on any square to create a blockade. Pieces cannot be moved past the blockade. Doubled up pieces may be moved around the board together in a single throw.