How to Play Patolli

By Athena Hessong ; Updated April 12, 2017

If you think that you have never heard of Patolli, think again. Patolli was the name of a game played by the ancient Aztecs, but it is still played by its modern name, Parcheesi. It is simple to play, and it makes a good introduction to a class for a lesson on Native Americans or as a change of pace from television and video games. Even if you do not have a game board and pieces, you can quickly make your own with items around your house. (See reference)

Draw a dot on one side of each of the five beans. These will act as the dice for the game.

Divide the playing pieces evenly among the players, giving one player all 6 of the red pieces and the other player all 6 of the blue pieces.

Shake all of the beans in your hand and toss them on the board as though you are throwing dice. Count the number of dots that land up. Your opponent will repeat this and the one with the most dots facing up goes first.

Roll the beans. You will be allowed to put one of your pieces on the board if only one dot is facing up (score one) on the beans. If not, it is your opponent's turn. A score of one is the only way to move one of your pieces onto the board and into play.

Place the piece on the board at the starting square after rolling a score of one. This is the square on the upper left of the arm nearest to you just below the four center squares. On your next move, you can move this piece around the board. If you score one on another roll, you can move another piece onto the game board.

Roll the beans on your next turn, and move your piece down that arm to the tip, then back up, through the center squares, and proceed around the board clockwise until you reach the end space. End is at the upper right of the arm to the right of your starting space. Reaching the end allows you to remove your piece from play.

Lose a turn if your roll would land your piece on an opponent's square.

Return your opponent to the start if both of you land in the center four squares at the same time.

Take another turn if you land on one of the two darkened places at the tips of the arms.

Continue to take turns rolling and moving the pieces around the board. The winner is the player who gets all of his pieces off the board first.

Things Needed

  • Patolli board (See resource)
  • 5 large, flat beans (ie. lima, butter, or fava)
  • Permanent marker
  • 12 playing pieces (6 red and 6 blue)
  • 2 players

References