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Amidst the seriousness of grad school, I felt it was time for some fun. What better than a game?

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, Parcheesi rhymes with breathe easy, go easy, speakeasy, uneasy, and Zambezi. Hmm. I’m not even going to tell you what Urban Dictionary says about Parcheesi. Instead, let’s talk history. 

Known in America as Parcheesi, it is an adaptation of the ancient game Pachisi from India. Pachisi may have been played as early as 500 AD. (Thanks, Wikipedia.) Dice and counters are used in conjunction with a cruciform board. The game consists of captures, blockades, and safe spaces, with special emphasis on the number 5 and doubles. The first player to get his or her pieces to the home square is the winner.

Indian royalty played the game a little differently. They used vibrantly-dressed harems as pieces on a life-sized board. One such Pachisi court still exists at Fatehpur Sikri; hence, “The Royal Game of India.” Parcheesi is known elsewhere as Parchís, Parqués, and Ludo. If you play any of these versions, I’d love to hear about your experiences!

I picked up my Parcheesi set at an antique mall. It was tucked away discreetly on a shelf. No wonder, as it’s a very tiny set. The box is only about seven inches wide. Inside, there are colorful brass-rimmed tissue paper counters, dice cups, and the cutest little hand-painted dice you’ve ever seen. Regrettably, my set is missing the game board. I do, however, have the rule book, which depicts the board on the cover. My game dates to 1918. 

Small sets like mine were commonly called “pocket editions” or “pocket versions.” Soldiers were known to carry pocket editions with them during World War I. I’d like to think that my missing game board and pieces were lost by a soldier who was participating in his own life-sized game of Pachisi on the battlefield.   

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