Yahtzee - The Game Content from the guide to life, the universe and everything

Yahtzee - The Game

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Five dice rolling through the air - graphic by Jimster.

Yahtzee was originally called 'Yacht' by the wealthy Canadian couple who invented it. It was a game they taught their friends to play to pass the time aboard their yacht.

In 1956, the couple approached Mr Edwin S Lowe, who had made a fortune by producing and selling Bingo games in the 1920s, requesting him to produce games of 'yacht' as gifts for their friends. Mr Lowe liked the game so much he offered to buy the rights. The couple agreed, and a contract was drawn up for them to receive the price of the first 1,000 games produced. Soon afterwards Mr Lowe changed the name of the game to Yahtzee.

Partly due to the difficulty of adequately describing yahtzee in advertising, (it had to be played to be appreciated), the game did not sell well in its first year. So Mr Lowe had the idea of throwing yahtzee parties, and the game became more successful.

The Milton Bradley Company acquired the E. S. Lowe Company, and Yahtzee in 1973. The game celebrated its 40th anniversary in 1976.

Playing Yahtzee

Yahtzee is a game of strategy, played with five dice, a shaker and a score sheet (one for each player) consisting of 13 categories of point scoring, split into two sections: upper and lower. It can be played solitary; either practising or trying to beat your individual highest score, or with any number of players. It is sometimes referred to as being similar to the card game, poker.

Object of the Game

The object of the game is to have a score in each of the categories, using strategy to choose which combination to add points on the score sheet. The winner is the player with the highest score at the end of the game. Only one combination may be used for each player's turn.


Decide which player starts, by all players rolling two dice, addding up that score, the one with the highest starts. Each player has up to three rolls of the dice. After the first roll they can decide to accept this or roll again, selecting one or more to hold, and put those to one side. Repeat this for the second roll, and accepting the result of the third roll.


At the end of a player's turn, points must added to their score sheet. If at the end of the third roll, the combination of the dice do not fit any of the available categories, then the player must choose to put a nought in one of the available categories.

Upper Section

The upper sections of score categories consists of points for one or more of the basic numbers on the dice, and only those numbers are counted and entered on score sheet

  • One - Score: One point for each number one.
  • Two - Score: Two points for each number two.
  • Three - Score: Three points for each number three.
  • Four - Score: Four points each number four.
  • Five - Score: Five points for each number five.
  • Six - Score: Six points for each number six.

If the final score for upper section exceeds 63, a bonus of 35 points is added.

The score of 63 is equivalent to three-of-a-kind for each number. However, the chances of achieving it this way is very rare.

Lower Section

The lower section consists of combinations of numbers rolled on the dice.

  • Three of a kind - Any three of same number.
  • Four of a kind - Any four of the same number.
  • Full House - Two of any number and three of another number.
  • Low Straight - A consecutive run of four numbers.
  • High Straight - A Consecutive run of five numbers.
  • Chance - Total of all dice.
  • Yahtzee - All five of the same number.
  • Yahtzee Bonus – Score: 100 for each additional yahtzee

Strategy Tips

Upper Section

It is thought prudent to aim for the 35 bonus point by filling in the upper section with high scores, totalling at least 63, near the beginning of the game.

If you have to, enter a nought in the ones score box, as high scores in the other score boxes may compensate for this.

Lower Section

A good idea is to leave the chance score box unfilled until late in the game, as your options will predictably become fewer.

If you have a bad roll of the dice near the end of the game, it may be wise to choose to enter a nought in the yahtzee score box, or one of the other difficult score boxes.

Yahtzee Bonus and Joker

Yahtzee Bonus

If you have filled in the yahtzee score box with 50 points, you can earn 100 bonus points with second and additional yahtzees. However if you have a nought in the yatztee score box, you will not be entitled to yahtzee bonus points.

At the end of the game, bonuses are totalled as 100 points each and recorded in the yahtzee bonus score box.

Yahtzee Joker

If the yahtzee score box is already filled, with either a 50 or a nought, and also the corresponding number in upper section, the yahtzee joker may be played.

In these conditions, the yahtzee joker can be used in any of the remaining lower section score boxes, with the corresponding score. Eg a yahtzee entered in full house score box, would earn 25 points.

Add a yahtzee bonus score only if entitled to it.

A Typical Scoring Sheet

A typical scoring sheet. Players fill in their own score sheets.

Upper SectionScore
1 - Score: add up all ones only 
2 - Score: add up all twos only 
3 - Score: add up all threes only  
4 Score: add up all fours only 
5 - Score: add up all fives only 
6 - Score: add up all sixes only 
Bonus - Add 35 if total is more than 63 
Upper Section Total 
Lower Section 
3 of same number - Score: add up all dice 
4 of same number - Score: add up all dice 
Full House - Score: 25 
Low Straight - Score: 30 
High Straight - Score: 40 
Yahtzee - Score: 50 
Chance - Score: add up all dice 
Yahtzee Bonus - Score: 100 
Lower Section Total 
Upper Section Total 
Grand Total 

There is an abundance of card games and board games, as well as a few dice games, to pass the time on dull cold winter days or long summer evenings. Below is just a selection of them.

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