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There are a few board games that are the exactly the same as each other, but have different names. For instance, Reversi and Othello are exactly the same game, but the latter is a trademarked name. Similarly, Star Halma and Chinese Checkers are exactly the same game.

As a result of a recent meta discussion on tag synonyms, I'm wondering: is Parcheesi simply an alternate name for Pachisi? Or are they significantly different games?

My initial searches were inconclusive. According to Board Game Geek, they are the same game. However, there are separate Wikipedia articles for Parcheesi and Pachisi.

  • My Parcheesi set has a dearth of cowrie shells. :( – goldPseudo Sep 2 '16 at 19:23
  • From the Wiki article on Pachisi: "Parcheesi, Sorry! and Ludo are among the many Westernized commercial versions of the game." – GendoIkari Sep 2 '16 at 20:05
  • You have your own answer in the Reversi/Othello comparison. One is the generic or traditional name, the other is of a company's product of that game. – Nij Sep 3 '16 at 0:11
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In modern, Western usage, they are the same game

Consider these two games:

1981 Pachisi by Whitman Games
1981 Pachisi by Whitman Games

1982 Parcheesi by Selchow & Righter
1982 Parcheesi by Selchow & Righter (later republished by Milton Bradley)

Both of these have similar boards with only cosmetic differences. They also both use dice, are played individually rather than in teams, and have similar rules.

There are some historical differences

Bruce Whitehill published an article about Pachisi and Parcheesi in the September 2007 edition of Knucklebones games magazine. He defines some clear differences between the two:

  1. Pachisi was designed for team play, Parcheesi for individual play

    Pachisi was designed to be played by four players acting as two teams, unlike Parcheesi, in which each player plays independently; team play significantly raises the level of strategy required for the game.

  2. The boards have a different appearance and sequence of play

    The Parcheesi board still has the appearance of a cross, but the main paths have been moved to form a path around the edge of a square gameboard. Parcheesi pieces begin in individual areas in the corners of the board (one color per area), whereas the “men,” as they are often called, in Pachisi begin and end in the same center square.

  3. Traditional Pachisi uses cowry shells, Parcheesi uses dice

    One more significant difference (there are other minor ones) is that the moves in Parcheesi are governed by dice, whereas Pachisi uses cowrie (or cowry) shells.

However, most modern versions of Pachisi and Parcheesi do not have these differences, as shown above.

I suspect that the differences could be likened to regional variations of the game, or a change of the rules over time. This might be compared to Chess. Over the course of hundreds of years, the pieces on the board and the rules of movement have changed, yet the game was still "Chess". In fact, Whitehill's article lists many alternative names for the game, noting that some contain regional rule variations of Pachisi.

It seems that in this case, the rules of Pachisi have changed over time or had variations, and Parcheesi is just another name for the same game.

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Parcheesi and Pachisi were originally different games although they have many similarities. Parcheesi was based on Pachisi and was produced and sold originally in the U.S. Unfortunately, even though Parcheesi was produced in large enough quantities to become standard, the rules for the newest version (from Hasbro) are not precisely the same as the rules for older versions (by Selchow & Righter). "Parcheesi" is currently a trademark, now held along with the copyright for the game board cosmetic design by Hasbro. There are still a few other versions with the same travel path (space count, etc.) for the pawns, slightly different rules, and slightly different name spellings, produced by other companies. "Pachisi" was the Anglicized spelling of the original Indian name and has been used either inadvertently or intentionally for new versions.

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