Pachisi is a game with equal measures of luck and skill which has been played in India for more than 1,200 years. The name Pachisi comes from the Indian word for the number 25, which is the highest number that could be thrown with the cowrie-shells used to play the game. It is still played in Indian homes and cafes, usually on boards made of decorated cloth that can be rolled up and carried.

The cross-shaped panel of cloth is generally created from a patchwork of different coloured and printed cottons. Expensive sets may have rock crystal markers, but usually the markers are made of wood. The game is often played with two large oblong dice, but equally five cowrie shells could be used, the number of moves being determined by the number of shells showing their openings uppermost. The aim is for a player to move all four of his or her markers around the board from start to finish. Markers may be captured and returned to the start, but 12 safe resting places, indicated by white stitching or other marks across the squares, are provided where this cannot happen.

Ludo has the same aim as Pachisi but there are no resting places. It is much simpler and is played with one die instead of cowrie shells. European boards were designed in a number of different ways. Some had crosses set against diamond shapes, while some had crosses set against the squares. The most common design and the one that is still in use is a cross with squares in each corner.