by Amanda Nettgen
Number of players:
1+ (although it’s not fun playing by yourself)
Yahtzee is one of most well-known and timeless dice games. It’s so versatile that several spin-offs have ensued.
The game and gameplay
Yahtzee isn’t too difficult to pick up. Even if it’s been many years since you last played, getting refreshed on the rules shouldn’t take too long. It’s not unusual for Yahtzee to be played for pennies, the winner taking the “pot” much like bingo. Don’t confuse this for a casino or betting game, however. It’s a great family game and one need not play for money to have fun.
Decide who will go first. Naturally with all that dice laying around, you might opt to have a highest roll determine the turn order.
The first player scoops up the five dice and shakes them either in the provided dice cup or the less noisy alternative of his hands.
Once all five dice are laid on the table, the roller must choose which of them – if any – he will keep.
A player actually has three turns per turn to try to woo the dice. It’s all an effort to come up with best the dice combinations, as listed on a contender’s individual score sheet.
There are 13 opportunities for scoring; a total of each of the individual dice digits comprises the Upper Section, while 3 of a Kind, 4 of a Kind, Full House, Small Straight, Large Straight, YAHTZEE and Chance make up the Lower Section. The ones that deem a need for explaining are as follows:
Full House – Not that show from the nineties with the Olsen twins. But of your five dice, a pair of them do indeed need to be twins, with the other set being triplets. That’s two digits the same and three digits the same and then, “You got it, dude!”.
Small Straight and Large Straight – Basically the same thing, except the smaller one is the more forgiving underachiever. You need to get four and five consecutive dice respectively. For example, 1-2-3-4 (Small Straight) or 2-3-4-5-6 (Large Straight). You’ll think you’re playing poker by going for the “inside straight draw” (“Okay, I have a 2, 4, 5, and 6. Come on, 3!!”).
YAHTZEE – Well gee, it better be good if the game’s named after it, right? This is the lotto of all rolls in that it’s the rarest: all five dice need to be the same, and you only have three shots to get them like that.
Expect to be writing in “0” for this score spot a lot, as the odds are against you. Unless you’re my husband and we’re playing Yahtzee Free-For-All, where he somehow managed to roll Yahtzee *seven times* over the course of two games! Cheater.
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Chance – The mutt of all the dice rolls. Only employ when you’re desperate and don’t have anything better to do, as anything goes with this category slot. It works in a pinch for some of those failed inside straight draws (see above).
You are under strict Yahtzee contract to score yourself for EVERY turn – you can’t pass. Often your rolls will just totally suck and not qualify for any of the points, and so you must put a zero in for something.
Good Yahtzee games players know how to distribute their roll scores strategically and therefore often end up getting at least a few points if this happens.
The final thing to point out as everyone’s making their rounds with the dice is that bonus points are available. You’ll net an extra 35 if you manage to score the odd number of 63 in the top section, as well a 100-point Yahtzee bonus for every 5 of a kind after the first one (really only applicable to people named Aaron Nettgen).
Once everyone’s score sheets are complete, tally the Upper and Lower Section points. Whoever the dice has been kindest to wins!
Pros and cons
You really can’t beat Yahtzee when it comes to a portable dice game that’s appropriate and fun for the whole family. It will never seem outdated.
As for cons, well, compared to the newer Yahtzee games editions of it that have come out, the original seems less exciting for continuous replay. But you have to remember the roots, people!
It is largely random as well… but has just enough strategy to keep those who scoff at luck interested.
Yahtzee original is worthy of love. Why not offer up a pair of fuzzy dice as a prize for playing as further incentive? Not like you need it…