Yahtzee is a wonderful combination of a Meld-Making Poker game and a Dice-Rolling game. It is a hybrid-style game that borrows elements from Poker. The game was originally developed by the E.S. Lowe Company, which is now a subsidiary of Hasbro Entertainment.
Yahtzee can be played with materials already in one’s home, or with the proprietary box set sold by Hasbro in all major department stores. It is one of the most popular games in America, with over 50 million copies of the game sold annually worldwide.
How to Play Yahtzee?
If one buys the Yahtzee set from a store, then everything needed for a proper game will be inside the box. The materials inside will also be listed here, in case one simply wishes to set up a home game with materials already in their house.
A game of Yahtzee needs:
- A Scoresheet. These can be found either in the box set, sold separately in booklets, or printed out from available PDFs online. Though one could make their own scoresheet, it may get tedious after numerous games. Printing a pre-built scoresheet is much easier.
- Five (5) 6-sided Dice.
- A small, sturdy plastic cup that can be used as a dice shaker.
- A shared Pen or Pencil, or one per Player.
Players should each roll two dice to determine the Turn order. The Player with the highest roll will take the first turn, and other subsequent turns will be in a clockwise fashion.
If there is a tie, those tying Players will roll again until one has a higher dice-roll than the others.
Once the Turn Order is clear, each Player should receive their own scoresheet and a pen or pencil if there are enough for everybody. If not, the writing implement can simply be shared.
Once each Player has their own scoresheet, the first Player can take their turn.
Players place the dice inside the cup, and shake it. Traditionally, Players slap the cup upside-down against the table, hiding the dice until the cup is lifted to reveal the roll.
Once the roll is revealed, Players have an option.
- They could score immediately, if their dice are already arranged into a meld.
- Or, they may hold dice of their choice.
All remaining, unheld dice can then be re-rolled. After this second roll, Players can either roll one final time, or keep the results of their first two rolls.
After the third roll, Players will be forced to make some kind of scoring mark on their sheet. Players may not simply “skip” their turn, and must mark down something on the scoresheet after their third roll.
Yahtzee is a combination of meld-making mechanics and dice rolls. There are 13 scoring melds on a Yahtzee scoresheet.
The upper section of the scoresheet is composed of six different zones, each representing one of the sum of particular dice values.
Suppose that after a Player’s 3rd roll, they have two sixes. They could then mark in their 6s section 12 points, 6 points for each 6 that they had in their roll.
This is true for all of the Upper section, with the point value equal to the sum of the matching dice. So, four 2s would be 8 points, five 5s would be 25, etc.
The Lower Section contains true melds, and is where the other 7 scoring dice combinations can be found. As Yahtzee borrows elements from Poker, many of these will be melds should be familiar.
These melds are:
- Three of a Kind
- The Four of a Kind
- Full House
- Small Straight
- Large Straight
Each of these melds will be explained in further detail in the Scoring section below, but for now simply keep in mind that these combinations also exist for scoring.
- Each section on the scoresheet can only be filled in one time per game of a Yahtzee.
- If a particular scoring position has already been used, it cannot be used again.
- If after the third roll on a Player’s turn, they do not have any valid scoring options, then they may mark the section of their choice with a 0. However, once that zone has been marked with a 0, it cannot be used to score for the remainder of the game.
The Yahtzee (Bonus)
The Yahtzee is a particularly special meld, and not only because it is worth the most amount of points. It can be thought of as a “Five of a Kind”, where all five dice are the same number.
If a Player rolls a second Yahtzee, they can score in a special section, called the “Yahtzee Bonus”. This Bonus is worth double the normal Yahtzee.
The Bonus only applies if a Player successfully scored on the previous Yahtzee. If the Player was forced to mark their Yahtzee with a 0 at the end of one of their turns, they cannot score a Bonus.
A third Yahtzee does not give another Bonus, but instead can be used as a Joker. According to normal rules, if the corresponding Upper Section box has gone unfilled for that Yahtzee, it must be used.
For example, if you get a Yahtzee of 3s, and the 3s box of your Upper Section is available, you must score 15 (3×5) points with your Joker in that box.
- If the corresponding Upper Section position has already been taken, then the third Yahtzee can be used as a “wild card” and will award score for the Full House or either of the Straights for the full value of their points.
- If neither of those sections are available for the Joker, then the Player must mark one of their boxes with a 0.
Ending the Game, and Tallying Score
A game ends when Players have completely filled their scoresheet, except for the Yahtzee Bonus which is not mandatory (And cannot be filled in with a 0).
