YAHTZEE!!! The art, or luck, of getting five of a kind with three dice rolls. It’s hard to believe that something so mundane can also be so exciting. The next time you are looking for a quick play game that can be enjoyed by everyone I recommend rediscovering Yahtzee.
Simplified Rules for How to Play Yahtzee
All players take turns rolling the five dice. Each consecutive roll the player can choose to keep some dice results and only roll the remaining dice.
The goal of these dice rolls is to achieve specific results that match the score card. Each successful result is tallied on the score card and credited with the assigned score.
At the end of the game all scores are added up and the Highest Score Wins.
Understanding the Score Card
There are two parts to the score card – the top section and the bottom section.
The Top Section
The top part of the score card contains six different scoring categories. Each category matches a number on the die.
The goal for each of these categories is to get as many dice of the same numerical value as possible with your three rolls.
Only the dice of the required numbered value is added to this part of the score card.
If the player is trying to score points in their “TWO” category and they end up with three 2’s, a 3 and a 5. Adding 2+2+2=6, so a score of 6 can be placed on the score card in the “TWO” space.
The Bottom Section
The bottom section of the score card has seven different locations that require different combinations of the dice. Each of these categories has an assigned scoring value.
Three of a Kind
When a player gets three dice of the same value then they can add the score to their score card. Unlike the top section all dice are added together to determine the score for this locations.
For example, if a player rolls three 2’s, a 1, and, a 3. The score recorded here would be 2+2+2+1+3=10 points.
Another player may roll three 5’s and two 6’s. Their three of a kind score would be 5+5+5+6+6=22 points.
Four of a Kind
Getting four dice of the same value is a four of a kind. All dice are added, including the one odd die, to determine the score for this section. So, all four of a kinds are not created equal.
There are six different possible four of a kinds for each numeric value. Each score is incrementally different. Let’s look at the 3’s.
A full house is when the dice result in one pair and a three of a kind. An example of a full house would be three 2’s and a pair of 5’s (2 2 2 and 5 5). When a player gets a full house they can score 25 points on the score card in this location.
The small straight is when there are four dice in sequence. There are only three different types of small straights that can be achieved. These three variations are:
1 – 2 – 3 – 4 or 2 – 3 – 4 – 5 or 3 – 4 – 5 – 6
The score for a successful Small Straight is 30 points.
The large straight is when all five dice for a sequence. There are only 2 sequences that can be considered a large straight:
1 – 2 – 3 – 4 – 5 or 2 – 3 – 4 – 5 – 6
The score for a successful Large Straight is 40 points.
Yahtzee is the highest scoring category and the most difficult to achieve. A Yahtzee is five of a kind – all dice are of the same value. If a player gets a Yahtzee they can score 50 points in the Yahtzee spot on the score card.
The chance is a freebie spot. It is a place to score the total added value of all the dice. This spot is often used after failing to try and score in another location.
Yahtzee Strategy Tips
Strategy Tip 1 – Get the Top Section Bonus
There is a 35 point bonus for the top section for players that reach at least 63 points in this section. Averaging at least 3 of a kind in all sections will reach the 63 point threshold.
One of the best ways to ensure this bonus is to get at least 4 of a kind in one high scoring sections “FOUR”, “FIVE”, of “SIX.” By doing this you have the flexibility to place a “0” in the “ONE” spot and still capture the bonus.
Strategy Tip 2 – Do the Math for the Top Section Bonus
The largest four of a kind score that a player can get for the bottom section is 6+6+6+6+5=35 points. All other four of a kind scores will be less than 35 points.
So strategically (and mathematically) it makes more sense to use all four of kind, and three of a kind, rolls in the top section before filling in the three of a kind, four of a kind, and full house categories.
Strategy Tip 3 – Fill Your Categories Methodically
The Yahtzee is the highest scoring category, so trying to get these points is very helpful if you want to win the game.
The nice part about Yahtzee is that 10 out of 13 attempts allow for Yahtzee tries. The only three categories that play against the Yahtzee are the Small Straight, Large Straight, and Full House.
