Learn How to Play Yahtzee
Yahtzee is a well-known and very popular dice game. It's very simple to learn and easy to play, and many people start playing it as children for fun. It can also be used for gambling purposes. The game is primarily based on luck as ultimately you are reliant on what dice you roll. There's a bit of strategy involved though, in terms of knowing how to score rolls.
On this page we have provided a brief history of Yahtzee and gone over the rules in detail. If you haven't played the game before, it's well worth giving it a go. There are several places you can play the game online, or you can play at home with just five dice, some paper and a pen.
History of Yahtzee
Yahtzee shares similarities with a number of other dice games such as Poker Dice, Cheerio, Generala, and Yap. It could have been influenced by any one of these other games, but it's known to be invented by a Canadian couple in the 1950s. This couple, whose names are not known, used to play the game with friends aboard their yacht, and it was originally called the Yacht Game.
The game proved to be popular among their friends, and the couple decided they want to make some game sets to give away as gifts. They contacted Edwin Lowe, a toy maker, and asked him to produce some for them. Lowe liked the idea of the game, and believed it had marketing potential. As a result he purchased the rights in exchange for making 1,000 gift sets for the couple.
Lowe changed the name to Yahtzee and began to market the game for sale. Initially, sales weren't that good, something Lowe attributed to the fact that it was hard to convey the appeal of the game in advertisements. He started organizing Yahtzee parties where people learned the rules and played it for themselves. This approach was successful, and the game became popular through word of mouth.
In 1973 Lowe sold the game to Milton Bradley, an American board game company that's now owned by Hasbro. Yahtzee remains popular today, and it's claimed that around 50 million game sets are sold every year.
Objective & Rolling the Dice
Yahtzee has universal appeal largely because it's a great deal of fun. It does require some thinking, but it's incredibly easy to learn. The objective is simply to score the highest points total you can. It can be played by any number of players, with each player having 13 turns to roll the five dice.
During a turn, a player may roll the dice up to three times. After each roll they can choose which dice to keep and which to roll again, until all three rolls are completed. At any point, they can keep the five dice they have and score accordingly. Once they have entered their score on the scorecard, the dice are passed to the next player. The game is over when all players have had their 13 turns.
A Yahtzee score card is divided into two sections: an upper section and a lower section. The upper section has six boxes for entering a score and the lower section has seven, for a total of thirteen. Each box is for a different category of score, and at the end of each of their turns a player must enter a score in one of them.
Once a score has been entered for a category, that category is closed and cannot be scored again in that game. Because of the way the scoring works, which we explain below, a player may be forced at some point in the game to enter a zero into one of the boxes. A player may also decide to enter a zero into a box for tactical reasons.
Upper Section Scores
The six boxes in the upper section are labelled 1-6, and the corresponding score for each one is the total of all the dice that show that number in a roll. For example, if a player rolled four 3s on a turn they could score 12 (4 x 3) in the 3 box. If a player rolled three 2s, they could score 6 (3 x 2) in the 2 box. The other dice are disregarded when entering these scores.
At the end of the game, if a player has scored a total of 63 points or more in the upper section then they are awarded a bonus of 35 points.
Lower Section Scores
The seven boxes in the lower are slightly more complicated. There are specific rules for what must be rolled to score in each of these boxes. The seven boxes are labelled as follows.
- Three of a Kind
- Four of a Kind
- Full House
- Small Straight
- Large Straight
To enter a score into the three of a kind box, a player must have at least three dice showing the same number. They can then score a total of all five of the dice in this box. A player may enter zero in the box if they don't have three of a kind, but they don't want to score in any other box. This rule applies for all boxes on the Yahtzee scorecard.
If a player has at least four dice showing the same number, the sum of all five dice can be entered in the four of a kind box. A score of 25 can be entered in the full house box if a player has three of a kind and a pair. The score is 25 regardless of what the values of the dice are. A small straight (four sequential dice such as 1-2-3-4) scores 30, and a large straight (five sequential dice such as 2-3-4-5-6) scores 40 points.
Yahtzee is all five dice showing the same number, and scores 50 points. The chance box can be used to score any roll that doesn't fit into one of the other categories, or if a score has already been entered into the relevant category. The score entered in the chance box is always the sum of all five dice in the roll.
There can be slight variations on the rules of Yahtzee, such as awarding bonuses for more than one Yahtzee, but the basics are always the same as we have outlined here.
Author: Brad Johnson
Updated: March 2015
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