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When you play, you will be represented by a family. For the web-based version, all families are hunters and are represented by two members. The game represents the life of your family and the experiences your family encounters during their life will be influenced by the family type.

The full version has four family types from which to choose: artisans, farmers, merchants, and hunters.


The board is divided into four arms. A ladder on each arm connects paradise at the centre of the board to the path that will take you through your life. Each family member will start and end their life on the ladder belonging to that family.


Each of the four arms is also associated with a geographic region: Delta, River, Uplands, and Forest. The types of experiences and questions you will encounter will change as you move through these regions.

Family Circles

To the left of the board there are circles which belong to each family. These show the families' current scores, the status of each member, and the type of family. As you play, points gained or lost by each member of your family are accumulated for the entire family. To see and hear your current score, place your cursor over the score board at the bottom of the family circle during your turn.

Special Squares

Each arm of the board contains four types of special squares. With the exception of the corner squares, special squares have a different colour and a special pattern.

  • Home square
    Located at the bottom of each ladder this is where your members will enter and leave the world.

  • Question squares
    If you land on one of the brown question squares, you will be asked to make a decision that could gain or loose points depending on your answer. Try to make the best moral decision.

  • Luck squares
    Landing on the light blue luck squares will randomly give you good or bad luck. These result in gaining or loosing points.

  • Corner squares
    The inner corners of the path represent a change in geographic region. If you land on one of these squares, you will be charged 4 coins to get help to cross the barrier safely.



Each member starts at the top of the ladder, moves down the ladder, around the board, and back up the ladder to Paradise. The first member can start the game with any roll, but subsequent members require a special roll. A special roll is also required to complete the game and re-enter Paradise.

Special rolls

There are several combinations of die rolls that have special meaning:

  • 0-0 Allows a move of 12 spaces
  • 2-2 Allows a move of 8 spaces
  • 3-3 Allows a move of 6 places and another roll
  • Any Double - Allows a member to start the game or to enter paradise

Once you have rolled, the roll values are attached to your cursor so you can apply the value to the member(s) you want to move. However, if no members are able to move the full amount, your turn is over.


At some point you will probably encounter another member on the board. If this is a member of your own family, there is no problem. If it is a member of another family, then there are two possibilities:

  1. Your move will take you past the member. For a single member this is no problem. If there are more than one member from the same family in your path, they form a blockade and you may not pass.

  2. Your move will land you on the same square. You will also be charged 4 coins and will be bumped back until you can find an unoccupied square or one with a member from your own family.


In the web-based version each family only accumulates Merit points. Each Family gains or looses points based on their decisions and luck through the game. As in real life, you must make decisions without knowing exactly how many points you could gain or lose. Only after you make a decision or experience good/bad luck will you be able to see the outcome via your family scoreboard. To check the current score, roll the mouse over the scoreboard to display the numerical values and hear the current values read out.


To win, all members of a family must return to Paradise before the other families. The screen after a win will also display your final merit score. Try to get as high a merit as possible.

Finishing a member

For an individual member to complete a life, they must complete the circle of the board and return to the base of their family ladder. There, the family merit score will be calculated to determine if the member can climb the ladder. If not enough merit is available, the member must circle the board again to gain more merit for the family. Once the member is on the ladder, a roll of doubles is required to return the member to Paradise.


The game of Ponnivala Parcheesi has been designed to portray medieval South India between (roughly) the 10th and 16th centuries. The game parallels the Legend of Ponnivala, fleshing out the social dynamics of an era on the subcontinent that predates the British colonial period.

Sub-Regions & Location

The action takes place in the upland delta region of the Kaveri river (the current state of Tamilnadu) just west of the old Chola power center at Uriyur. As you play, you will pass through four sub-regions. Each region is linked to the type of events and opportunities you will encounter.

Social Groups

The four social groups portrayed in the game can and do form shifting alliances with one another but basically are all in competition for dominance and for core amenities. Each family has four members who work together for their common good. All family members in this game about travel are male. In the medieval period, ordinary Indian women rarely moved about alone. These solo male adventures will be complemented in future games by other types of life challenges that confronted entire families or that were frequently faced by women who lived alone such as saint-like devotees, pilgrims, ascetics or widows.

Decision Making

The outcome of the game is partly determined by dice rolls (random luck) and partly by careful thinking and strategic planning. You should try to choose the option you think is more ethical or appropriate for a family of your social group. The underlying goal is to provide an experience that is close to what real life was like in medieval South India.


The key concept of the game is Merit. Merit accrues to a family, not to an individual. A family must build up a minimal level of merit in order to get its members back to Paradise. Getting to the point you can take your players to the final resting spot is one kind of winning. However, being the family with the highest final merit makes you the overall winner.