As Players are required to fill one of their boxes on the score sheet during each turn, each Player will end the game on the same turn, where all of their boxes will be completely filled with scores and 0s.
Players then tally together the total score, according to their scoresheet, and compare it with each other. The Player with the highest score wins! Players simply add all of the scores together on their scoresheet, without any further modifiers or multipliers.
Generally, Yahtzee is played in sequences of multiple games, with the overall winner or highest scorer after a series of games being declared the overall winner.
Scoring and Combinations
The game is scored using the proprietary Yahtzee scoresheet. A simple Google search will yield thousands of PDF files that one can download and print at home. Alternatively, one could buy a full Yahtzee set, which will come with a complete booklet of scoresheets.
Players mark their scoresheet as they finish their turn, and are required to mark at least one of the scoring boxes during their turn.
For demonstrative purposes, given below are the various scoring sections of Yahtzee, as well as their associated values:
|Associated Score Value
|Sum of all 1s Dice for the final roll
|Sum of all 2s Dice for the final roll
|Sum of all 3s Dice for the final roll
|Sum of all 4s Dice for the final roll
|Sum of all 5s Dice for the final roll
|Sum of all 6s Dice for the final roll
|Three of a Kind
|Sum of the three combination Dice
|Four of a Kind
|Sum of the four combination Dice
|Small Straight (4 Dice)
|Large Straight (5 Dice)
|Sum of all Five Dice Values
Three of a Kind
A Three of a Kind and Four of a Kind are what one would expect. A combination of three and four dice respectively that are all the same value.
For example, three 2s, or four 6s. These melds are scored based on the value of the dice within the combination. So, three 2s would equal six points, or four 6s would be twenty-four points.
A Full House is a combination of a pair and a three of a kind of two different numbers. So, two 5s and three 4s for example.
Small Straights and Large Straights are the same, the only difference being the small straight only accounts for 4 dice, while the Large must be all 5.
These must have dice in a sequential order, so a Small Straight could be 2, 3, 4, 5 while a large straight must be 1–2–3–4–5.
Five of a Kind
As mentioned above, the Yahtzee can be thought of as a “five of a kind”, where all five dice match. The Yahtzee Bonus, as mentioned above, can only be scored when one already has 50 points in their box, and rolls a second Yahtzee.
The Chance is simply a “Free Space” Players can use if they have no other alternative. The Chance simply is scored by adding together the total value of the dice. So, a 2, 5, 5, 3, 1 would give a Chance score of 16.
- Players roll dice up to three times on their turn, and may hold individual dice while re-rolling the remainder.
- After their third roll, Players are required to mark their scoresheet in some way. If they do not have a valid way to gain points from their scoresheet, they can mark any box they wish with the number 0.
- Players that roll a Yahtzee get 50 Points. If Players roll another one, they get a Bonus for 100 Points. If a Player uses their Yahtzee as a scoreless zone, and place a 0 into it, then they are not eligible for the Bonus.
- The Player with the overall highest score at the end of the game is considered the winner.
Suppose that it is your first turn in a game of Yahtzee, and you have no scoring boxes filled in at all. You take your first dice roll:
5 – 6 – 4 – 2 – 3
This is a straight immediately! What a lucky throw. 2 – 3 – 4 – 5 – 6 qualifies for a Large Straight.
Once you have a meld, especially one this valuable, there is never a reason to re-roll. You are opening yourself up to significant risk by re-rolling, as you may get unlucky and be forced to take points for your 3s or some other poor scoring option.
Never give up the opportunity to score a meld, even if it is a lesser meld like a three-of-a-kind. You only have things to lose, and nothing to gain. If you have already scored for that meld, then re-rolling would be appropriate.
Strategy and Tips
In the early stages of the game, Players should be aggressive and re-roll many times. In the early stages of the game, when all of the simple dice-rolls in the Upper Section are still available, re-rolling frequently increases your odds of rolling one of the better, and more difficult high-ranking melds.
You have less to lose in the early stages because it is extremely unlikely you will be forced to score yourself a 0. Do not settle on your first or second rolls unless you have a Lower Section meld that you can form.
You can rely on your Upper Section to still reward some small points during this highly aggressive stage of the gameplay, even if the rolls do not yield high-ranking melds.
Near the late stages of the game, try to be more thoughtful. Hold dice that you need for the last specific melds still remaining on your scoresheet.
In the beginning, only hold dice that match, but by the end, hold dice that could possibly form melds you need, and re-roll less aggressively.
If you are able to take your 6s for 24 points, and there are only 2 more turns left in the game, take that opportunity to increase your score. Otherwise, you may get forced to take less points, or even a 0 as there are less possible scoring configurations in the end game.