First Method Rule: It is not uncommon for a Small Straight to be rolled on the first roll. It is during these rolls that you fill in the straights. If you get a Small Straight on the first roll, then use the next two rolls to try and get the Large Straight.
Second Method Rule: Wait until the middle of the game to fill in the “ONE” or “TWO” categories. The rationale for this is because placing a score of “0” in one of these locations will not ruin your chances of getting the top level bonus – See Tip 1.
Doing this allows a player to take one more attempt at the Yahtzee and to gain those very important 50 points.
Third Method Rule: Eventually there will be times when a player goes for Yahtzee and not be successful and there will be no other open categories. Where do you score these unsuccessful attempts? The three places to score these attempts are 1) Chance, 2) “ONE”, and 3) Yahtzee.
If your first failed attempt is with low dice and you ended up with four 2s and 5 then place a score of “0” in your “ONE” category, because your Chance score would be 2+2+2+2+5=13 points.
Use the chance score when you have a failed attempt with larger dice. A failed attempt of four 5’s and a 1 would be a better Chance score. In this case the Chance score would be 5+5+5+5+1=21 points.
Finally, after three failed attempts at Yahtzee it is time to cut your losses and place a “0” in the Yahtzee category.
Yahtzee as a Joker
The Yahtzee Bonus cannot be used if a “0” was previously scored in the Yahtzee location. However a player can use a Yahtzee as a Joker in any category on the lower section of the score card.
All scoring rules still apply when using the Yahtzee as a Joker. Add the total of all the dice for three of a kinds, four of a kinds, and chance; or score 25 points for full house, 30 points for small straight, and 40 points for large straight.
What is the Yahtzee Bonus
The Yahtzee Bonus is when a player gets a second, or third, Yahtzee. When this happens mark the Yahtzee bonus on the scorecard and hen take a Bonus Chip. At end of the game each bonus chip is worth 100 points.
Because there are only 13 turns during a Yahtzee game another spot on the score card must also be filled in.
So if a second Yahtzee is five 5’s and the “FIVE” category on the top section is open not only does a player collect a 100 bonus but they also get 25 points in the “FIVE” location on the top section too.
Another option is to collect any applicable score in the lower section of the score card as per the Joker rules. If there is nothing open in the bottom section either, then a player must place a “0” in a numbered category on the top section.
Triple Yahtzee is my favorite variation. This is essentially playing three games of Yahtzee at once.
During Triple Yahtzee players complete three columns on the Yahtzee score card. The twist with Triple Yahtzee is that the first column scores normally, the second column scores at double the value, and the third column scores at triple the value.
Get your Triple Yahtzee Score Cards here.
With a limit of 13 turns Yahtzee is a pretty quick game. If you want to make it a little quicker then consider Partner Yahtzee.
Partners team up and compete against other teams of two. Teammates take turns rolling and filling out one score card. This version is good for couples game night, particularly when some of the partners may not be as engaged in the game.
The nice thing about Yahtzee is that you do not need to play against anyone. Yahtzee can be fun as a solitaire game too.
Playing solitaire Yahtzee is a way that you can track your high score and compete against yourself. This is also a good way to perfect Yahtzee.
Take Yahtzee outside with life size dice and a life size score card. Get Yardzee and you’ll be the talk of the neighborhood and the kids will be entertained all summer long.
There is a good chance that the adults will have a lot of fun too with Yardzee during your next cookout.
Why Play Yahtzee
There is no limit to the amount of players and all that is needed are score sheets and 5 dice. This makes Yahtzee a great game to take when travelling because it takes up very little space and including other players is no problem at all.
There is a lot to like about the game of Yahtzee. It is a game that does provide some strategic thinking, but not so much thinking that it takes forever to play. Yahtzee is a great quick play board game.
Yahtzee also has a number of variations that make it possible to replay the game over and over without becoming mundane.
Finally Yahtzee has very few moving parts, so it is a great travel game; or you can chose the life size Yardzee version and make it an outdoors game.
To sum it up, Yahtzee is a Bookshelf Game that everyone should own.