Extreme Parcheesi

For many families, there are games that evolve into full-blown family traditions. A fun, beloved game that evokes hearty laughter, solidifies rivalries, inspires camaraderie, or even teaches you how to cheat inconspicuously. Some families play card games, some play sports. My family is full of Parcheesi nuts.

My grandmother (Mamita) had a love for all sorts of games and puzzles, from Scrabble to War to word searches, but her love for Parcheesi was next to legendary. The object of the game isn’t particularly unique: get your pieces all the way around the board first and you win. Of course, there are hazards and strategies along the way. For instance, if you have two of your own pieces on the same space, it creates a “bridge” that prevents the pieces behind it from advancing. A stubborn player can keep a bridge up for a long time, which can lead to some serious opponent frustration.

Also, if you land on a space already occupied by another player, you send that piece all the way back home to start the journey all over again. In Parcheesi lingo, this is called “eating” your opponent. The “eater” also gets to advance an additional 20 spaces, so this is a common move that causes celebration and irritation.

Mamita watching my sisters and mom playing classic Parcheesi.

Mamita took particular gusto in eating everyone and never breaking her bridges. She’d look at her opponents just ahead of her on the board and salivate. “¡Mira toda la comida!” (“Look at all the food!”) Once she rolled the dice and claimed a victim, her face would light up and she’d yell, “¡COMIDA!” And she had a knack for eating more than one opponent in a single turn and advancing half her pieces three quarters of the way around the board. And whenever she had a bridge, she’d laugh at all of us stuck behind her like sardines in a can, missing turn after turn after turn.

She was vicious, but we loved her even more for it. To hear her uproarious laugh always made losing to her perfectly acceptable.

Seven years ago, Mamita passed away after battling Alzheimer’s disease. Of course, it was devastating. We still miss hearing her cackling laugh while kicking all our asses in Parcheesi.

Tournament time! And yes, that’s guacamole to my right. Photo: Sierra Wendeborn.

Recently my family has taken up playing Parcheesi as a way to honor Mamita’s memory. We even started an annual tournament in her honor. The only problem with the game is that the board is limited to four players, and we always have several more people who want to get in on the game. To solve this problem, we began creating our own Parcheesi boards. My sister created a five-man version, and I debuted a six-man board this past January (complete with paisleys and elephants, even dice and hand painted gamepieces to match). These mega-games are marathons. Since you have more opponents to eat you and more real estate to traipse through, things get especially vicious and drawn out. The games are always punctuated with Dad’s signature whose-turn-is-it chant: “WHO GO? WHO GO? WHO GO?”, sometimes followed by “ME GO! ME GO! ME GO!” Many games get abandoned in the wee hours after several hours of playing (and drinking and screaming and laughing and keeping an eye on Dad because he cheats like a fiend if you don’t watch him like a hawk).

Today I’m celebrating my birthday at my parents’ house, and I just finished making a seven-man Parcheesi board at my brother-in-law’s insistance. There will be a good amount of family around, so there still won’t be enough room at the gameboard for everyone (plus, even in this family, there are those who aren’t as enamoured with the game as the rest of us freaks). If we play all day, some people will end up ignored. The plan is to start a game in the afternoon, see how far it goes and quit before dinner so we can spend time with everyone there. There’s always the possibility that at some late hour, after the not-so-Parcheesi-obsessed have left/retired for the evening, some Bacardi will be poured, and a new game will begin. We’ll see how well that goes.

And thank you Mamita, for giving us yet another reason to celebrate your life. Miss you. xoxo

42 thoughts on “Extreme Parcheesi

  1. Great read! Your custom boards are awesome. Reminds me of the three-man chessboard they created on The Big Bang Theory (although they went a bit crazy, eventually creating new pieces like catapult, serpent, and Gandalf). With my family (and my grandmother) it was cribbage. We used to play with her all the time until she started losing the ability to play due to dementia. So, I totally relate to your post. Thanks!

  2. Parcheesi is my favorite game! I love the custom board. But even more lovely is the story you’ve told here about your family. Thank you so much for writing about this! (And congrats on being Freshly Pressed!)

  3. I’d forgotten all about this game! It was one of my favorites as a kid – I used to play on a holey’s computer game but my fam couldn’t join me because we didn’t have a real board. I wound up making one out of an old pizza box and crayons – lol. I must say, I like your creations better 😀

  4. This reminds me of playing board games with my family, which always turned out to be vicious when we played with one family member in particular. Also, I imagine making a Parcheesi board is very time consuming, but the end result is a lot of fun. Thanks for sharing! I really enjoyed this.

  5. Loved reading about your grandmother! It made me think of mine who also died from Alzheimer’s…so sad. My grandmother had a lot of spunk too. Before she died my uncle went to visit her and she did not recognize him. She told him, “If you’d come around more often maybe I would remember you!” She had it until the end. Loved my grandmother!

    Congrats on getting Freshly Pressed!

    1. Mamita certainly was full of fire. Her very last word was a Spanish profanity directed at one of the nurses in her nursing home as she was trying to move her to change her bedding. 🙂

      Thank you Lu!

  6. woah! i had never tried this game before! i think im going to learn this! thank you for sharing!

  7. That’s amazing how you made them! My own family board game tradition was my sister cracking the poo-poos and throwing the monopoly board upside down then refusing to clean up the mess. After she’d cheated the entire time.
    Nowadays my partner and I have a large, wooden game from England that’s a bit like a pin-ball game that we love to play. I wish I knew the name of it. And we just bought Balderdash to add to the collection. Nerdy? Nahh, I say awesome.

    Board games are great (depending a lot on who you play with in my experience haha) so it was nice to see a post about it since people don’t seem to play any more!
    Great post.

    1. We didn’t play much Monopoly in my family. Aside from the Parcheesi, there was lots of Scrabble with Mamita. We also play Dominoes a lot, and my husband and I play a lot of Rummy at home. Thanks Jessica!

  8. Sounds like great fun! Our game is Trouble, and everyone has their own chants and favorite colors. 🙂 As for Parcheesi, I didn’t know that you could go 20 extra spaces after eating someone. I’m so using that next time!!

  9. Are you willing to sell one of your 5 person boards? We love parcheesi but now have 5 plus players! I want to give it as a xmas gift.

    1. Hi Katie! At this time, I only have one 5-man, one 6-man and one 7-man board, all for family play. None are for sale, unfortunately. I may produce a few for sale in a future Etsy shop, but this is at least a year away.

      1. Hi I just came across your site looking for a more than 4 player board and none for sale! Are you selling now? I checked your etsy shop and nothing. I hope you are!!

      1. My family is full of parcheesi nuts! But 4 players forces us to team up most of the time which isn’t ideal. I would love to see this for sale and would love one if it ever gets there!

  10. I agree. As a matter of fact, teaming up is something we pretty much refuse to do. We’re far too competitive. 🙂 The bigger games help solve that, but they do end up being much longer, more drawn out games. We have to plan ahead for such a game so we’ll know we have the time for it.

    As far as selling the boards, I’ve said ‘later this year’ the last 4 or 5 years in a row. I’ve had so many people ask about selling, I’m an idiot for not following through already. Life keeps getting in the way, but things are more settled now and it’s about time I get in gear and just DO it. I’m in the process up updating my workspace, website and Etsy shop, so fingers crossed this really WILL be the year I finally get these up.

    1. I love this bored and we have had the same problems I would like to get a six person parcheesi but lack the skill to make one anyway I might be able to purchase one from you

      1. I keep saying I’ll make and sell them maybe in a few months, maybe next year, and I just keep not having the time. It’s a dream to create boards with different styles etc. I really don’t know when it will happen. ☹

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